What is an electrolyte?
Electrolytes are essential minerals for functions within our bodies, especially during and after exercise. The electrolytes are chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. During exercise, a lot of these minerals are lost through sweat and they need to be replenished. This is especially true in high-intensity exercise over one hour. Sodium and chloride tend to be lost in high concentrations, while potassium, magnesium, and calcium are lost in low concentrations. Learn about each mineral now.
What does an electrolyte do?
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge. They are in your blood, urine, tissues, and other body fluids. Electrolytes are important because they help:
- Balance the amount of water in your body
- Help to balance your body’s acid/base (pH) level
- Transport nutrients into your cells
- Move wastes out of your cells
- Make sure that your nerves, muscles, the heart, and the brain function properly
A sodium deficiency can cause muscle cramps, loss of appetite and dizziness. It is important to consume high sodium concentrated foods such as pickle juice, salted nuts, crackers, trail mix, or simple table salt.
A deficiency in chloride can cause an irregular heartbeat. This can be corrected with table salt or fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, or olives.
A low concentration of potassium can cause muscle weakness, muscle paralysis and mental confusion. This nutrient can be found in plain yogurt and bananas.
A lack of magnesium can lead to muscle cramps, nausea and confusion. Consume magnesium through spinach, pumpkin seeds, and halibut.
Lastly, a deficiency of calcium can lead to muscle spasms and a long-term deficiency can lead to osteoporosis. Calcium is found in dairy products, collard greens, and sardines.
When to take electrolytes?
Electrolyte losses can vary based on the length and intensity of exercise. Environmental factors, clothing, body composition, and diet also contribute. Never begin a workout thirsty or dehydrated. Consuming an electrolyte drink high in sodium content will help to retain the water and prevent dehydration or cramping. Sports drinks are not always recommended for everyone, especially drinks higher in sugar. Be sure to talk to a Wellthy Soul Dietitian on what brands are appropriate for your goals.