Given how frequently we see the word “electrolyte” and "electrolyte levels" listed on sports nutrition products, you would think people would know a little more about them. Instead, consumers drink, chew and guzzle down pricey products that claim to restore electrolyte balance without even batting an eye at the ingredients list. However, the truth behind many of these trendy products isn’t quite that simple. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about electrolyte replacement and what to drink, how much, and how often – let’s dive in, shall we?
First of all, what exactly are electrolytes?
If you find yourself scratching your head trying to wrap your brain around electrolytes, then you are not alone! Many people know they need them, but don’t have the slightest clue as to what they are and why they need them. Electrolytes are minerals that conduct an electrical charge when mixed with water. They play an extremely important role in the body because they help to regulate a variety of functions such as pH balance, nerve signaling, muscle contraction and muscle cramping and rehydration. The primary electrolytes that your body uses to carry out these critical functions are:
- Sodium (sodium chloride)
- Potassium (potassium chloride)
Every single day, your body naturally loses water and electrolytes through sweat and other waste processes like urination. With that being said, it is important to regularly replenish them with a mineral-rich diet. However, certain situations or activities – such as intense exercise or bouts of vomiting for an example – can increase the number of electrolytes you lose and may warrant the addition of electrolyte beverages or supplementation to your daily routine. Here are some of our top natural picks to fuel your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to support your healthy lifestyle:
Dubbed “Mother Nature’s natural sports drink”, coconut water has become increasingly popular over the years because it is naturally low in sugar and contains tons of electrolytes like sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside of a young coconut and at 46 calories per cup, it is a much healthier alternative to traditional sports drinks and is very low sodium. They rarely have artificial sweeteners so they are a great choice to hydrate your body, if your diet allows for the calories and natural sugar.
When it boils down to electrolyte drinks, cow’s milk is somewhat of an unsung hero. Cows milk is arguably one of the most debated beverages because some people believe it should only be consumed in moderation where others feel it should be consumed all the time. At the end of the day, milk can be used for a lot more than just your morning cup of joe and is a great way to replenish your electrolytes because it is rich in minerals like calcium, sodium and potassium. In fact, some research even suggests that milk could make a better post-workout beverage than many commercial sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, or Pedialyte. However, if you are lactose intolerant or simply just not a fan of the stuff, cow’s milk may not be the best option for you. The good news is that there are lactose-free and plant-based options available to fuel your body with the electrolytes it needs to function at its best.
Have you ever noticed that your sweat can sometimes taste a little salty? That is because in addition to water, sweat is made up primarily of sodium! To replace this important electrolyte and prevent hyponatremia, you can simply ingest salt. Although any sodium content will do, opt for sea salt like Celtic sea and pink Himalayan salt over table salt because it is less processed meaning it will be better absorbed by the body.
Another great way to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly is through electrolyte supplements – and we are not talking about trendy sports drinks! Although some popular sports beverages are beneficial, the truth is that many of them are loaded with artificial flavors, processed sugars and way too many calories. If you are looking for a great electrolyte replacement, look for an honest and reputable company like Adapted Nutrition that is passionate about providing supplements with only top-notch, high-quality, and clean non artificial ingredients. They offer a wide range of hydrating electrolyte supplements and solutions that can be taken as a concentrate, capsule or even a powder to give any beverage a powerful electrolyte punch!
Okay, so how much do I need and how often?
Great question! If you are following a healthy diet, you can get electrolytes through the nutrient-dense foods you eat such as spinach, strawberries, cucumber, nuts, and fish for example. However, like we mentioned, there are some instances that require us to exert more energy such as difficult exercise which requires additional electrolytes to replace the ones we lose through sweat. That is why post-workout is one of the most common situations where electrolyte replacement proves itself beneficial.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes down to “how much” and “how often” because everyone is different. Factors like gender, age, weight, and activity levels can all influence how much hydration and electrolyte supplementation your body needs specifically to operate at its best. It is important to listen to your body and be aware of the signs that you may be experiencing electrolyte loss, some of which include headache, fatigue, muscle spasms, muscle cramps, muscle weakness, dizziness, and irregular heart rhythm – just to name a few. If you are feeling a little nauseous following a tough workout, it is more than likely due to an electrolyte imbalance and can be fixed simply by fueling your body with the electrolytes it lost through exercise.
A Final Word
Electrolyte replacement is important. Whether you are running a challenging uphill marathon or simply taking a stroll in the park in a hot environment, your body naturally loses electrolytes and it is critical to replace them to support your body fluids and optimum health. If you are looking for electrolyte replacement, look no further and try one of the awesome tips listed above – you will thank us later!