When you think about electrolytes, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? For most, it is usually one of the many popular sports drinks that are found just about everywhere these days. Many people have heard that electrolytes are important, so they pay for these pricey beverages and slurp them down believing they just got a healthy dose of electrolytes. However, what they really got was an unhealthy dose of sugar and an insignificant dose of vitamins and minerals.
Electrolytes are important, but what exactly are they?
Electrolytes help to keep you hydrated and deliver the electrical signals that make your body run smoothly and recover quickly! Similar to that of a car battery, these healthy minerals in your blood and other bodily fluids stimulate voltages that carry electrical impulses across your cells. This powerful electrical energy keeps your organs functioning properly to help support a healthy lifestyle. Electrolytes are important because they help:
- Move nutrients into your cells
- Move wastes out of your cells
- Balance the amount of water in your body
- Balance your body’s acid/base (pH) level
- Support healthy nerves, muscles, heart and brain function
The main electrolytes found in the body are sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, and phosphate.
What is Sodium? (Na)
Sodium is one of the most important electrolytes of the bunch. It is found in the bloodstream and works directly with the kidneys to tell them how much water should be excreted and how much needs to be retained. Sodium is also important in muscle function because it helps to generate electrical impulses along nerve cells, which carry messages to and from your brain.
We are often told to pass on excess sodium, but it happens to be the electrolyte we lose in the highest concentration when we sweat. The good news is that it is a very easy electrolyte to replenish because almost everything you consume has a little bit of salt in it.
What is Chloride (Cl-)?
This powerful electrolyte is commonly paired with sodium and can be found in table salt. Chloride is needed to maintain fluid balance, blood pressure, blood volume, and body pH levels. Like sodium, it is also lost in high concentrations throughout the day via sweat.
To replenish this electrolyte, reach for healthy foods like:
- Tomato juices
- Table salt
What is Potassium (K)?
After a challenging workout, you might have lost anywhere from 200 to 600 mg of potassium. This electrolyte plays an important role because it supports heart and cell function, prevents bone loss and kidney stones, regulates blood pressure, and plays a critical part in muscle contraction. The Recommended Daily allowance of potassium is close to 5,000 milligrams and most people are deficient.
Some of the potassium rich whole foods that you can have to replenish this electrolyte in your body are:
- Sweet potatoes
What is Magnesium (Mg++)?
Often referred to as the forgotten electrolyte, magnesium is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the body. Believe it or not, this powerful electrolyte is vital for enzyme activity, cell function, nerve signaling, muscle function, sleep and regulating mood – wow!
When your body does not have enough magnesium, you may experience some uncomfortable symptoms like muscle cramps, PMS symptoms, depression and fatigue. Most people are deficient in this critical electrolyte and improving magnesium levels can lead to significant improvements in energy, sleep, athletic performance and mood amongst others.
In the same way that sodium and chloride go hand in hand, magnesium and calcium are intricately linked. Without sufficient magnesium, you can not absorb calcium. Healthy whole foods that contain magnesium are:
- Black bean
What is Calcium (Ca++)?
Everybody knows that calcium plays an important role in bone health! This electrolyte is essential for the formation of your bones and teeth, muscle contraction, blood clotting, hormone secretion and neurotransmission. Some of the best whole foods that are rich in calcium are:
What is Phosphate (HP04-)?
Like calcium, phosphate also plays a key role in strengthening bones and teeth. Your body needs this electrolyte to help nerves function, build and repair bones, and make muscles contract.
Some of the best food sources to replenish your body with phosphate is:
What are ionically charged minerals?
An ionic mineral is an element that has a positive or negative charge. On a molecular level, this means that the element has either not enough electrons or one too many. This unstable ionic state allows the element to readily bond with water which makes it much easier for your body to absorb when compared to most minerals that are cultivated in a lab.
The charges from the ionic minerals form your body’s communication hub, conducting electrical signals that move nutrients throughout your body, keeping it balanced. Without these impulses, not a single muscle in your body would be able to function!
Unlike almost every other electrolyte you can buy which are not ionic, supplements like Adapted Nutrition’s Hi-Lyte is made with natural ionic electrolytes from sea minerals which are simply dehydrated by the sun. This allows them to stay in their natural, unstable ionic state where they are readily absorbed by your body, delivering a healthy punch of nutrients directly to your cells.
Who Needs Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are essential minerals that play a crucial role to your overall health. When your body is electrolyte deficient, some of the most common symptoms experienced are:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Change in blood pressure
Plain and simple, everyone can benefit by supplementing electrolytes into their diet because most people tend to be mineral deficient! Back in the day, it was common to get these body-nourishing nutrients through food. Today, the American diet is full of processed sugar and artificial fillers. This means that many people are not consuming enough vitamins and minerals to support a healthy lifestyle through diet alone. Electrolytes are important – here are some of the reasons why you need them.
Keeps your body hydrated
Hydration is critical to your overall health and fitness. Of course, we all know that you need to drink enough water to stay hydrated, especially after exercise. However, like water, electrolytes also play an important role here. These minerals, particularly sodium, work to balance your body’s fluids. This means that electrolytes stop the body from holding onto too much liquid or becoming dehydrated.
Supports your muscles
When you are training hard and working out, it is important to make sure that your muscles perform well. While giving yourself adequate time for proper recovery is one piece of the puzzle, electrolytes also help to support healthy muscle function. For instance, calcium is needed for proper muscle contraction. This electrolyte supports the movement of the muscle groups by helping the fibers to slide together as they make contact seamlessly.
Helps your nervous system
Your nervous system is complex. It is a collection of nerves and cells that carry messages from your brain to the rest of your body. Needless to say, it is pretty important! The electrolyte sodium is a fundamental part of this intricate system since it moves across the nerve cell membrane to create those signals. Keeping that in mind, it is important to keep your sodium levels balanced so your nervous system can function properly.
Supports your diet
We live in a world today that is full of trendy diets. Paleo, South Beach, Atkins – the list goes on. One diet in particular has been making headlines due to its incredible list of benefits known as the Ketogenic diet. Now, it does not matter what diet you are on specifically because electrolytes are important across the board. However, if you are following a low-carb lifestyle like keto, replenishing your electrolytes are crucial to support your diet. This is because water and carbs go hand in hand. When you significantly reduce your carbohydrate intake, you are naturally reducing the amount of water retained in your body as well. To keep everything balanced, your body will excrete important electrolytes like sodium and magnesium which can leave you a little mineral deficient to say the least. Electrolytes play a critical role because they support your diet to keep your body functioning properly. If you change your eating habits, make sure you are getting the nutrients needed to support your lifestyle. If you are not, try supplementing these healthy minerals with an awesome electrolyte supplement like the ones from Adapted Nutrition. They only use natural and pure ingredients in their supplements to provide your body with fuel – not fillers!
What is an Electrolyte Imbalance?
The balance of electrolytes is constantly shifting in your body due to fluctuating fluids. For example, when you sweat due to vigorous activity, hot weather, or illness, levels of certain electrolytes might be low. Diarrhea and vomiting are other causes of electrolyte imbalances, as they are a result of excessive fluid loss. In some cases, electrolyte imbalances can also be caused due to a deficiency or an overabundance of minerals in the body. Some of the medical conditions that electrolyte imbalances can cause are:
- Addison’s disease
- Heat exhaustion
- Kidney disease
Is it Possible to Have too many Electrolytes?
Too much of anything is not necessarily a good thing, and the same holds true with electrolytes! The three electrolytes to keep an eye on are magnesium, potassium, and sodium.
Your body can only handle so much magnesium. The good news is that your body is really good at getting rid of this mineral when it is in excess. The bad news is, that this means your body is going to attempt to expel it, which tends to come with diarrhea and digestive issues. It is a good idea to keep your magnesium intake below 400mg per day to save yourself from a future stomachache.
Although consuming too much magnesium might be uncomfortable, eating too much potassium can be dangerous if you have a kidney or heart issues or consume a concentrated supplement too quickly. This is why it is very difficult to find potassium supplements that have anything more than a small dose of potassium in them. If you are in good health and find a high potassium supplement you like, make sure to first try half a serving to make sure it’s well-tolerated by your body before ramping up to a full dose - and always follow the instructions on the label. Signs that you may have over-consumed this mineral for your body include:
- Abnormal or racing heart rate
- Heart palpitations
Electrolytes in Sports Drinks
Sports drinks are everywhere these days. From your local grocery store to your fitness center – there are a ton of options available when it comes to electrolytes. Sports drinks are popular beverages that are enhanced with these healthy minerals that promise to give you a body-nourishing dose of nutrients. However, not all products are created equal.
Sure, sports drinks are an easy and convenient way to refuel your body with the electrolytes it needs, especially after a good workout. But many times, these coveted trendy drinks are full of artificial flavoring and processed sugar that can do more harm to your body than good. Now, we are not saying that all sports drinks are bad, but what we are saying is that you should take a look at the nutrition label prior to making a purchase.
If you are an athlete, on a low-carb diet, or just someone that wants to improve their overall health, supplementing electrolytes will help you to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to perform at its best. Make sure to purchase from an honest and reputable company that backs their products with science like Adapted Nutrition. Not only do all their products feature clean, high-quality ingredients, but there is also absolutely no added sugars, fillers, or artificial ingredients, pushing Adapted Nutrition to the top of the leaderboard in natural supplementation!