How much attention do we give to replacing our electrolytes?
What exactly are electrolytes? And how do they help us?
Electrolytes are minerals found in our blood and other bodily fluids. They are basically salts that carry an electrical charge. Electrolytes affect the amount of water in our bodies and the acidity of our fluids. They control the stability of our cells’ membranes, support and maintain the functions of our heart, digestion, muscles, and nervous system. Without electrolytes, our cells couldn’t communicate with each other, making them vital to our health. We lose electrolytes when we sweat and losing these minerals can greatly affect how we feel.
Electrolytes are the spark plugs that make our body work— the electric fire that ignites every chemical reaction in every cell throughout our body.
The electrolytes in your body = The battery and spark plugs in your car
Both carry electrical charges that are vital for their function.
(photo credit: himlayancrystalsalt.com)
Important electrolytes to pay attention to are:
- Sodium – regulates the amount of water in our body
- Potassium – helps regulate pH balance
- Calcium – aids muscle contraction
- Magnesium – aids healthy cell function
- Phosphate – helps regulate pH balance
- Chloride – helps regulate the fluid pH inside and outside cells
- Bicarbonate – helps regulate pH balance
They all play a vital role in maintaining homeostasis within our body. Normal body function, as well as athletic and other strenuous performance, will be severely compromised if we do not have adequate electrolyte levels present in our body, especially when we’re in the heat.
When we sweat, the most important electrolytes we lose are sodium and potassium. The longer and more intensely we sweat, the more important it is to replace these electrolytes. When our electrolytes are low, our nerve and muscle function is impaired. And the imbalance will affect our performance and recovery. In mild cases of electrolyte loss, we may not feel any symptoms at all. We may just feel like we had a difficult yoga class or workout, or we may feel like we didn’t get enough sleep the night before. When in fact, it may be that our body is low on electrolytes.
One of the most obvious signs of electrolyte loss is when we feel our muscles cramping. This is actually our body’s last warning sign that it can no longer continue its normal muscle function. By the time we feel cramping, our performance has already been compromised for some time. Other signs include exhaustion, nausea, dizziness, and mental confusion. Having low electrolytes will also cause our muscles and tissues to repair themselves much more slowly.
Dehydration is a big concern when we are losing fluids. But just drinking plain water to rehydrate is not the answer. Water without electrolytes can actually make things worse because it will further dilute the minerals in our body. Our body is able to compensate for the imbalance for a little while, but over time it will give in and problems can occur. Even when drinking water throughout the day, it’s a good idea to add a pinch of good quality Himalayan or sea salt to the water.
General Guidelines for Replenishment
– Our need for fluid and electrolyte replacement depends on a few things:
- The duration and intensity of our sweating
- The temperature in which we sweat
- The rate at which we lose water and electrolytes
– In most cases, when sweating up to 60 minutes, drinking water enriched with minerals is sufficient enough to maintain electrolyte balance.
– When the duration of active sweating is more than 60 minutes, drinking an electrolyte replacement drink that includes added sodium and glucose is optimal.
– For proper hydration throughout the day, drinking about half our body weight in ounces of mineral-rich water, keeps us adequately hydrated.
– Increasing our daily intake of fresh fruits and veggies helps to increase our potassium levels.
– Personally, adding a generous pinch of Himalayan salt to my water bottle for a Bikram class has always been beneficial.
Restore, Recover, Recharge
Can I get an electrolyte recovery drink without Red 40 or Blue 1, please?
The conventional sports recovery drinks contain a combination of sugary syrups, “natural flavors”, artificial ingredients, brominated vegetable oil, and artificial dyes.
To replace electrolytes, you don’t need a complicated, tricky formula with man-made chemicals or refined sugars and artificial dyes. All you need are some natural food sources that have a few key minerals.
Here are a some simple ways to replenish your electrolytes and provide your body with some optimal nutrition:
Plain Coconut Water:
Coconut water has more potassium and more natural sources of sodium than conventional sports drinks.
Coconut Water With A Tablespoon of Lime Juice:
The same as above. Just add a tablespoon of fresh-squeezed lime juice.
The lime juice will add calcium and potassium, helping to provide a good pH balance. All citrus fruits have the necessary minerals for electrolyte replenishment. Also try lemon, tangerine, grapefruit and orange juice for variety.
Celery, Apple, and Lemon Juice:
6 stalks of celery
Juice in a juicer
Celery = sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride, and phosphorous.
Apple = potassium and natural sweetness.
Lemon = the highest electrolyte containing citrus fruit.
1 1/3 cups watermelon juice
2/3 cup coconut water
A good pinch of Himalayan or sea salt
Combine all ingredients and stir in the salt until dissolved.
Add a squeeze of lemon or lime if you like.
Serve over ice
Watermelon = sodium and potassium
Frozen Banana, Almond Milk and Kale Shake:
1 frozen banana
1 cup almond milk
1 cup kale
Blend in a blender
Banana = potassium and magnesium
Almonds = potassium and magnesium
Kale = magnesium and calcium
Himalayan or Sea Salt, Baking Soda, Lemon Juice and Maple Syrup Drink:
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan or Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon maple syrup
The addition of baking soda helps the body become less acidic and provides a source of sodium bicarbonate. Maple syrup provides some natural sugar.
Have you replaced your electrolytes today?
This article was contributed by Jane Hill – fierce Bikram Yogi, lover of all things natural, and my best yoga buddy. Look for more articles by Jane in the Off the Mat Chats section of Views From the Podium!