Benefits of Electrolytes for Maintaining Peak Performance
You’ve probably heard about the importance of electrolytes, whether it’s for after a workout or to fight dehydration. But what exactly are electrolytes, what are their benefits, and how can you get them in the body? Get your answers here.
What Are Electrolytes and Why Are They Important?
Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals which are essential to many vital body functions. Our bodies don’t produce essential vitamins and minerals—we can only get them through our diet. Among other things, electrolytes regulate the balance of fluids and the pH levels (acid/alkaline) in your body, and they help you produce energy. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium are all electrolytes.
Sodium, potassium, and magnesium are often considered “the big 3” when it comes to electrolytes. Maintaining a balance of these and other key minerals is key to good health and optimal physical performance. Benefits of these electrolytes include
- Sodium helps regulate your body’s fluid balance, blood pressure and urine production. Sodium also plays a role in digestion and absorption of nutrients in the gut.
- Potassium is important for cardiac and muscle function and works with sodium to balance fluids, conduct nerve impulses and maintain healthy blood pressure.
- Magnesium is critical to more than 300 enzyme reactions in the body, including blood glucose control, protein synthesis, muscle contraction and nerve function.
Particularly for athletes, sodium, potassium, and magnesium work as an effective team to regulate and sustain performance through optimal hydration, balanced pH levels, and healthy muscle function.
What Happens if You Don’t Get Enough Electrolytes?
The amount of electrolytes you need on a daily basis varies based on factors like age, activity level, water consumption, and climate.
We get electrolytes from the foods and fluids we eat and drink, and we deplete them through natural body functions like sweat, urine, breath and other excretions. That means that while the body is good at regulating electrolytes under normal conditions, however, you may lose electrolytes faster than your diet can replace them in the following cases:
- After intense exercise
- Extreme heat
- You’ve been sick (especially with vomiting or diarrhea)
- You’re taking certain medications such as diuretics
- Dietary restrictions such as low carb or low-sodium diets
Electrolyte balance can make the difference between feeling energized, expectant and ready or feeling completely off your game. Signs of low electrolyte levels include fatigue, headache, nausea, blood pressure changes, muscle cramps, and simply not feeling well.
So how do you make sure you’re getting enough?
How Can You Maintain Your Electrolyte Balance?
Of course, the best way to maintain and restore electrolytes in your body is through nutrition: drink plenty of water and eat foods rich in electrolytes like spinach, kale, watercress, strawberries, oranges, avocados, and beans.
When your electrolytes are out of balance, you can also replace them through supplementation. There are products specially formulated to quickly restore your electrolyte balance.
Electrolyte supplements come in many forms—from drinks to tablets to powders that you dissolve into water. If you’re looking to incorporate electrolytes into your diet via supplements, look for low or no-sugar options. And read the labels, as some options don’t necessarily have electrolytes in them.