What are Electrolytes?
Put simply, electrolytes are commonly referred to as salts. These salts become positively and negatively charged ions once inside your body. Balanced electrolyte levels allow your body to send messages between cells. (“Electrolytes” May 2013. Para. 1)
What do Electrolytes do?
Electrolytes ensure that cardiac, digestive, muscular, and nervous systems are all properly functioning. To be more specific, these electrical messengers help to regulate nerve and muscle function. In extreme circumstances without electrolytes, you wouldn’t be able to perform a push-up, blink, or move your fingers. Electrolytes also regulate your acidity and fluid levels. (“Electrolytes” May 2013. Para. 2)
Examples of Electrolytes
Here is a list of essential electrolytes: bicarbonate, calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, sodium, sulfate.
Causes of Low Electrolyte Levels
One of the common causes of low electrolyte levels is exercising without replenishment. Does this scenario sound familiar?
You go to the gym and drink nothing but water during an intense workout.
You head home afterwards and go about your day as normal.
High amounts of sodium and potassium were lost in your sweat. The top thing on your list, besides a shower, needs to be electrolyte replenishment.
Another cause is poor diet. If you aren’t eating enough or if you’re eating a lot of the wrong things, your electrolytes will be low. Avoiding fruits and vegetables while eating processed foods will give you high levels of sodium and low levels of potassium and calcium.
Finally, when flu season begins to lurk, it’s best to stock up on electrolyte packed-foods and drinks. Illness is another reason people lose electrolytes. Stomach viruses can rob you of your last meal as well as vital fluids and electrolytes.
Consequences of low Electrolytes
Never mind your athletic performance, if you lose too many electrolytes, you will be lucky to maintain normal body functions. The first sign of low electrolytes is cramping. This is your body letting you know that you need to re-fuel soon. The longer you wait, the more severe the cramping becomes. Once electrolytes are depleted, you will find even the easiest task difficult to perform. Dangerously low levels of electrolytes can lead to blackouts, confusion, and death.
Sources of Electrolytes
The most readily available source of electrolytes is a sports drink. For dietary purposes, I’d recommend the ones with low or no sugar. A great alternative would be coconut water. Stores are now carrying on-the-go tablets such as NUUN and GU Electrolyte Brew. Simply throw a tablet in water and drink up.
You can also get electrolytes from whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and meats. Raw and organic apple cider vinegar is a great health drink to consume daily. Not only does it provide you with all of your necessary electrolytes but the benefits of ACV are ten-fold. It’s an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal drink that is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Electrolytes are essential to simple bodily processes that many take for granted. Be sure to quickly and efficiently replenish electrolytes so that you can feel your best throughout the day. This goes double if you have an active lifestyle.
Wedro, Benjamin. “Electrolytes” emedicinehealth.com. May 2013. Web.