We all know that electrolytes are important to our bodies because we see them added to things like sports drinks and bottled water. But what makes electrolytes special and how do they impact our bodies?
We all know that electrolytes are important to our bodies because we see them added to things like sports drinks and bottled water. But what makes electrolytes special and how do they impact our bodies? Below we will find out how the body uses electrolytes, what they are, why we need them and how to get more electrolytes, specifically in our water sources.
We get most of our sodium and chloride electrolyte intake from foods or salt sources but all electrolytes can be replenished with well balanced meals. Sodium and chloride ions are important for blood volume regulation, nerve and muscle functions. Most people get too much sodium and only in cases of sickness may they need more sodium added to their diet.
Potassium is needed for cardio vascular functioning and muscle function, so to keep the heart beating and muscles moving, potassium electrolytes must remain balanced.
Magnesium is important for digestive functions, cell division, muscle efficiency and athletic performance. Magnesium supplements are known to enhance muscle recovery, promote relaxation, reduce pain/muscle cramps and to help increase the performance of other minerals.
Calcium and bicarbonate ions are the less influential electrolytes, calcium is present in our skeletal system and bicarbonate ions are released by the kidneys.
The only time electrolytes need to be replenished are during times of dehydration or after a long-interval or high intensity work out. The most commonly supplemented electrolytes are Potassium, Chloride & Sodium and Magnesium which have a significant influence on athletic performance and the body’s production of energy. All electrolytes are lost when we sweat so for athletes or endurance workouts it is important to replenish the electrolytes lost when perspiring.
Most scientists and athletes will agree that sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade are high in sugar and sodium which do not provide the right balance for optimal electrolyte absorption. Most common complaints about sports drinks are that they are too “heavy” or overwhelming to a body that is already working hard. The large amount of sodium, sugars and carbohydrates present in sports drink can actually add to the electrolyte imbalance.
Since the early 2000’s, there has been a rise in bottled water companies adding electrolytes like potassium and sodium to their products. It is easier for the body to absorb electrolytes through water than in sugary sports drinks so the popularity of electrolyte water has increased product demand.
All recipes start out with a filtered, distilled, deionized or spring water base with a tiny pinch of salt or baking soda added. From there it is recommended to add fresh citrus (fruit) juice that contains calcium and potassium without any added sugar. The glucose is added in small amounts at the end in the form of honey or agave nectar which provides a sweet taste and higher absorption rates into the body. Shake the mixture well as you are drinking it specifically after a long work out, high temperatures, while sick or during recovery.
There are also many electrolyte supplements that are on the market in powder or liquid form that can add pure electrolytes to filtered water. Most supplements do not contain sugars or flavorings for easier consumption and should be researched to make sure that they provide the best match for your electrolyte needs.