Replenishing Electrolytes

It seems like people are always advising me to work on replenishing electrolytes after I go for a long run or do any physical activity in the heat of summer.

People are also always advising us to stay hydrated but not to drink too much water without replenishing electrolytes.

Lots of advice for sure but what does it mean?

What are Electrolytes?

I knew that electrolytes are minerals in our bodies, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. (I really should have taken more science courses in college.)

Here’s a great definition of electrolytes that I found on Medline Plus, which is a website of health information put out by the U.S. National Library of Medicine:

Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge. They are in your blood, urine, tissues, and other body fluids. Electrolytes are important because they help

  • Balance the amount of water in your body
  • Balance your body’s acid/base (pH) level
  • Move nutrients into your cells
  • Move wastes out of your cells
  • Make sure that your nerves, muscles, the heart, and the brain work the way they should

Sodiumcalciumpotassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium are all electrolytes. You get them from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink.

Hydration Fluctuations

A number of reasons can explain changing levels of electrolytes. You can have too little water in your body, which is called dehydration. Too much water in your body is called overhydration. Either situation affects your electrolytes. This can happen from taking certain kinds of medicines, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, and illness.

When I exercise intensely or in the heat, I sometimes end up feeling dizzy or faint. Sometimes I just end up feeling sluggish. I find myself thinking, “it feels like I’ve never run before.”  I end up replenishing my electrolytes and usually feel much better pretty quickly. Chris talked about different solutions for dealing with heat, including replacing electrolytes.

It’s thought that when we get cramps, particularly in our legs and often at night, it’s our bodies alerting us that we need to work on replenishing electrolytes. Other things can cause this, of course, but it’s worth trying if you’re dealing with this. Cramps can be so painful, they’re impossible to ignore.

Replenishing electrolytes

If you’re struggling with electrolyte problems due to health issues or medication, you should talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

If you’re dealing with this because you’ve been working out, you can use a few different methods for replenishing your electrolytes.

First of all, food is your best source:

  • Bananas are a great source of potassium.
  • Dairy products are well known for their levels of calcium.
  • Green leafy vegetables can replace both magnesium and potassium.
  • Coconut water is considered to be a good source of electrolytes

Basically, if you eat a well-rounded diet of natural, whole foods, your body will get what it needs.

However, when you’re out running or biking or really pushing yourself in the gym, you may need to supplement with something. Don’t just drink lots of water because you can end up overhydrated which basically dilutes your electrolytes. You need to make sure you get what your body needs.

There are lots of ways to supplement. Probably the best known is drinking a sports drink like GatorAde or PowerAde. There are electrolyte mixes you can add to water and there are tablets you can dissolve in your mouth.

Replenishing Electrolytes

I’ll discuss some of these supplements in future posts so stay tuned!

In the meantime, let me know if you have problems with fluctuating electrolytes and what you do to resolve the problem. Leave a comment below or leave a phone message at 330-970-6662 or send an email to Jill@BecomingElli.com.

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