Time To Power Up the Electrolytes
Summer is right around the corner and in some areas of the country it’s probably feeling like it’s already hit. Here in Nashville we have a few beautiful weeks of spring and then bam, it’s HOT and humid! That certainly doesn’t stop me from getting outside daily, doing morning yoga on the porch and cycling 2-3 times a week but it also means I must stay hydrated!
Believe it or not, roughly 75% of Americans say they don’t drink enough water daily and are chronically dehydrated. That’s why it’s so essential to keep your electrolyte intake up regularly, especially during the summer months and during workouts. Drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily is key but water does not replenish your electrolytes so to stay properly hydrated, you must balance both.
What are electrolytes and what do they do?
Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals and compounds that help your body do much of its work — producing energy and contracting your muscles, for example. Sodium, magnesium, chloride, potassium and calcium are all types of electrolytes. We get them from what we eat and drink. Electrolyte levels are measured in blood tests, and their levels must stay within a fairly small range, or problems can arise.
Electrolytes work by:
- Regulating the fluid levels in your blood plasma and your body
- Keeping the pH (acid/alkaline) of your blood in the normal range of 7.35 – 7.45, slightly alkaline
- Enabling muscle contractions, including the beating of your heart
- Transmitting nerve signals from your heart, muscle and nerve cells to other cells in the body
- Helping to build new tissue
The level of an electrolyte in the blood can become too high or too low, leading to an imbalance. Important electrolytes are lost in sweat during exercise, including sodium and potassium. The balanced concentration can also be affected by rapid loss of fluids, such as after a bout of diarrhea or vomiting.
These electrolytes must be replenished to maintain healthy levels. The kidneys and several other hormones regulate the concentration of each electrolyte. If levels of a substance are too high, the kidneys filter it from the body, and different hormones act to balance the levels. An imbalance presents a health issue when the concentration of a certain electrolyte becomes higher than the body can regulate.
Low levels of electrolytes can also affect overall health including headaches or migraines. The most common imbalances are of sodium and potassium.
Maintaining Your Electrolytes
Here are some suggestions for maintaining a healthy electrolyte balance…
1. Eat your electrolytes.
Make these electrolyte-rich foods part of your weekly diet:
- Calcium – Milk or plant-based milks such as almond milk, plain or nonfat yogurts, meat, fish with bones (e.g., sardines), eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, beans, spinach, kale, collard greens, asparagus, dried apricots, figs
- Chloride – Olives, seaweed, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, celery
- Magnesium – Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, kale, whole grains, nuts, nut butters, dried beans and lentils, dark chocolate, cacao powder
- Potassium – Cooked spinach, sweet potato, plain nonfat yogurt, bananas, avocado, peas, beans, tomatoes, oranges, melons, raisins
2. Drink enough water.
You may feel like you hear this WAY too often but it’s good advice! Don’t wait until you become dehydrated to drink fluids. Keep a water bottle with you and drink small amounts throughout the entire day. During your workouts, aim for 6-12 oz of water every 15-20 minutes throughout the entire workout.
3. Replenish electrolytes after exercise.
If you do a long or intense workout, it’s important to replace the potassium, magnesium and sodium levels that were likely lost. You should drink at least 20-24 fluid oz of an electrolyte drink to help with rehydration.
Even if you don’t sweat a lot, you lose electrolytes when you breathe rapidly. So sweaty or not, opt for a drink with electrolytes after any vigorous workout.
Our Top Picks for Electrolyte Drinks & Powders
The ‘sports drink’ category is cluttered and full of additional sugars + food dyes that are simply not necessary. However, there are a number of less expensive + healthier options that we highly recommend.
1. Sole Water
If you know me, you KNOW how much I love sole water. It’s the most pure & simple way to ‘make your own’ electrolyte drink. I do this without fail every single morning the minute I wake up and it’s been a game changer for me. Literally a game changer!
I was chronically exhausted a few of years ago and not a single doctor could tell me what was wrong with me. We literally did three separate blood test panels AND… nothing. After some research on my own, I realized I had adrenal fatigue due in part to stress. Sole water was the #1 recommendation for naturally addressing adrenal fatigue. After about a month or two, I had ALL of my energy back and felt literally 10 years younger. To this day, I have NEVER stopped and never will.
Here’s how to make your OWN sole water!
2. Buoy All-Natural Electrolytes
Based on the World Health Organization’s formula for Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS), this easy-to-squeeze electrolyte supplement is free-from sugar, caffeine, calories, and artificial ingredients. The benefit of this supplement is that it leaves barely any taste behind, so you can easily squeeze some into water, coffee, or juice without making a big impact on the flavor of your drink. You are meant to squeeze for half a second (or the equivalent of 1/3 of a tsp) per drink.
3. Nuun Hydration Tablets
Gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and Keto-friendly, Nuun hydration tablets are incredibly easy to take on the go, and one tablet is good enough for a 16-ounce drink. This pack comes with four tubes – flavors include citrus fruit, lemon-lime, orange, and tri-berry – each containing 10 tablets. The non-GMO sourced tablets contain the essential sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium replenishment your body needs during or after a training session and they don’t contain any artificial sweeteners.
4. Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Drink
With no added sugars, zero calories, and zero artificial ingredients, it’s hard to go wrong with the Ultima Replenisher. All it takes is one serving and you’ll feel a major difference in only a short amount of time. This pack includes five different flavors: raspberry, lemonade, grape, orange, and cherry pomegranate.
5. Key Nutrients Electrolyte Powder
Designed to rehydrate and replenish the body after a moderate or intense sweat sesh, Key Nutrients Electrolyte Powder contains six electrolytes – Ca, Mg, P, K, Na, and Ci – as well as 12 essential vitamins and minerals. Completely clean and caffeine-free, it is best when stirred into water or juice and has a lemonade-like flavor.
What To Avoid When Choosing Electrolyte Drinks & Powders
As I mentioned above, electrolyte drinks often contain unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients, which is why I stick to sole water. (Of course, water is way better than caffeine-loaded, sugar water.) This is where most people look at their bottle of Gatorade and ask, “Am I making a mistake?
This is not to say that Gatorade is bad for you. But, the thing to be wary of when it comes to sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade is the amount of sugar your body is taking in. Both contain 21 grams of sugar per 12 fluid ounces. That’s 56 grams of sugar per bottle (32 fl oz). As we know, excess sugar intake can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar.
Coconut water is another top player in the electrolyte game. While this drink serves as a great source of natural electrolytes and contains a ton of potassium, many of the coconut water offerings on the market can be high in sugar (it is a natural sugar but, nevertheless, too much isn’t ideal) and calories.
If you’re looking for an ultimate thirst quencher, here’s what you should avoid:
- Artificial Sweeteners: Sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame are used by many beverages to cut out the calories while still maintaining a decent flavor. Unfortunately, they can cause negative side effects like headaches, nausea, and even heartburn. Worse, studies suggest that sucralose can upset your balance of gut bacteria, which can create digestive issues, lowered immune system, and more.
- Too Many Unnecessary Ingredients: If you scan the ingredients and see a laundry list of stuff that sounds like a science experiment, that’s not a great sign — especially because there are plenty of products to choose from.
- Bad Reviews: As always, do your homework. It’s usually a good idea to research a product if you’re unsure and that’s where reviews come in!
Looking for more good reads? Check out these posts:
- CBD To Help You Rock Your Workout
- 30 Minute @ Home Workouts To Keep You Moving
- How To Live Fitness Forward
- 5 Reasons To Mix Up Your Workout Routine
- 10 Minute Workout You Can Do Anywhere
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