Electrolytes have become a catchword in the world of sports, fitness, and health. Most people identify the word with their favorite sports drink and are vastly considered as a must-have after training or competing when your dripping with sweat. But what are they exactly, what do they do, and do you need them?
What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are chemicals that conduct a positive or negative charge/electricity once absorbed or converted by the body and mixed with water. They regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissue. In simple terms, electrolytes are known as salts. The electrolytes in human bodies include sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate and are used in the metabolic process.
What do Electrolytes do?
You can’t operate appropriately without electrolytes as many automatic processes in the body rely on this small electric current to function, and electrolytes provide this charge. Electrolytes interact with each other and the cells in the tissues, nerves, and muscles. Electrolytes are crucial to keeping your nervous system and muscles functioning and your internal environment balanced.
When you work out, electrolytes get deposited into sweat glands. Water follows the electrolytes, and as the glands fill up, they release the salty mix onto your skin. When the water evaporates cooling you down your left with that salty deposit on your skin.
Electrolyte imbalances, in some instances, can be quite harmful. Imbalances most commonly occur when people are severely dehydrated due to vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive sweating. Severe imbalances can interfere with the way your body functions.
Symptoms will depend on which electrolyte is out of balance and whether the level of that substance is too high or too low. Examples of symptoms caused by electrolyte imbalance:
· irregular heartbeat
· bone disorders
· changes in blood pressure
· nervous system disorders
· excessive tiredness
· muscle spasm
Maintaining the balance
The best way to reach and maintain electrolyte balance is through a healthy diet.
The primary food sources of electrolytes are fruits and vegetables. However, in the Western diet, a common source of sodium and chloride is table salt.
Electrolytes like bicarbonate are naturally produced in your body, so you may not need to worry about including them in your diet.
Word from our expert at Combat Nutrition
Electrolyte solutions are great for weight cutting individuals, combat sports, marathon athletes, and at those nasty times when you have a terrible case of diarrhea or severe vomiting. Electrolyte solutions
are not so fit for the everyday person with a low sweat excretion.
Sports drinks could be considered reasonably high in sugars and offer the right concentration of hydrating electrolyte minerals. Sports drinks are again great for high energy expanding individuals and intense activities lasting longer than 1hr. Sports drinks might not be the best option to meet a calorie deficit and for low energy expending individuals.
Water is life 💧
Water contains trace amounts of electrolyte minerals and is the perfect Rehydrating options for most of the population. Water is also sugar-free and helps replenish electrolytes lost in sweat by low energy expanding individuals.
Some Key Points
· Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge. They're found in your blood, urine, and sweat and are vital to specific processes that keep your body functioning as it should.
· Electrolytes are vital for the normal functioning of the human body. Electrolytes are essential for keeping your nervous system and muscles functioning. They also ensure that your body’s internal environment is optimal by keeping you hydrated and helping regulate your internal pH.
· Electrolyte imbalances most commonly occur when people are severely dehydrated due to vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive sweating. Severe imbalances can interfere with the way your body functions.
· The symptoms of electrolyte imbalance can include twitching, weakness, and, if unchecked, seizures, and heart rhythm disturbances.
· Electrolytes are found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, nuts, and seeds. If you eat a balanced diet that contains good sources of electrolytes, supplementing is usually unnecessary. Below are examples of some foods that provide electrolytes:
· Sodium: Pickled foods, cheese, and table salt.
· Chloride: Table salt.
· Potassium: Fruits and vegetables like bananas, avocado, and sweet potato.
· Magnesium: Seeds and nuts.
· Calcium: Dairy products, fortified dairy alternatives, and green leafy vegetables.
· Common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium and bicarbonate.
· You lose water and electrolytes, particularly sodium when you sweat. However, the sodium consumed through your diet is usually enough to cover any losses.
· Older adults are particularly at risk of electrolyte imbalance
· As always if your unsure about what works best for yourself, get in touch with a health or dietary professional.