Electrolytes: What Are They and Why Do You Need Them?
October 25, 2018
If you have an active lifestyle, you’ve probably heard the term “electrolytes” more than a few times. Fitness experts are always talking about how important it is to replace electrolytes after a hard workout. But, what exactly are electrolytes and why do you need them?
What Are Electrolytes?
Did you know that your body conducts electricity? That’s right! Your body has salts that breakdown into positive and negative charges when dissolved in water, enabling your body to perform critical muscle, heart and nerve functions.
Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and a variety of other salt compounds which help to regulate how much water your body retains, how your muscles contract, the acidity of your blood, transmission of nerve impulses and normal heart function.
What do Electrolytes Do?
The human body is about 60% water, so management of fluid levels is essential for good health. This is where electrolytes come in. They help to maintain appropriate fluid levels, both in your cells and in your blood.
Are You Low on Electrolytes?
Profuse sweating during hot weather, diarrhea, vomiting, sustained physical activity and dehydration are the most common causes of electrolyte imbalance. Other causes include diseases such as congestive heart disease, kidney disease and liver disorders, as well as medications such as diuretics, which flush salt and water from your body.
You probably won’t know if your electrolytes are out of whack until you start getting muscle cramps, tingling in your arms and legs, general weakness, irregular heartbeat, and/or confusion and fatigue. Headaches, stomach upsets, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation can also occur.
Visit a doctor if you’re experiencing these symptoms as they could be signs that your body needs to re-balance your electrolyte levels immediately.
How to Correct Electrolyte Imbalance
Anyone who has an active lifestyle needs to know how to restore normal electrolyte levels after a hard and sweaty workout. The easiest option is to stay well hydrated by drinking water during your workouts. Also, there are many beverages on the market that are designed to replace electrolytes.
In addition to water, you should eat salty but healthy foods like nuts to replace sodium in your body, and potassium-rich foods like bananas. In severe cases, intravenous saline and potassium solutions may be used to replace electrolytes.
When you’re active, particularly in hot weather, your electrolytes can become depleted quickly. But when you take measures to ensure you’re getting enough electrolytes, you can avoid many of the negative effects of an electrolyte imbalance. This allows you to go through your day with more energy while maintaining good health and enjoying peak performance.