Water is the best drink for your body but sometimes your system needs a little something extra. Maybe you’re suffering from a bout of diarrhea, just sweat profusely during an intense workout, or are feeling lethargic and dehydrated from a night of drinking. In these instances, you might down a sports drink to, as their advertisements proclaim, replace lost fluids.
But “fluids” aren’t the only thing that need replacing. These sports drinks are supercharged with electrolytes to make up for electrolyte loss during workouts (or when dealing with an upset stomach). Read on to find out the importance of electrolytes and why you should consider the use of electrolyte powder.
What Are Electrolytes?
According to Rush University Medical Center, electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that “help regulate everything from hydration (the amount of water in your body), to your nervous system to muscle function—including the most important muscle of all: the heart.” It’s the electrolytes’ electrical impulses that allow the heart to pump, on top of keeping other bodily functions running smoothly.
You are likely familiar with the different electrolytes even though you may not have been aware that they actually are electrolytes: sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate. All these serve specific functions in your body; thus, an imbalance of one or the other has different effects. The health problems stemming from an electrolyte imbalance can range from dehydration (loss of sodium and potassium) to osteoporosis (weak bones from calcium deficiency), kidney failure (too much calcium), and irregular heart rhythm (from magnesium and potassium imbalance).
Causes of an Electrolyte Imbalance
You don’t have to religiously monitor your electrolytes. Generally, if you eat a proper diet and stay hydrated, then you don’t really have to worry. Rush University Medical Center enumerates the common causes of a dip or spike in electrolyte levels so that you’ll know when to keep a closer watch and take action accordingly:
- Taking diuretics
- Prolonged vomiting, diarrhea, or high fever
- Congestive heart failure
- Hormonal or endocrine disorders
- Certain cancers (breast cancer and lung cancer, among others)
- Eating disorders
- Kidney disease
By knowing the causes of an imbalance, you can manage your electrolyte levels and work with your doctor as a preventive measure for other more serious illnesses.
Natural Sources of Electrolytes
You don’t really need electrolyte supplementation on a daily basis as long as you make sure you’re eating a proper diet. While you may already getting enough (or even too much) sodium, you can make sure your other mineral stores are sufficient by eating the following:
Calcium. Get it from dairy products like milk and yogurt as well as fortified cereals.
Magnesium. Add a serving of leafy greens like spinach, kangkong, and kale to your meals.
Potassium. Fruits like bananas, avocadoes, oranges, and melons are a rich source of this mineral.
Electrolyte Powder Benefits
When water won’t do the trick and you need electrolytes, stat, you might have to supplement with an electrolyte drink. Instead of lugging around a sports drink, you can conveniently keep a packet of electrolyte powder in your bag for when you suddenly fall ill or, if you’re an athlete or are heavily into fitness, are training on a hot day. Just mix it with water and you’re all set.
Some of the uses and benefits of taking an electrolyte-powered drink are:
It can give you more energy. Got a big football game? That combination of strenuous activity and exposure to heat can spell dehydration. An electrolyte drink can help keep that parched feeling at bay and keep you performing at max level.
It can help you recover from illness. Athletes may benefit from the added sugars in sports drinks as they may need the energy boost, but these sugars aren’t recommended for kids. There are specially formulated electrolyte supplements for kids who experience diarrhea and vomiting as they’re more prone to electrolyte loss when they experience diarrhea and vomiting. (You should of course consult your pediatrician before administering anything to a child and seek medical attention if the sickness persists for more than 24 hours.)
It can protect you from heatstroke. If you regularly work in a hot environment that constantly makes you sweat, then it’s important to replenish your electrolytes. Note: If you’re not fond of drinking flavorless water, then flavored electrolyte powder can give you the needed taste to encourage you to drink more. (Try Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Powder, available at Healthy Options.)