Being adequately hydrated can make a significant difference in various aspects of your life. From sports performance to weight management, drinking plenty of water can be the missing link for success.
What about the other side of hydration? It’s not enough to drink water; you also need electrolytes. Here’s what you need to know about how to get enough electrolytes and why they’re important for the body.
What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are the minerals that play a role in hydration and overall balance within your body. Sodium, potassium, phosphate, calcium, and chloride are all forms of electrolytes. These minerals are responsible for forming ions in the body and keep things running smoothly.
There are a few reasons why your electrolyte stores could be depleted. The two most common issues are illness and exercise. When you’re sick, vomiting and diarrhea cause the expulsion of fluids and electrolytes. Paired with the inability to replace the lost fluids orally, IV electrolytes need to be administered.
With exercise, you lose electrolytes as you sweat, especially when you compound the physical exertion with heat. If you’ve ever felt unwell after a run, maybe with a pounding headache and dizziness, chances are you’re dehydrated and need electrolytes.
There are many ways to replenish electrolytes, and picking the best supplement for you is crucial.
What do Electrolytes do?
In a nutshell, electrolytes form ions in the body and keep the various bodily processes running as they should. They regulate nerve function and muscle contractions and aid with healing.
Have you ever gotten terrible calf cramps after a day of running in the sun? That’s caused by a lack of potassium (and probably a few other electrolytes that you’ve neglected).
Without getting deep into the science of how electrolytes help your body, know that not having enough will cause you to feel terrible, while having enough will help you feel great.
Some common signs of dehydration include:
- dry mouth and eyes
- dark urine (or a lack of output)
- dry skin
Here’s a simple test for dehydration: Pinch the skin on the back of your hand. If the skin immediately releases and returns to its usual form, you’re fine. If the skin stays wrinkled and slowly reduces to its previous form, you’re dehydrated. Hydration has a direct impact on your skin elasticity.
Who Needs Electrolytes?
Everyone needs electrolytes to survive. However, depending on your lifestyle, you may have to worry more about electrolytes than others. If you exercise regularly, you’ll want to be proactive in maintaining a healthy electrolyte balance.
It’s also essential to pay attention to your electrolytes if you drink a lot of coffee or tea. While you may think that you’re improving your fluid intake throughout the day, caffeine is a diuretic that increases your fluid output. In other words, if you drink six cups of coffee a day and don’t drink water, you can become dehydrated.
How to Boost Your Electrolytes
To ensure that you’re getting enough electrolytes to support your fluid output, eat a diet rich in whole foods with lots of minerals. Ensure that you’re drinking at least eight glasses of water throughout the day, and “eat your fluids” by consuming fresh fruit and veggies.
You can drink sports drinks with electrolytes, coconut water or add a supplement to your water bottle for an added boost. Getting enough electrolytes will help you stay strong, healthy, and ready to take on the world.