Your Guide: Electrolytes 101

by | Mar 25, 2019 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

Do you ever experience feeling wiped out on hot summer days or after hard workouts? This could be from a lack of electrolytes! When you hear electrolytes you probably picture a runner after a race or athletes during a game drinking those popular neon colored sports drinks.  And you would be correct, sports drinks usually tend to contain electrolytes to help replenish the electrolytes that these athletes sweat out. But it’s not just sports athletes that need to do this, anyone that spends a lot of time in the heat or doing intense workouts needs to as well.

What are electrolytes, exactly?

Electrolytes are technically salts. They are electrically charged minerals and compounds including calcium, potassium, magnesium, bicarbonate, and sodium chloride. We get electrolytes from what we eat and drink. Once in the body they break down into positive and negative charges.

What do electrolytes do in the body?

The main role of electrolytes is regulating the flow of water in and out of cells.  This balance of fluids inside and outside the cell is important for proper hydration of the body. If the electrolyte balance is not correct, the body can not pull water into the cells.  When the body can not pull water into the cells, the body’s’ tissue is not able to hold water and then the body becomes dehydrated regardless of the amount of water intake. This means even drinking tons of water doesn’t necessarily guarantee your getting hydrated. So make sure to add some electrolytes in when drinking large quantities of water daily!  

Why do we need electrolytes?

In addition to regulating fluids in the body, electrolytes also play a role in the following:

  • Balancing the body’s pH (acid/alkaline)
  • Enabling muscles to relax and contract
  • Nerve signaling from heart, muscle and nerve cells to other cells.
  • Moving nutrients into the cells and wastes out of the cell
  • Regulating lood pressure
How do we lose electrolytes?

The main way the body loses electrolytes is from sweating during and after intense workouts, however you can also lose electrolytes from traveling, caffeine, alcohol and being overheated. Sickness such as food poisoning and the flu that cause vomiting and diarrhea can cause severe dehydration leading to the loss of electrolytes as well.

Where to find electrolytes

It’s actually crucial that you replenish both water and electrolytes after any intense activity that causes a lot of sweating, or else you could end up having terrible muscle cramps, fatigue, nausea, and headaches – nobody wants that!

You can get electrolytes from both food or drink sources. One of the easiest ways to add electrolytes in your routine is adding a little pinch of pink himilian salt or celtic salt to a glass of water.  You can also find lots of electrolyte powders and tablets that you can add to water in most vitamin and sports stores! As far as food sources think high mineral foods like greens, meats, dairy and fruit.  Add a pinch of celtic salt and spinach to your morning smoothie for an extra punch of electrolytes or go for salmon or chicken dinner after your afternoon workout to replenish and recharge those electrolytes.

Should I drink sports drinks?

You can definitely get some good electrolytes from sports drinks, however most of them on the market are packed with sugar. A typical 20-ounce sports drink has about 30 grams of sugar.  All that extra sugar is fine if you’re in the middle of an intense game and need the extra energy, but otherwise it’s best to forgo the high sugar sports drinks.  

Instead try some low sugar alternatives such as mineral water, coconut water, or electrolyte water.  How about a DIY sports drink? Try Noom’s Electrolyte Elixir for a low sugar tasty alternative to help you replenish!

Remember to always hydrate and add those electrolytes back in to avoid feeling fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea, headaches and other side affects from dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.  This is the last thing you want when trying to stick to a good workout routine or enjoy a hot summer day.  So get your sweat on but get those electrolytes after so you can keep Nooming away!

Author: Jamie Stephens, NTP