Today, we're tackling a topic that's often talked about but rarely understood: electrolytes. You’ve heard that they're important, but let's dive deeper into what they actually are and why they’re so crucial to your well-being.
Picture this: you're in the middle of a workout or navigating the challenges of your day-to-day life. Suddenly, you feel a lack of energy and balance. There’s a lot of things this could be, but especially in the warmer weather, electrolytes could be the culprit.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes. You've heard the term, but what exactly are they? Let's break it down in simple terms. There’s 6 electrolytes: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate. They’re essential minerals that carry electrical charges around your body..
Think of them as tiny messengers within your body, responsible for various critical functions. They help regulate fluid balance, support nerve and muscle function, maintain proper pH levels, and facilitate the transmission of signals throughout your body- all crucial to your feeling of your wellness. They’re the unsung heroes of your health!
You can find them in various foods and drinks, and your body also produces them naturally on a smaller scale. However, certain factors such as intense physical activity, excessive sweating, hot weather or illness can deplete your electrolyte levels.
Why are they important?
- Sodium: a key electrolyte, that’s main role is regulating fluid balance and maintaining proper hydration levels in the body.
- Potassium: essential for maintaining a healthy heart and kidneys.
- Calcium: renowned for its role in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, but it is also an important electrolyte for hormones and maintaining healthy blood pressure.
- Magnesium: the big one- involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, making it a vital electrolyte. It supports energy production, a balanced mood, and helps regulate blood pressure.
- Chloride: works closely with sodium to regulate fluid balance and maintain proper hydration.
- Phosphate: a critical electrolyte involved in energy production, cell growth, and the formation of strong bones and teeth. It’s found in a variety of foods, including dairy products, meat, and whole grains.
Signs of low levels?
- Fatigue and Weakness: Feeling unusually tired or weak, even with adequate rest, could be a sign of low electrolyte levels. Electrolytes help facilitate energy production, so a deficiency may leave you feeling drained and lacking in vitality.
- Muscle Cramps: Electrolytes, such as potassium and magnesium, play a key role in muscle contraction and relaxation. Low levels of these electrolytes may lead to muscle cramps, especially during intense practices/workouts.
- Dizziness and Confusion: Electrolyte imbalances can affect your brain function. When electrolyte levels are too low, you may experience dizziness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, or even feelings of disorientation.
What can cause low levels?
- Intense Physical Activity: Engaging in prolonged or intense exercise like hot yoga can cause excessive sweating, leading to the loss of electrolytes, particularly sodium and potassium. If you participate in vigorous workouts or endurance activities, it's crucial to replenish your electrolytes to maintain proper balance.
- Inadequate Dietary Intake: A diet lacking in electrolyte-rich foods can contribute to low levels. Consuming highly processed or fast foods that are low in essential minerals may not provide sufficient electrolytes for your body's needs. Additionally, restrictive diets, such as those low in sodium or potassium, may also lead to imbalances.
- Excessive Alcohol: Alcohol acts as a diuretic, increasing urine production and potentially leading to electrolyte imbalances.
How can you increase electrolytes to a healthy level?
- Replenishment Supplements: In some cases, electrolyte supplements may be necessary to restore optimal levels. Sports drinks are a popular choice here, but they’re often heavily processed and full of added sugar, which kind of defeats their point. Our After Practice powder contains all 6 electrolytes, and has a delicious natural coconut-pineapple flavour, plus contains no added sugars/artificials. The tastiest way to replenish your electrolytes when you’re low!
- Hydration: Proper hydration is key for maintaining electrolyte balance. Drink water throughout the day and consider beverages that contain electrolytes, such as coconut water or sports drinks (choose options like After Practice with no added sugars). This can help replace lost electrolytes due to sweating or other fluid losses.
- Balanced Diet: Focus on consuming a well-rounded diet that includes electrolyte-rich foods. Incorporate sources such as bananas, oranges, leafy green vegetables, avocados, nuts, seeds, dairy products, and lean meats. These foods contain varying levels of essential electrolytes and can help replenish your levels naturally.