You may not have to plug it in to recharge it, but your body still runs on electricity. That’s because a number of your body’s functions, including nerve transmission and heartbeat, rely on the exchange of electrically charged particles known as electrolytes. Sodium and potassium are your body’s chief electrolytes that can easily be lost because of excess sweating and illness. Since you rely on electrolytes to survive, you must replace them when you lose them.
When you engage in a big-time workout session, you may notice your sweat tastes salty. That’s because it has salts in it. You lose electrolytes in your sweat, which is why you can become dehydrated when sweating in the heat or after an intense workout. Sports manufacturers have issued a number of electrolyte replacement options that vary based on the type of exerciser you are. For example, some electrolyte replacement options contain few calories. These include hydration tablets, electrolyte capsules or some sports drinks. Other electrolyte replacements may contain calories and electrolytes to give you energy and replace lost electrolytes. Examples include sports gels, sports candies, sports gummies and some sports drinks with calories.
Sweating is not the only way you lose electrolytes. If you have been vomiting or experiencing diarrhea, you are losing a lot of fluids with electrolytes in them. Electrolyte replacement beverages such as Pedialyte are available in pharmacies to replace lost electrolytes, according to Suzy Cohen, a pharmacist writing on “Tulsa World.” Cohen also recommends drinking 100-percent coconut water with no added sugars. This source can rehydrate you while contributing to electrolyte balance.
If you prefer to have electrolytes from whole foods, that’s okay too. Knowing some of the key foods that will replace electrolytes will help you prevent symptoms after a workout or during an illness. For example, lost sodium can be replaced with a dill pickle, a sprinkle of table salt or tomato juice, sauce or soup, according to the American Council on Exercise. Potassium can be replaced by eating a potato with its skin, plain yogurt or a banana. Eating halibut, pumpkin seeds or spinach can help to replace magnesium. Spinach also is good for replacing calcium as is eating dairy products, collard greens, kale or sardines.
Low Electrolyte Symptoms
Unless you are an intense exerciser, you likely won’t need electrolyte replacement every time you start getting your heart pumping. By listening to your body, you can decide when it’s time to start replacing electrolytes. Signs you may be losing too many electrolytes include muscle cramping, dizziness, muscle spasms and appetite loss, according to the American Council on Exercise. Don’t let these symptoms progress into more severe signs of electrolyte loss, such as irregular heartbeat, mental confusion and muscle paralysis. If they do, head straight to the emergency room where doctors will help you rehydrate more quickly.
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.