Electrolytes hold a significant role in several bodily processes. They are minerals that conduct an electrical charge when dissolved in water. Our body preserves electrolytes from the food we eat and the fluids we drink. The primary minerals that carry the electrical charge include sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, chloride, and bicarbonate. These minerals get distributed throughout the system and use their electrical charge to support important bodily functions. Some of the vital functions include
- Maintaining fluid balance in the body
- Balancing the body's pH level
- Transporting nutrients to cells
- Eliminating waste out of cells
- Regulating the nerves, muscles, heart, and brain functionality
- Supporting in repairing the damaged tissues
The level of electrolytes in the body and other bodily fluids is maintained within an appropriate range. If the electrolyte levels become too high or low, then it may result in serious health conditions.
Electrolyte and fluid losses happen naturally via sweat and other waste products regularly, hence it’s vital to constantly replenish them with mineral-packed diet. But certain physical activities or health conditions like strenuous workout or very severe diarrhoea or vomiting can deplete electrolytes resulting in fluid imbalance and you may have to refill fluids lost by having an electrolyte drink.
Why Do You Need Electrolyte Drinks?
If you have a balanced diet and drink sufficient water, then urine output is normal and clear and you may not require drinking electrolyte drink on a regular basis, as your fluid and electrolyte levels are balanced. Also consuming a rich array of colourful fruits and vegetables may also help you get adequate potassium, magnesium and calcium.
The amount of water intake should be equivalent to the amount of fluid lost via sweat, urine and other fluids. On other hand, if you lose more fluid than you take in and get dehydrated you would lose electrolytes. Dark coloured urine, extreme thirst, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, and dysuria are symptoms of dehydration. While some people may drink excess amounts of water and this may dilute the amount of sodium in the system, resulting in hyponatremia, however, this is very rare.
The required intake of electrolytes keeps changing with age. However, there is a normal pattern observed among all and the daily maximum values for intake are:
What Is Electrolyte Imbalance?
The concentration of electrolytes in the blood and other fluids should remain within a narrow range. However, when electrolyte levels become too high or very low, it can result in severe complications.
Causes of an electrolyte imbalance include:
- Intensive Workout
- Diarrhoea and Vomiting
- Dehydration and Fluid Loss
- Kidney Disorder
- Diabetes Type 1
- Severe Burns
- Diuretic Medicine
- Excess alcohol consumption
Potent Health Benefits Of Electrolyte Drinks
Enhances Exercise Performance
When exercising your system need extra fluids to refill the lost water in sweat. It is proven that even 1-2% of water loss from the system can lead to poor stamina, speed and attention. Sweat contains electrolytes including sodium and a fair amount of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. To replenish electrolytes lost in sweat, you must drink electrolyte-infused water along with normal water while exercising. Refilling with electrolytes supports augmenting the functioning of the heart, brain, muscles, and nervous system function.
Averts Heat Stroke
A hot climate can up your risk of mild heat rash to life-threatening heatstroke. The body manages this by releasing heat via the skin, and by perspiring the natural cooling process, which may fail in very hot weather, causing the body temperature to rise very high. The ideal way to avert heat-related illness is to limit exposure to hot weather and drink plenty of water and electrolytes. Also, remember to limit the consumption of caffeine as it can aggravate the condition.
Rehydrates System During An Illness
Certain health issues like diarrhoea and vomiting, if it persists for a longer duration can lead to dehydration, if the fluids and electrolytes are not refilled. In such a condition, your physician may recommend drinking electrolyte-infused water to avert dehydration. However, in case of severe dehydration and you feel sick for more than 24 hours, then seek immediate medical attention.
Promotes Nervous System Functions
Improper hydration can result in decreased cognitive abilities, concentration, and alertness. The nervous system is a complex network of nerves and cells that transmit signals from the brain to other parts of the body. Electrolytes play a key role in the proper functioning of the nervous system.
- Sodium – promotes the electrical impulses from nerve cells needed for proper communication
- Potassium – generates electrical potential that lets the conduction of nerve impulses
- Magnesium - It supports the effective transmission of electrical impulses
Natural Sources of Electrolytes
Coconut water is one of the popular natural electrolyte drinks, which delivers umpteen health incentives. It is a clear liquid that is present in a mature coconut fruit. Though it is low in sugar, and it packs vital electrolytes including sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium making coconut water a nutritious beverage.
Cow’s milk is an unsung hero when it comes to electrolyte drinks. Yes, milk can be used for a lot more than making coffee or breakfast cereal. Being intrinsically rich in electrolytes like calcium, sodium, and potassium, it also delivers a good amount of carbs and protein. These two macronutrients can help the system refuel and support muscle tissue repair after a workout.
Fruit juices are loaded with electrolytes. If you can blend your own juice without sugar, then the benefits are many. Most fruit juices are rich in phosphorus and potassium. Certain fruit juice like watermelon delivers almost 6% of the daily value of potassium and magnesium and a fair amount of other electrolytes like calcium and phosphorus. Further, watermelon juice also contains L-citrulline an amino acid that augments oxygen transport and athletic performance.
Smoothies are an excellent way to blend several foods laden with electrolytes into one beverage. Fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and dairy products are some of the best sources of electrolytes. You can blend all of these to make a wholesome and tasty smoothie.