What are Electrolytes and Why Do I Need Them?

What are Electrolytes and Why Do I Need Them?

What is Electrolytes

If you’ve been tuning in to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, NBA Playoffs, or any professional televised sport lately for that matter, it’s likely that you’ve seen commercials for electrolyte drinks. This is because electrolytes are something that your body needs after long, strenuous workouts (amongst other things, which we’ll get into later). But what are electrolytes, really? Do you need them? Do you really need that Gatorade that Demar Derozan drinks to hit that game winning shot? Let’s dive in...

What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals in your body that carry an electric charge and are found in your bodily fluids, such as your urine, blood and sweat. You may know them as sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and chloride. Electrolytes help regulate the fluid balance between different body compartments and the volume of fluid in the blood stream. For example, an increase in sodium outside of a cell will cause water to move to it from inside the cell.

The roles of these electrolytes include:

  • Sodium: Helps maintain fluid balance and muscles contract

  • Potassium: Helps with muscle cramps and blood sugar levels

  • Magnesium: Helps relax muscles, reduce anxiety and maintain nerve functioning

  • Calcium: Helps with muscle functions, nerves and maintaining strong bones

  • Chloride: Helps maintain fluid balance

Why Do I Need Electrolytes?

Any time you’re losing fluids, you’re losing electrolytes - Remember that. These nutrients are crucial for nerve function, muscle contractions, retaining hydration, maintaining blood pressure and balanced fluid levels in the body. So, as we approach the summer months, it’s important to keep electrolytes in mind as something that you may not just need to replenish after long periods of exercise, but also if you’ve been out in the sun sweating for long periods of time. Each person loses a different amount of electrolytes when they sweat, so as a general guideline we suggest always following the directions included with the electrolyte supplement being used.

You may also require additional electrolytes due to some of these causes of an electrolyte imbalance:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Sweating

  • Fever

  • Poor diet

  • Trouble absorbing nutrients

  • Antibiotics

  • Overuse of alcohol

  • Eating disorders

  • Kidney disease

Due to the fact that electrolytes are highly important for many bodily functions, an electrolyte imbalance is something to be taken seriously and can cause a variety of negative symptoms if not looked after.

Negative side effects of an electrolyte imbalance can include:

  • Muscle cramps

  • Muscle weakness

  • Irregular heart beat

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Irritability

  • Numbness and tingling

What’s Wrong with Commercial Sports Drinks?

While the commercial sports drinks on the market may contain electrolytes, many also contain a high amount of artificial sugar, along with other additives and chemicals that may be damaging to your health. This can include food colouring, brominated vegetable oil and monopotassium phosphate, which can have an effect on DNA, the liver, lowered body pH levels, mental fatigue and more. A study at Birmingham University found that sports drinks can also dissolve tooth enamel and cause tooth erosion due to their high acidity levels. Another study found that popular sports drinks have a greater potential to cause tooth erosion than Coke!

What Electrolyte Supplements Should I Use?

Our advice? Ditch the sugary commercial sports drinks and opt for natural sources of electrolytes whenever possible. Vitarock carries a variety of natural electrolyte supplement options to help replenish electrolytes and retain hydration, such as Nuun Electrolytes, the #1 selling sports drink tab in the cycling, running and outdoor specialty marketplaces. If you’re an athlete, Klean Athlete Klean Electrolytes helps provide support for electrolyte balance, mild fatigue, and muscle cramping associated with physical activity and is NSF Certified for Sport. Or, if you’re looking for something for the whole family to enjoy this summer to ensure electrolyte replenishment, Emergen-C offers a fast, fun and fruity way to do so naturally with 24 nutrients!

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