Firstly, let's define what electrolytes are and why athletes and people who exercise must consume them regularly. Electrolytes are mineral salts essential for cell development, generally found in our blood, urine and other bodily fluids.
The most common electrolytes are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. They are vital because they help to regulate hydration, acidity and muscle activity. They are available in a variety of forms, such as capsules, gels, powder or drinks containing these minerals.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Key Facts
- 3 Our Selection: The Best Electrolytes
- 4 Shopping Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Electrolytes
- 4.1 What are electrolytes exactly?
- 4.2 What benefits can electrolytes provide for my body?
- 4.3 Is the timing of when you take your electrolytes important?
- 4.4 What effects do each type of electrolytes have?
- 4.5 Does how much you sweat indicate a need for electrolytes?
- 4.6 Can consuming electrolytes have any adverse side effects?
- 4.7 Can you take electrolytes in a natural form?
- 5 Buyer's Guide
- 6 Summary
- You should know that water does not contain electrolytes, so you should obtain them through another source before, during and after exercise.
- You do not have to be thirsty in order to hydrate. It is important to stay hydrated throughout the day, especially when exercise is integrated into your daily life.
- There are currently hundreds of products which you can use to hydrate and replenish electrolytes during and following exercise; however, not all of them are adequate and effective.
Our Selection: The Best Electrolytes
Ionized drinks, which advertise themselves as being a method of replenishing electrolytes, are very common these days. They feature heavily in sports advertising. This means that it is important to know the difference between flashy marketing and a useful product. To help you make this distinction, here is a list of the best options on the market.
Shopping Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Electrolytes
Whenever you use any product to improve your health and wellbeing, it is important to understand what it is and how it works. Companies spend large amounts of money on advertising to promote products which may or may not be suitable for what you need. So you need to know how to determine which products will suit your needs.
What are electrolytes exactly?
Electrolytes are sometimes also known as 'ionic solutions,' though they are also found in the form of molten solids. In nature, they are found as solid salts.
What benefits can electrolytes provide for my body?
Below are the different functions of electrolytes:
- Balance pH (acid/base) levels in the body.
- Transport nutrients to cells.
- Remove waste from cells.
- Promote the healthy functioning of the muscles, heart and brain.
Is the timing of when you take your electrolytes important?
We can also lose electrolytes through our urine, faeces and through bleeding, making it important to replenish these essential elements when you are sick, or after a big night of drinking, as alcohol is a diuretic and when you drink too much you dehydrate and lose minerals through constant urination.
What effects do each type of electrolytes have?
|Calcium|| Essential for proper nerve and muscle function.
The principle component of bones and teeth.
|Magnesium||Increases physical performance when exercising, is anti-inflammatory, can lower blood pressure and reduce insulin resistance.|
|Phosphorus|| Responsible for storing our metabolism's energy.
Improves nerve and muscle function and is essential for maintaining calcium levels in bones and teeth.
|Potassium||Necessary for proper cell membrane and muscle function. Also regulates heart rate, kidneys, and is vital for hydration.|
|Sodium||Contributes to the digestive process and the distribution of fluids in the body. Fundamental to muscle and nervous system function.|
Does how much you sweat indicate a need for electrolytes?
Can consuming electrolytes have any adverse side effects?
The most common symptoms are:
An excess of potassium in our blood can also lead to hypercalcemia, a chronic kidney disease that is caused by the kidneys being unable to filter high levels of this mineral. Below is the recommended daily dose of electrolytes for adults:
|Electrolyte||Daily recommended dosage (adults)|
|Magnesium||400–420 mg for men and between 310-320 mg for women|
|Potassium||3,400 mg for men and 2,600 mg for women|
Can you take electrolytes in a natural form?
An important source of calcium is milk and its products, such as cheese and yogurt. Many of these dairy products also contain sodium, chloride and iodine. On the other hand, magnesium and potassium can be found in green vegetables such as spinach.
There are many forms in which you can consume electrolytes, such as drinks, gels, capsules and powders which can be dissolved in water or in shakes, each providing different amounts of electrolytes. Many of them contain carbohydrates, which give the body energy during strenuous exercise. Some of the issues to consider are:
For long-term exercises such as cycling or triathlon, or sports that involve intense physical effort, it is recommended to drink isotonic drinks with a high concentration of carbohydrates. These drinks also help when exercising in hot climates, which translates into sweating a lot more.
The amount of carbohydrates you should consume depends on the energy you are expending. What for some is the healthy amount, for others can be harmful. The recommended carbohydrate consumption for a person undergoing a normal level of physical activity is 70 grams per meal, extending between 30 and 60 grams directly after a workout.
Types of Electrolytes
As previously mentioned, each mineral has its own purpose, so we must take into account the level of activity in order to calculate how much electrolyte we must replace. For example, coconut water is rich in potassium and magnesium, so its consumption is ideal to recover some essential electrolytes after exercising.
Calories and Protein
There are drinks rated at 25 grams that contain 95 calories, 0 proteins and 23 grams of carbohydrates. On the other hand, there are others that with an equal intake contain more than 100 calories, 2 grams of protein and more than 20 grams of carbohydrates. Choosing the right one depends on what you are looking to achieve.
Proteins build and repair muscles, while carbohydrates give us energy in the short term.
Flavour is one of the most important factors when it comes to getting our electrolytes. In the end, if something is not pleasant to drink, it will deter us from using it and so it is important to find one that not only revitalises us but for which we also enjoy the taste.
Fortunately, there are many flavours available, making a diverse range of available products. There are citrus fruits and tropical flavours. There are also some with vanilla or chocolate flavour.
We live in times when taking care of ourselves is synonymous with exercising and eating well. We now have more information about how our bodies really work, the effect of exercise on the human body and how nutrients transform us. This has led to an evolution of products designed to help us improve our performance.
These products give the body what it loses naturally through the wear and tear sustained during exercise or through excessive fluid loss, therefore they are critical in bouncing back to 100% after an intense workout or following an illness.
For this reason, the sports industry provides a number of products which give us a wide range of options to adapt to our needs with different formats, flavours, presentations and quantity of salts as our body requires.
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(Source of Featured Image: Piotr Trojanowski: 91954908/ 123rf.com)