Two joyful women are featured outdoors. The photo centers on the one one drinking from a pink water bottle emphasizing the importance of hydration and electrolytes. The text "Why Electrolytes Are So Important" overlays the image, along with the website "FINDYOURHEALTHYPLACE.COM," promoting wellness and the significance of electrolyte balance in physical health.
Naturally Healthy Living

Why Electrolytes Are So Important (Even If You Aren’t Hitting the Gym)

Disclaimer: The following information has not been approved by the FDA. This information should not be interpreted as medical advice and is not a substitute for a visit with a medical care professional. Always speak to your doctor about any health concerns. 

We all know it’s important to drink electrolytes after a workout. But have you ever stopped to wonder why it’s so important? Is it really so necessary? Or is it a marketing ploy designed to get us to buy more expensive drinks?

At games, races, and in the gym, we’re constantly being reminded to drink up on our sports beverages. But despite all of us (especially athletes) being so careful to drink them, we often don’t know the reason we do. 

What are electrolytes?

Your body is a complex superhighway of electrical currents and pulses that determine how your body functions. Electrolytes are minerals in your body that contain an electric charge. And they’re everywhere. They’re in your blood, your tissues, your urine, and your guts. They’re incredibly important because they help:

    • Balance your body’s pH levels
    • Move nutrients into your cells
    • Move waste out of your cells
    • Keep your nerves, muscles, heart, and brain working and signaling each other the way they’re supposed to

6 Key Electrolytes

There are five key electrolytes needed for our everyday function.

    • Calcium is best known for its role in building and maintaining strong bones. It also plays a huge role in muscle and nerve function, such as nerve impulse transmission (the nerve signals that direct the muscles to react and contract)
    • Sodium is definitely the best-known mineral out there, but it is so much more than a flavoring for our food. Sodium is the dominant positive ion which regulates our body’s water content. (Check out sodium’s role in swollen ankles.) An imbalance of sodium in our blood can have some nasty consequences.
    • Chloride, not to be confused with chlorine, is found in the blood and in the fluid outer layer of cells. Chloride helps regulate the body’s water balance and moves water in and out of cells. It helps maintain proper blood volume, blood pressure, and pH of your body fluids.
    • Potassium is essential for maintaining the healthy muscles. It’s crucial for optimal heart function and plays a huge role in skeletal and smooth muscle contractions. Every muscle movement in your body requires potassium to make it happen.
    • Magnesium helps convert blood sugar into energy and is a critical player in over 300 enzyme reactions in your body. Magnesium is extremely important for muscle function and can help prevent muscle spasms and cramping.
    • Phosphate (phosphorus) is an essential mineral primarily used for growth and repair of body cells and tissues. All of the cells in our bodies need it, and it’s especially important for our bones and teeth. Phosphate also helps regulate the pH levels of our blood.

How do I lose electrolytes?

We all lose electrolytes all the time — and that’s normal. But if we only lose and don’t consistently replenish these nutrients, we run into a problem. Our cells need these minerals to function properly.

If we’re eating healthy diets that are rich in a variety of organic fruits and vegetables, we can recoup much of our lost nutrients for basic day-to-day. But there are a few situations in which a healthy diet isn’t going to be enough.

Exercise. As we exercise, we sweat. And as we sweat, we lose water and our electrolytes. Failure to drink mineral-rich beverages after a hard workout can result in fatigue, muscle cramping, nausea, achy joints, and even confusion and brain fog. In severe cases, seizures and heart failure can occur. Obviously, if you’re an athlete, it’s important that you take electrolyte depletion seriously.

Being sick. Ever had a wicked case of the stomach flu or food poisoning? Diarrhea and vomiting can rapidly deplete our bodies of electrolytes, which makes it harder for our bodies to recover and can even worsen our symptoms. There’s a good reason that doctors and our grandmas make us drink broth, fruit juices, herbal teas, and/or lots of water when we’re sick — gotta get those vital minerals in us to recover!

Busy lives with poor diets. Okay, a poor diet isn’t how we lose electrolytes. But a poor diet can definitely contribute to low levels of important minerals in the body. As we go about each day, we’re losing minerals. Everytime we go to the bathroom, sweat, or pick up a kid or a basket of laundry, walk up the stairs in our office building, or mow the lawn, our bodies are using up electrolytes. For a normal individual with a healthy diet, rich in fresh fruits and veggies, this is no big deal.

But, if we’re all being honest, the typical American diet isn’t exactly flush with equal amounts produce to meat. (Sorry, french fries just don’t count as a vegetable.) Processed foods, junk foods, and processed beverages don’t merely fail to add to our nutrient count, they can actually deplete the nutrient stores already present in your body. Some soft drinks can even reduce our bone mineral density.

Additional possible causes of low electrolytes:

    • Malabsorption, intestinal, or digestive issues
    • Hormonal imbalances
    • Endocrine disorders
    • Some medications, such as those for heart disease, hormonal disorders, antibiotics, diuretics, corticosteroid hormones, and cancer treatments
    • Kidney disease or damage
    • Chemotherapy treatments

What happens if I’m low on my electrolytes?

Because electrolytes play a role in so many different parts of the body (every cell!), symptoms of an imbalance typically show up pretty quickly. Some common symptoms may include:

    • Muscle aches, spasms, weakness, and cramps
    • Restlessness
    • Anxiety
    • Excessive thirst
    • Insomnia
    • Fatigue
    • Headaches
    • Irregular heartbeats (heart palpitations)
    • Fast heart rate
    • Digestive issues including cramps, constipation or diarrhea
    • Joint pain
    • Blood pressure fluctuation
    • Difficulty focusing
    • Confusion or brain fog
    • Fever
    • Changes in appetite or body weight
    • Dizziness, especially when standing up too quickly
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Convulsions or seizures

A diagnosis of an electrolyte imbalance is easy to obtain. A few tests from your primary care physician will determine your electrolyte levels. In most cases, this imbalance can be quickly remedied by drinking electrolyte drinks and shaping up your diet.

Our Fav Electrolytes

Not all electrolyte drinks are the same. Some options are primarily made of sugar, food dyes, and preservatives in a clear plastic bottle that contains BPAs. We firmly believe that such options are not truly options at all.

We’ve hunted for electrolytes that are packed with minerals and no harmful chemicals, toxins, GMO’s, or excess sugars. Our store favorites include:

You can also get electrolytes from:

    • Herbal teas
    • Juices (fresh squeezed with no sugar additives recommended!)
    • Mineral water (the Berkey water filtration system is a great choice because it does not remove minerals from the water – check them out in our Fitchburg nutrition store and our Sun Prairie nutrition store!)
    • Lots of fresh fruits and veggies
    • Organic, hormone-free meats

Staying Active in Your Healthy Place

We’re passionate about helping our friends and neighbors in Madison stay healthy and full of energy. Keeping your bodies full of the nutrients needed for optimal health and endless activities is our top goal! Stop in one of our Madison supplement store locations for tips and help from our Wellness Consultants on how to keep your body full of electrolytes and other vital nutrients.

We’re always here to help you find your healthy place!

The Healthy Place Team

*Disclaimer: All information and recommendations given on this site, in email correspondence, newsletters or other materials provided by The Healthy Place is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice nor be viewed as a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider. Consult a licensed healthcare practitioner before modifying, stopping, or starting the use of any medications, health programs, diets, and/or supplements, as well as regarding any health concerns you may have. Our statements and information have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As with any health-related program, product, or service, your risks and results may vary. We expressly disclaim responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the information provided to you here.”

The Healthy Place – Apple Wellness
6313 McKee Road Suite 100
Fitchburg, WI 53719

The Healthy Place – Apple Wellness
550 Junction Road
Madison, WI 53717

The Healthy Place – Apple Wellness
2824 Prairie Lakes Drive Suite 108
Sun Prairie, WI 53590

Rynn Jacobson is Content Marketing Director. She's passionate about educating people on natural and alternative health and wellness options. Her favorite ways to stay healthy are drinking herbal tea and hiking in the mountains.

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