What Are Electrolytes, and Why Do They Matter When It Comes to Hydration
By Dr. Molly Casey
Drinking enough water is essential to optimal health. Drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day should be your basic minimum intended goal. For example, a 150-pound person would minimally drink 75 ounces -- or just under 3 liters -- of water daily. Every single cell of your body requires water.
However, most people are chronically dehydrated. Few people know there is one more step to the hydration equation for best health: Electrolytes.
Electrolytes: What Are They?
Electrolytes are essential minerals that assist the body in many key functions. They naturally carry a positive or negative electrical charge when dissolved in water. Electrolytes help your body regulate chemical reactions and maintain the balance between fluids inside and outside your cells.
The electrolytes are sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, calcium, phosphate, magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, manganese, molybdenum, copper, and chromium.
Specific electrolytes help the body with various functions. For instance, calcium is involved in contraction of muscles, nerve impulse transmission, and blood clotting. Chloride helps balance acids and bases in the body.
Electrolytes: In Food
Electrolytes are found in whole foods. You can also take them in supplement form. A whole-food diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables is always a healthy goal, but is actually a must if you’re looking to provide your body with all the nutrients required for it to function optimally.
One of the things you gain or lose based on your diet is proper electrolyte balance. Some common whole foods that are rich in electrolytes are spinach, kale, avocado, watermelon, bananas, and strawberries.
Electrolytes: In Supplementation
Electrolytes can also be consumed through supplementation. It is important to understand that very few people actually have a very healthy whole food diet that is varied and consistent enough in the proper amounts to reach ideal levels of electrolytes and other vitamins and minerals. In addition, the soil the food is grown in is often damaged, thus depleting electrolytes; as well, the food itself is often ridden with chemicals, again counteracting or depleting nutrients to be absorbed.
I personally take and recommend in my practice that patients add LMNT electrolytes to their daily water intake and supplement regimen. It has sodium, potassium, and magnesium in ideal ratios; importantly, it has no harmful chemicals. Two major issues with electrolyte supplementation is that they lack the proper amount and ratio of the most important electrolytes and there are all sorts of chemical sweeteners and coloring.
The Fear of Salt
People often wrongfully fear sodium chloride (salt). It helps absorb and transport nutrients, maintain blood pressure, transmit nerve signals, contract and relax muscles, and assists in regulating the balance of fluid outside of cells. Salt is your friend. Some research actually suggests optimal health outcomes occur at 2-3 times the minimum recommendations for sodium. For those of you scared of salt, here is a great article with science behind it to read.
The Benefits of Magnesium
Magnesium malate is thought of as the most absorbable form of magnesium. It supports nerve and muscle function, and cellular energy within the body. It can help promote sleep/mood, increase bowel movements, prevent and treat headaches, enhance exercise performance, reduce chronic pain, and improve blood sugar control.
The Virtues of Potassium
Potassium and sodium are strange bedfellows. Potassium does the opposite of sodium, but they need each other to maximize their respective benefits because they depend on each other to regulate the other. Potassium carries a small electrical charge and activates various cell and nerve functions. It plays a role in maintaining the fluid levels inside the cell, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission signals. Low potassium levels can be associated with a lack of energy, weakness, muscle cramping, upset stomach, and irregular heartbeat.
The Connection Between Electrolytes and Water
Drinking ideal amounts of water is great, but it means nothing if your body doesn’t have the electrolytes to absorb it. It’s wasted time, energy and work, if you ask me. For more than 10 years, I drank a minimum of one gallon of water per day. I thought I had hydration covered; I did not. I didn’t realize I was missing the proper electrolyte balance to be able to absorb the water I was drinking; instead, it was going right through me.
Within weeks of adding clean electrolytes to my water (through LMNT, which is scientifically formulated with the proper ratios of electrolytes), my energy levels skyrocketed, my workouts increased, my sleep improved, and I could feel the difference in absorption levels. As a test, I purposely paused for 7-10 days to see if there would be a reversal in my health. There was.. My sleep suffered immediately, I woke up thirsty, and my energy levels crashed in the afternoon. None of these were symptoms I was consciously aware of prior to taking the electrolytes, but the experience proved to me that electrolytes are an impact player in your health journey.
I’ve had great success in my own life by solving the electrolyte question. My patients who have implemented these into their daily health regimen have also experienced health benefits. See what electrolytes can do for you.
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