Do you really need electrolytes?
By Jenna Gorham
Short answer, yes. But it may not be why you think… (or maybe it is)
Electrolytes seem to get a lot of hype in the athletic and fitness communities, but what are they and do you really need them?
Each electrolyte — sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium — plays an essential role in your body. Electrolytes are minerals that have an electrical charge and are necessary for proper hydration, acid-base balance, and preventing muscle cramps. While sugary sports drinks are hyped up as something essential to replenish after your workout, electrolytes play a larger role in the body than just a post-workout fuel. Below you’ll find the the main roles of each electrolyte and where you can find them naturally in food.
- Sodium retains fluid (hydration) and plays a role in nerve and muscle function, blood volume, and blood pressure control.
Found in: salty snacks, canned and packaged foods, meat, seafood, dairy, small amounts in some veggies
- Calcium aids in nerve signaling, blood clotting, hormone secretion, muscle contraction, and heart function.
Found in: dairy, leafy greens, dried figs, tahini, soy
- Magnesium helps muscles relax and take up oxygen and helps maintain a normal heartbeat and muscle function.
Found in: nuts and seeds, salmon, spinach, lentils, beans, quinoa
- Potassium helps muscles to contract (including heart muscles, digestive muscles, and more) and plays a role in proper heart function.
Found in: meat, seafood, dairy, broccoli, lentils, squash
Electrolytes are needed in your daily life whether you workout regularly or not. When you sweat, your body primarily loses sodium, but also some potassium. Therefore, it is especially important to replenish these after an intense, sweaty workout. A lack of electrolytes can cause muscle cramping, fatigue, weakness, tingling, and even confusion, whether or not you’re working out.
While sugary sports drinks get the most attention when it comes to electrolyte repletion, there are actually many other ways to get your electrolytes. Many whole foods, like fruits and veggies, naturally contain electrolytes. Bumbleroot hydration mix is the perfect way to add a boost of nutrition and electrolytes (especially potassium!) to your water or smoothie without added sugar. Personally, I love adding the turmeric ginger mix to my smoothies. Not only is it anti-inflammatory, but also the potassium enters the bloodstream and boosts hydration quicker when taken in liquid form. It’s a win-win!
About Jenna Gorham:
Jenna is an oatmeal lover, chocoholic, peanut butter fanatic, flexitarian, skier, biker, boot camper, & fun haver. She’s a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Bozeman, Montana and works with people to adopt healthy habits that last and make healthy eating easy.
As a registered dietitian nutritionist she helps her clients develop healthy lifestyle habits, improve their relationship with food, be more mindful, and end the cycle of yo-yo dieting. She also works with businesses and brands to spread accurate and applicable nutrition information through the media. She doesn’t believe in quick fix diets but she does believe in long-lasting lifestyle changes.