So many sports drinks mention the word ‘electrolyte’ but what impact does it have on our body? Are there any other healthier solutions to replenish lost electrolytes? And do we only need it when playing sports? We briefly discussed electrolytes in our previous blog but now we’ll delve deeper into the importance of electrolytes and how it contributes to a healthy lifestyle.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are a type of mineral which carry electrical charges to help the body perform various functions properly. Each type of electrolyte, such as salt, potassium, calcium and chloride, regulates body functions in different ways1.
What do they do?
Electrolytes move nutrients to your cells and move wastes out of your cells. They also balance water inside and outside of your cells so that muscles and organs can continue to function properly. As the body contains 70-80% of water, a balance of electrolytes and water is required to keep you hydrated and to avoid electrolyte imbalance. When we are well-hydrated, toxic internal wastes are released from our body2.
How do I lose electrolytes?
There are a variety of ways our body loses electrolytes. Stress, physical activity, air travel and warm working conditions causes sweat3. Sweating leads to a loss of electrolytes as you are losing both sodium and water. Drinking alcohol leads to excessive urination, which results in electrolyte loss and dehydration. Certain dietary plans such as a ketogenic diet (low carbs) can result in your body flushing out more water and electrolytes which causes electrolyte imbalance. Finally, loss of body fluids through sickness reduces electrolytes, especially though diarrhea and vomiting3.
What happens if I don’t replenish the lost electrolytes?
Reducing electrolytes takes energy out of your body, leading to headaches and fatigue. Your muscles also get tired leading to muscle weakness. When this occurs, you are impacting your performance capacity when exercising so you’re not making the most out of your workout. Other problems which may arise from a lack of electrolytes are nausea or chest pains1.
How do I replenish lost electrolytes?
There are a variety of solutions available which help replenish lost electrolytes. Sports drinks with added electrolytes are the most popular and have been available for quite a while now. However, not all sports drinks are specifically formulated to rapidly replenish lost electrolytes. Furthermore, sports drinks, fruit juices and soft drinks are acidic beverages which are high in sugar. With long term use they may negatively impact your health. Alternatively, there are many other beverages available which are specifically formulated based on World Health Organisation (WHO) standards with some even providing additional benefits!
We have to start with BIOLyte (where else could we start?). BIOLyte is an Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) that meets the World Health Organisation criteria for Oral Rehydration Therapy. But did you know that not only does BIOLyte rehydrate and replenish electrolytes, it can also help with sickness? BIOLyte contains ingredients such as prebiotics, zinc, electrolytes and glucose to provide a faster recovery time from diarrhea and vomiting. In fact, BIOLyte is the only ORS in Australia which contains added prebiotics and zinc to help boost our immunity and protect our body.
Organically grown food also contains electrolytes and are stacked with nutritional value. We’ll focus on a few – bananas, apples and tomatoes. These foods contain vitamins A and C along with additional minerals. Bananas are high in potassium which reduces the risk of a stroke4. Apples are not too high in electrolytes but provide other essential nutrients such as phytochemicals4. Tomatoes are packed with chloride to help with fluid balance5.
Beef and lamb provide you with electrolytes, protein and Vitamin B6. Fish provides electrolytes, protein and vitamins A and D6. A few other foods with electrolyte benefits include coconut water (potassium), healthy salty foods such as canned tuna, canned salmon and olives (sodium), and dairy products including milk, cheese and yoghurt (calcium)7.
Getting the electrolyte balance right
When you are experiencing body fluid loss, you are losing electrolytes. Instead of replenishing the lost electrolytes with sports drinks, you should focus on products which provide you with both electrolytes and any additional nutritional benefits. Having a balance of both electrolytes, nutrients and water is key to staying hydrated and living healthy.
- O’Donnell-Giles, J. 2016, How to Achieve the Perfect Balance of Electrolytes, https://www.nutriliving.com/blog/how-to-achieve-the-perfect-balance-of-electrolytes
- Edward, Dr. 2014, Electrolytes: What are they & Why are they so good for us, Houston, TX, https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/electrolytes/
- Brode 2015, Electrolyte Imbalance: Prevention and Cures, http://blog.brode.co/electrolyte-imbalance-prevention-and-cures/
- Lahon, A. Top 20 Foods with Electrolytes for Diarrhea Relief and More, https://www.foodsforbetterhealth.com/top-20-foods-with-electrolytes-31836
- Shortsleeve, C. 2018, 6 Foods that are Jam-Packed with Electrolytes, https://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/g19705799/electrolyte-foods/
- National Heart Foundation of Australia, Meat, poultry and seafood, https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/food-and-nutrition/protein-foods/meat-poultry-and-seafood
- White, D. 2012, Staying Hydrated: Electrolytes 101, https://www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2012/07/staying-hydrated-electrolytes-101