There is no shortage of neon-colored electrolyte sports drinks on the supermarket shelves today touting themselves as the ultimate “thirst-quenchers”. With fancy marketing and strategic brand partnerships with professional athletes, the average person is convinced that these sugary and artificially colored beverages are their only choice for ensuring proper hydration after a strenuous workout or sweat session.
My husband is one of those people. He came home from a three day weekend of motorcycle riding at a track in California. The temperatures exceeded 104°, and he was riding in full leather gear. He was dehydrated, and he kept drinking plain water and sports drinks, nothing worked.
When he came home, he said, “I need your help.”
In this article, we’re going to break down what electrolytes are, why they’re so important, how to obtain them, and some swaps for healthy electrolyte drinks.
Electrolytes are essential minerals like sodium, calcium, and potassium that carry an electric charge and are vital to many vital functions in the body. They are found in your blood, urine, tissues, and other body fluids. Electrolytes are essential because they help balance the amount of water in your body and your body’s acid-base (pH) level. They also move nutrients into your cells, move waste out of your cells, and ensure that your nerves, muscles, heart, and brain are functioning optimally1.
You obtain electrolytes through eating whole foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, and drinking hydrating fluids, like bone broth and coconut water. You lose electrolytes partially through exercise, sweating, defecation, and urination2. An electrolyte imbalance can result from a poor diet, too little or too much exercise, illness3, dehydration, overhydration, taking certain medications, or having a particular heart, kidney, or liver disorders4.
If the balance of electrolytes is disturbed, disorders can develop5. Common symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance may include muscle aches, spasms, twitches, and weakness, restlessness, anxiety, frequent headaches, extreme thirst, insomnia, fever, heart palpitations or irregular heartbeats, digestive issues like cramps, constipation or diarrhea, confusion and trouble concentrating, bone disorders, joint pain, blood pressure changes, changes in appetite or body weight, fatigue, numbness and pain in joints, and dizziness, especially when standing up suddenly6. If you experience these or any other symptoms of an imbalance, be sure to talk to a trusted healthcare professional to determine the best course of treatment for you.
So how can you ensure you have a proper electrolyte balance? Begin with a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet. Then, ensure you’re drinking plenty of hydrating beverages, like water and the suggestions below. To calculate how much water to drink, use the basic formula of half your body weight in fluid ounces. For example, if you weigh 140lbs, your daily intake of water should be 70 fluid ounces (at least). It’s also important to limit or remove diuretics like soda, coffee, caffeinated tea, and juice, as these beverages are dehydrating and challenge your body to maintain its electrolyte balance.
If your healthcare professional believes an electrolyte imbalance has occurred, whether from strenuous exercise, poor diet, or limited water intake, some healthy, inexpensive beverage options will help replenish all of the vital minerals that were lost.
Harmless Harvest Coconut Water. This delicious, organic, minimally processed hydrating beverage has naturally occurring electrolytes from the coconut in which it’s made. With no added sugar and only one ingredient, this is an excellent electrolyte beverage with many health benefits. Be cautious not just to consume coconut water; you may find yourself in the bathroom more than you wanted.
Himalayan Sea Salt + Lemon. A quick electrolyte beverage can be made by combining a pinch of Himalayan sea salt and a squeeze of organic Lemon (or any citrus). Himalayan sea salt carries with it 84 trace minerals that act as sponges for our cells to absorb the water. The squeeze of Lemon is a pop of fresh flavor as well as a good source of vitamin c. It’s my morning drink, and it has helped with my leg cramps more than any other supplement I have tried. My favorite salt is Real Salt® from Redmond’s.
Bone Broth. More hydrating than water, bone broth is a mineral-rich beverage made by boiling bones, water, and vegetables for a long time. This ancient beverage has been known to boost immunity and improve digestion. My favorite recipe -> Kara’s Bone Broth Recipe
While the average person will have well-balanced electrolytes simply from food and drinks alone, there are certain circumstances where one would want to supplement to ensure proper balance. In those cases, ConcenTrace® Trace Mineral Drops is a great, affordable option to add to your water.
So, the next time you’re at the grocery store, feel confident when you skip over that neon-yellow sports drink. Know that the added sugars, flavors, and artificial ingredients are far from what your body needs. Instead, grab yourself lots of fresh fruits and veggies, a little bit of Himalayan sea salt, and as a treat, delicious and refreshing coconut water.
1. “Fluid and Electrolyte Balance.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 12 Mar. 2020, medlineplus.gov/fluidandelectrolytebalance.html.
2. Lewis, James L. “Overview of Electrolytes – Hormonal and Metabolic Disorders.” Merck Manuals Consumer Version, Merck Manuals, www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/electrolyte-balance/overview-of-electrolytes.
3. Levy, Jillian. “Symptoms of Electrolyte Imbalance, Plus How To Solve It.” Dr. Axe, 1 Nov. 2019, draxe.com/health/electrolyte-imbalance/.
4. Lewis, Merck Manuals.
6. Levy, Dr. Axe.