Electrolytes 101: Everything You Need To Know
Written by: Kat Gal
If you are like how I was not so long ago, you most likely have heard about electrolytes, but you may not be completely sure about what they are.
Back in college, as a competitive athlete, I knew I had to replenish my electrolytes after workouts and races. I had my sugary sports drinks, as I was told at the time that they were a good source of electrolytes (now I know that they are not healthy and that there are better, natural choices, like coconut water). But I had no idea what electrolytes actually were and really had no clue why they were so necessary and good for me.
Eventually my curiosity got the best of me and as a health coach, I felt responsible to know my nutrition. What I found out is not rocket science, it is actually quite simple, but is very important information about the necessity of nutrients – specifically the nutrients in electrolytes – for your body.
Here Is Your Electrolytes 101 Guide
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes play an important role in sending electrical impulses, influencing your nerves, your heart and your muscles. Clearly, they are vital nutrients with essential purpose. Lacking electrolytes can lead to muscle cramps, pain and even headaches after exercise.
How Can You Meet Your Electrolyte Needs Quickly?
Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and chloride. Coconut water and juices made from electrolyte-rich vegetables and fruits are the best ways to meet your electrolyte needs. Water is necessary for hydration, but is not enough on its own to meet your electrolyte needs – you need to get them elsewhere!
What Foods Contain Lots Of Electrolytes?
Plant-based foods are power foods. It is no wonder that foods that are higher in electrolytes are mainly plant-based, mostly vegetables and fruits. Red, orange and yellow colors usually indicate a good electrolyte content. Fruits and vegetables of these colors tend to be high in magnesium and potassium.
Though they are green in color, leafy greens are also good sources of calcium and potassium. Seeds, nuts and beans tend to be good choices as well as they are good sources of magnesium and calcium, but are not rich sources of potassium and sodium.
Good Potassium Sources:
- Leafy greens, including kale, spinach and chard
- Dried apricot
- Bell peppers
- Coconut water
Good Sodium Sources:
- Bell peppers
- Bok choy
Good Magnesium And Calcium Sources:
- Nuts (especially almonds and cashew)
- Seeds (especially sunflower and sesame seeds)
- Leafy greens
How To Replenish Your Electrolytes After Exercise
During exercise, you mainly lose sodium and potassium. Coconut water is an excellent, low-calorie and easy choice for an electrolyte drink. You may want to make a juice with some leafy green, red, yellow and orange vegetables and fruits. Use organic produce if possible. For extra potassium, you can munch on a banana.
Do You Need Extra Electrolytes Before Exercise?
In case of high intensity exercise routines, preparing your body with some coconut water, an electrolyte rich juice, or a banana beforehand is an excellent idea. This way, you will be sure that you will have plenty of electrolytes to lose through sweating.
After your exercise routine, besides replenishing your electrolytes, make sure that you are taking in some protein through a protein-rich smoothie, shake, homemade protein bar, or protein-rich snacks to repair any muscle damage.
Do Any Of These Replace The Need For Water?
Absolutely not. Hydration is crucial for your health and well-being. If you are not exercising, you still need 8-10 8 oz glasses of water a day, but if you are active, you may need more. Water alone will not meet your electrolyte needs, but it is still crucial for your health and maintenance.
Bonus: Green Juice Powders Are A Great Idea
Green juice powders are an easy and quick way to meet your electrolyte needs. For example, one scoop of the Organifi Green Juice Powder has 31 mg of calcium and 15 mg of sodium. It is full of alkalizing greens and electrolyte-rich coconut water powder. I use it after workouts and it has definitely made a difference for me. Give it a try!
If you have any more questions about electrolytes or have any tips on meeting your electrolyte needs, leave them in the comments below. We would love to hear from you and learn more from what you have to say.
Kat Gál is a multi-passionate writer, world traveler, nomad, runner, and cat-person. She is a lifelong learner who lives outside of her comfort zones stretching her boundaries and discovering beauty around the world. She is a Certified Holistic Health and Life Coach who encourages others to embrace their unique authentic selves, follow their heart and find their own version of freedom in life.
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