Why do I need Electrolytes?
Feeling more tired than usual? Experiencing muscle weakness, headaches, cramps? If you answered yes, you may be suffering from low levels of electrolytes in your body. You heard that right! Much of what you know about electrolytes may have been from sports-related ads, but in truth, people from all walks of life need these elements.
Having low levels of electrolytes can have adverse effects on our well-being. We consistently lose electrolytes through urination and sweating. It would be best therefore, if we find an effective extra source of replenishment, especially when we perform strenuous exercise, as in doing so we lose more fluid through sweating. Improper digestion also causes problems in nutrient absorption, and thus, can lead to an electrolyte imbalance. More at risk are the elderly; digestion usually slows down as we age and the kidneys may not be functioning as efficiently as those in younger people.
What are electrolytes then and why do we need them?
There are 7 main electrolytes: Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Bicarbonate, Calcium, Phosphate and Magnesium. Electrolytes are chemicals that form electrically charged particles (ions) in body fluids; these ions carry the electrical energy necessary for many functions, including muscle contraction and the transmission of nerve impulses. To explain further on what these substances do to our body, here is a breakdown and their function.
You know that feeling you get when you need to pee? This guy is responsible. One of sodium’s functions is to send signals to the kidney on how much water our body should retain and how much should be excreted. It also helps in generating messages to and from the brain that affect our muscles through movement.
Known to be found in bananas, potassium regulates water in our body. It is also crucial to heart function, and plays a key role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction. It’s always a good idea to grab some banana after a run or a gym class!
Like sodium, chloride helps maintain and repeal fluid in our cells, as well as maintaining proper blood volume, blood pressure and pH of your body fluids.
Aside from helping regulate our body’s PH balance, bicarbonate also neutralizes acid levels in our blood and digestive system. You go bicarbonate!
Probably the most famous among the 7, calcium is known for contributing to bone health and strength. Calcium also helps our blood to clot, nerves to send messages and muscles to contract.
Your body needs phosphorus to help nerves to function, muscles to contract and to build and repair teeth and bones.
Did you know that magnesium activates over 300 chemical reactions in our body? Low magnesium levels can lead to muscle cramps, low energy, poor sleep and low moods.
We need to ensure we get the right amount of these electrolytes daily. The good news is that we can usually take in enough electrolytes if our diet is well-balanced, incorporating foods rich in the 7 aforementioned substances. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of these substances, as are beans, spinach, potatoes, kale, peanuts, raisins and avocados. We cannot function at our best without the right levels of electrolytes, so make sure you pay attention to what you eat and keep yourself healthy!