How Water and Electrolytes Work Together

You have probably seen it a million times – a group of rugged (yet highly stylish) athletes running in slow motion, covered in vibrant red and orange sweat while some song designed to get you amped-up blasts in the background and “inspiring” quotes flash across the screen. The message is blatantly clear – to be a better athlete you need to stay hydrated and replenish your electrolytes. And the only way to do this, our advertisement assures us, is through some purple, red, or orange fruit drink. There is a reason behind all of the special effects, music, and slow motion coolness though – to hide the half-truth these sports drink companies are trying to sell you. In truth, you don’t need a fancy sports drink to replace those lost electrolytes – regular food and water is all you really need.

What Are Electrolytes

To understand how water and electrolytes work together to keep your body in balance and functioning properly, you first have to know what electrolytes are. When most people think of electrolytes, they think of salt. While salt – or sodium chloride – is indeed a vital part of the make-up of electrolytes, there are other elements, including: calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphate.

Each of these elements aid in proper cell function and regulate your body’s pH balance. When you ingest these electrolytes into your system, they naturally separate into positive and negative ions. As these charged ions make their way through your bloodstream and cells, they use the water in your body as a natural conductor, passing across membranes to transport nutrients and waste.

Electrolytes also provide aid to nerve impulses, muscle functions, and assist ions in the blood as they neutralize acids in the bloodstream.

How do You Replenish Electrolytes

As we stated above, all you really need to replenish electrolytes and stay hydrated is water and healthy foods, rich in the minerals that make up electrolytes. Bananas, kale, oranges, peas, potatoes (regular and sweet), spinach, turnip and collard greens, and beans of all types are all examples of food that contain a lot of potassium (one of the minerals found in electrolytes).

For calcium, seek out beans, dairy products, fish, meat, eggs, cereal, and asparagus. Meanwhile, leafy vegetables, beans, cereal, nuts and even tomato paste are all rich in magnesium.

Finally, regular table salt, beef, cheese, olives, butter, ketchup, mayonnaise, and pork are all great sources for sodium and chloride.

Other alternatives to replenish electrolytes include coconut water and “homebrew” electrolyte-infused water (you can find a bevy of recipes for DIY electrolyte water beverages with a simple Google search).

Tips to Stay Hydrated and Replenish Electrolytes

  • Drink plenty of water: in addition to keeping you hydrated, water aids electrolytes by allowing the charged ions to pass through the bodies cells and membranes, where it transports nutrients, nullifies acids, and aids in muscle and nerve function.
  • Don’t be afraid of salt: Sodium Chloride (salt) gets depleted faster than the other minerals that comprise your electrolytes when you sweat. It also helps your body retain water, making it easier for you to stay hydrated.