What Are Electrolytes?
One probably doesn’t give much thought to electrolytes other than knowing they’re good for you and sports drinks have them. But what are electrolytes and what do they do?
Well, they’re kind of awesome. In fact, if we were robots, electrolytes would be our motherboards.
Whaat? Yeah. As you can tell by the name—electrolytes conduct electrical impulses.
Do you have chills? Are they multiplying? Is it electrifying? Sorry, Grease digression, but you’re totally singing it in your head, now aren’t you? You better shape up!
OK, back to science my fun friend.
The Human Body Relies on Electrolytes to Function
For the very same reason we don’t want to jam forks into outlets, is why electrolytes ‘move’ us. Our bodies conduct electricity (we are 75% water…) Our bodies are actually driven by electrical impulses just to move our muscles–and carry out a ton of other functions. Maybe we are robots….
To understand how we are electrifying, let’s get to the basics of what electrolytes are.
Water: I’ve Got My Ion You
All body fluids are essentially water and electrolytes. Electrolytes are ions which are parts of molecules that separate in water.
Commonly supplemented electrolytes include calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium.
- Calcium: helps trigger muscle contractions, blood clotting and nerve signaling.
- Sodium: is needed for muscle contractions, nerve signaling and helps maintain fluid balance.
- Magnesium: is needed for muscle contractions, proper nerve functioning, heart rhythms, and protein fluid balance. It also aids in digestion and the reduction of anxiety.
- Potassium: regulates blood pressure and heart contractions.
Some have a positive charge and others have a negative charge.
Oppositely charged ions attract.
This is important because it is how electrolytes get ‘power.’
Present in our fluids, inside cells, or outside of them, they are attracted to or driven away by cells with ions on the inside or outside that have an opposite charge.
As more ions accumulate, a ‘charge’ or ‘force’ is created and nutrients and other processes can be moved in and out of cells.
So they are the ushers of life–and all forms of life require electrolytes to survive.
Regulation of Electrolytes
Electrolyte levels are regulated by hormones and the good ol’ kidneys. As we lose them, the body tries to balance them.This is important during exercise especially, because our sweat causes us to lose these life-sustaining ions of awesomeness. Mostly we lose sodium and potassium during training, alongside water.
As we lose them, they must be replaced. Fruits and veggies can be great sources, and of course, you can always consume supplements or drinks with electrolytes. Drinking electrolytes is always great because you’re killing two birds with one stone: hydration and electrolyte replenishment.
Electrolyte Loss During Exercise
During exercise, the body loses electrolytes and water through sweat. In order to contract your muscles, you must have sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium present. Critical to health and physical training is the availability of water and electrolytes.This is why you see athletes sucking back sports drinks with electrolytes. To avoid imbalances, the body must first replenish lost water.
The body’s ability to distribute and redistribute water throughout areas of the body relies on electrolytes.
Each area of contained water also contains electrolytes which fuel the movement of fluid between and within cells.
If you do not have enough electrolytes needed to redistribute water, you face becoming dehydrated. Dehydration can kill and it can do it more quickly than starvation. Whoa, sorry to go so dark on you, but water and electrolytes are two of the main reasons we thrive.
Dehydration during activity increases physiological strain on our body, reduces performance, and can negate the benefits of exercise. The results of exercising during severe dehydration can be deadly.
But, it’s not just about exercise. Water and electrolyte balance is critical for the function of all organs to ensure our bioprocesses are taking place properly and our hearts are beating regularly. Like you’ve likely experienced–if the motherboard crashes, you get the screen of death. Wow, again?…sorry.
This is why it is so important for athletes to stay hydrated during exercise. So important.
Charge Up Your Body and Your Workout With Electrolytes
The body is constantly performing a balance act to keep electrolyte and water levels right. Through excretion, thirst, and the redistribution of fluids, it is constantly fighting to make sure you’re OK. Showing it a little love for all its hard work is only natural.
Taking a supplement infused with electrolytes or drinking an electrolyte drink before, during and/or after your workouts will make sure your body thrives and you stay alive.