Proper hydration is essential for maintaining optimal health and well-being. While most people hear all the time how important it is to drink water, the role of electrolytes is often forgotten. Let’s talk about the significance of electrolytes and how they help maintain proper hydration levels.
Electrolytes: Your Partner in Hydration
Electrolytes are minerals that help regulate various bodily functions, including hydration. The main four electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Electrolytes actually carry an electric charge and are responsible for maintaining proper fluid balance, nerve and muscle function, and pH levels within your body.
Sodium, often associated with high blood pressure, plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance of fluids in your body. Sodium specifically maintains normal fluid levels out of the your cells. It regulates blood pressure, supports nerve function, and promotes the absorption of other nutrients, too. Consuming sodium-rich foods or electrolyte drinks helps replenish sodium levels after exercise or during periods of excessive sweating. The amount of sodium you’ll need to replenish is different for every person based on their activity levels and sweat profile. Not every person sweats the same amount of sodium! Speak with your primary care provider to discover what is an adequate amount of sodium without overdoing it and causing other health problems.
Potassium works alongside sodium to maintain fluid balance and proper muscle function. While sodium maintains proper fluid levels outside the cells, potassium maintains proper fluid levels inside the calls. Potassium is very important in regulation and contraction and relaxation of muscles, including your heart, and supports a normal blood pressure. In addition, potassium helps synthesize and metabolize carbohydrates in your body. Bananas, avocados, and spinach contain good levels of potassium – which will also help reduce muscle cramps! Discuss with your primary care provider the appropriate amount of potassium for your lifestyle.
While calcium is primarily talked about in relation to bone health, it also plays a vital role in maintaining proper hydration. Calcium ions contribute to the electrical signals that enable muscle contractions, including the heart. Adequate calcium intake is essential for both maintaining healthy bones and ensuring efficient muscle and nerve functions. Calcium also plays roles in proper blood clotting and regulating normal heart rhythms. You can incorporate calcium into your diet through dairy, cheese, yogurt, almonds, leafy greens, and more.
Magnesium is involved in over 300 reactions in the body, including energy production and muscle relaxation. This mineral aids in the absorption of other electrolytes, promotes proper nerve function, and supports a healthy immune system. Magnesium does a wide number of other things, including regulating mood and depression, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease, potentially decrease migraines, improve digestions, relieve achy muscles or muscle spasms, and reduce inflammation and promote better joint health. Consuming magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, spinach, and dark chocolate can help maintain electrolyte balance and prevent dehydration. Signs of low magnesium include nausea, constipation, headaches, nighttime leg cramps, numbness or tingling in the legs or hands, tremors, heart palpitations, and general body weakness.
Maintaining proper hydration goes beyond just drinking water, but includes getting adequate and appropriate levels of electrolytes. While these minerals are found in many foods, electrolyte mixes are also available during activity, especially if you’re sweating. Consuming electrolytes while exercising will enable the body to function normally, including reducing muscle fatigue.
Electrolytes play a large role, even outside of just exercising. Your heart, immune system, and nerve functions are greatly impacted by your electrolyte levels. Be sure to speak with your primary care provider to ensure you’re consuming an appropriate amount of electrolytes for your lifestyle!
This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice from or consultation with your healthcare provider.