What Are the Best Electrolyte Sources? Everything You Need to Know About Electrolytes

You’ve probably heard that electrolytes are necessary for replenishment after exercise, but why? Learn more about the advantages of electrolytes here.

You’ve probably heard of electrolytes, especially in relation to working out, from seeing professional athletes down sports drinks to seeing commercial after commercial selling the newest supplement powder. You’ve probably heard that you should replenish your electrolytes after working out, especially if it was a vigorous workout. However, what exactly are electrolytes and why are they so crucial to your post-workout recovery? Learn more about electrolytes, their functions in the body, and how to incorporate them into your post-workout nutrition plan by reading on.

How Do Electrolytes Work?

Do you recall learning everything about ions, atoms with electrical charges, in middle school science? According to the National Library of Medicine, electrolytes are minerals that form ions when dissolved in water (NLM). The body’s electrical signals can move more easily thanks to electrolytes (but without giving you an actual shock, thankfully). Electrolytes are present practically everywhere in your body since your body is around 60% water, including your blood and intracellular fluids, which are the fluids within and surrounding your cells. Furthermore, according to registered dietitian Maddie Pasquariello, M.S., R.D., and owner of Nutrition with Maddie, they are necessary for almost all biological processes in the body. For instance, electrolytes are necessary for the movement of muscles and the messaging of nerves, both of which are important during exercise.

The most significant electrolyte types

Although the body contains many different kinds of electrolytes, six are generally regarded as being the most significant ones. As follows:

  1. Sodium
  2. Potassium
  3. Calcium
  4. Magnesium
  5. Chloride
  6. Phosphate

Electrolytes’ advantages

To emphasize, electrolytes are necessary for fundamental processes. Whether or not you routinely exercise, they are necessary for maintaining excellent health. According to the Cleveland Clinic, electrolyte imbalance happens when your cells have too many or too little electrolytes and can develop without the adequate intake of electrolytes. Electrolyte imbalances can cause a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea, exhaustion, headaches, an irregular or rapid heartbeat, nausea, cramps or muscular spasms, nausea, or vomiting. If severe instances go untreated, electrolyte imbalances can potentially result in a coma or seizure.

However, due to the amount of perspiration involved in exercise, electrolytes are highlighted as being important. Keep in mind that electrolytes are water-soluble, which means they may dissolve in water. Therefore, according to Pasquariello, you lose electrolytes when you sweat a lot after a strenuous activity. This is especially true if you’re exercising outside in a hot environment because perspiration will be increased. Basically, you lose more electrolytes when you sweat more.

But why precisely does this matter? Find out in this article why electrolytes are important and what might happen if you lose a lot of them.

Suitable Hydration

It goes without saying that a good training program requires proper water. After all, the Mayo Clinic notes that water is necessary for lubricating your joints and controlling your body temperature through sweating, both of which are essential during activity.

However, it turns out that keeping hydrated requires more than simply drinking water; adequate hydration also depends on electrolytes. According to a 2018 article, electrolytes (particularly sodium and chloride) control how fluids enter and exit your cells, which ultimately affects the amount of water in your body and your overall level of hydration. Translation? You cannot maintain optimum hydration if your system is deficient in electrolytes.

Optimal Nerve Activity

According to a 2021 scientific study, electrolytes (particularly potassium, sodium, and chloride) directly influence the behavior of nerve cells, also known as neurons. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, nerve cells are in charge of transmitting signals throughout the body and they regulate a number of functions, including those that have an impact on how you think, feel, act, and move. According to a 2020 research, electrolyte imbalances have the potential to harm nerve cells and cause symptoms including headache, disorientation, irritability, and muscular cramps.

Controls Proper Muscle Function

Every time you move, whether it’s squatting at the barre or racing up a hill, your muscles contract. According to the NLM, these contractions depend on electrolytes like calcium and magnesium. Your muscles won’t be able to relax and work effectively without them. This might result in problems like muscular cramps and twitching, which would make it challenging to exercise and recuperate.

After a Workout, You Need Electrolytes

You can obtain electrolytes from foods and liquids to prevent electrolyte imbalances. The kind and extent of your workouts will determine if you should take electrolyte supplements because not all sources are created equal.

According to Pasquariello, you often don’t need to include electrolyte supplements in your diet if you engage in casual, low-key exercise. Drinking simple water will be sufficient to rehydrate you if you are only moderately dehydrated, which may be the case if you exercise for an hour or go a short while without drinking any, according to the expert. She explains that this is because shorter exercises are unlikely to result in electrolyte losses that are large enough to require substantial replenishing.

However, if your workout lasted a long time (90 minutes or more), it was hot outside, or it was so strenuous that you were drenched in perspiration, you may be moderately to severely dehydrated. In similar situations, Pasquariello advises drinking electrolyte-containing liquids rather than water. A good general rule of thumb is to try to replenish the quantity of perspiration lost throughout the workout even though the precise amount of electrolytes required may vary based on your physique, your sweat content, and the weather (and FYI, you can lose anywhere from 0.5 to 1.5 liters of sweat per hour of exercise, according to the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism).

By doing this, you can be confident that you’re replacing any electrolytes you lost throughout your workout and avoiding electrolyte imbalances.

Best Electrolyte Sources

Fortunately, there are several methods to receive the electrolytes you need:


According to Pasquariello, the majority of people may obtain all of their electrolytes through dietary sources alone. She cites leafy greens, watermelon, avocado, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables as particularly excellent sources.

Coconut liquid

According to Pasquariello, coconut water is a natural supply of electrolytes. She continues that it also contains naturally occurring carbohydrates, which are great for giving a little bit of fast energy.

Sport refreshments

Flavored beverages with carbohydrates, vitamins, electrolytes, and other minerals are known as sports drinks, like Gatorade. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these drinks frequently have a lot of sugar and calories. Depending on your individual health objectives, that high sugar level may not be the best choice. In light of this, the Harvard School of Public Health advises using a sports drink to replace electrolytes if you’ve engaged in severe activity for longer than 60 minutes. Otherwise, you should just stick to drinking water.

Powder or tablet electrolytes

If you frequently engage in strenuous exercise (such as preparing for a marathon), think about taking electrolyte pills or powders, like Nuun. These are portable since they are made to dissolve in water.

According to Pasquariello, the following advice might help you consume adequate electrolytes before, during, and after exercise:

Think ahead. Prefill your water bottle with electrolyte powder if you want to do an intense workout. For on-the-go hydration and prevention of electrolyte imbalances, you can also use a jogging waistline that can contain a water bottle.

Fill up. It’s a good idea to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet, particularly [during] pre- and post-workout meals, according to Pasquariello, to make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes every day.

Timing. She advises, “You want to make sure you’re taking electrolytes in reasonably soon after any vigorous exercise, but there isn’t a lot of research to say just how soon you should attempt to [replenish] electrolytes.”

Do it yourself. Lacking time? You may make your own electrolyte drink by mixing water, lemon juice, and a little salt. According to Pasquariello, “Lemon contains potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and you’ll receive sodium and chloride from the salt.”

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