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Natural Electrolytes To Support Your Hydration

Published January 09, 2019 (Revised: March 14, 2020) Read Time: 6 minutes
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

natural-electrolytes
<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ben Kissam, BS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2020/03/natural-electrolytes-thumbnail.jpg" } }, "headline":"Natural Electrolytes To Support Your Hydration", "datePublished":"2019-01-09", "dateModified": "2020-03-14", "description":"Electrolytes are essential for staying hydrated and for overall health. Here are 15 foods and drinks with natural electrolytes in them—much healthier than sugar-packed Gatorade!", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2020/03/natural-electrolytes-thumbnail.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What are electrolytes?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Electrolytes are minerals in the body that conduct electricity when mixed with water. They help your body maintain electrical neutrality (internal stability) and stay hydrated. There are six main electrolytes: Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Calcium, Phosphate, Magnesium" } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What happens when your body is low on electrolytes?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Common signs that your body is low on electrolytes include:<ul><li>Cramping</li><li>Headaches</li><li>Extreme thirst</li><li>Decreased performance during workouts</li><li>Decreased cognitive performance</li><li>Elevated heart rate</li><li>Fatigue</li><li>Dizziness</li></ul>" } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What are some natural electrolytes?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Best natural electrolytes: Leafy greens like spinach and kale, Coconut water, Avocados, Tomatoes, Kombucha, Watermelon, Bone broth, Broccoli, Bone broth" } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Are Electrolytes?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">What Are Some Natural Electrolytes?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">How To Stay In Balance</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">Why You Should Avoid Some Electrolyte Drinks</a></li> <li><a href="#section5">Natural Electrolytes: Wrap Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Most people know that drinking plenty of water is important, especially when you exercise. </p> <p>We don't always think about replacing electrolytes, which are also lost when we sweat.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5371639/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup> But these natural minerals are equally important for overall health and performance.</p> <p>Electrolytes help every cell in our bodies function properly, and also regulate our body's pH levels, which help keep us healthy and disease-free.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541123/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7854827" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20613504" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup></p> <p>So <i>along</i> with drinking plenty of water, it's also a good idea to replace electrolytes when you exercise or sweat a lot.</p> <p>Instead of grabbing sugary sports drinks like Gatorade, you can replenish by eating foods and drinking beverages that contain natural electrolytes.</p> <p>Here's a look at what electrolytes are, how to keep them balanced, and 15 foods and drinks that naturally contain lots of electrolytes.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>What are electrolytes?</h2> <p>Electrolytes are minerals in the body that conduct electricity when mixed with water. They help your body maintain electrical neutrality* and stay hydrated.</p> <p><i>*This is one of the main ways your body achieves homeostasis (internal stability).<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4137153/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup> For this reason, the right ratio of fluid to electrolytes is crucial for human health and function.</i></p> <p>There are six main electrolytes:</p> <ul> <li>Sodium</li> <li>Potassium</li> <li>Chloride</li> <li>Calcium</li> <li>Phosphate</li> <li>Magnesium</li> </ul> <p>When you sweat (during <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/" rel="noreferrer">exercise</a>, or just from living in a hot, humid climate) your body loses water <i>and</i> electrolytes. </p> <p>If you don't replace both through diet or supplementation, this can throw off your electrolyte balance.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5371639/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup></p> <p>Even a short stint of mild dehydration or electrolyte imbalance can lead to issues—most are mild, but chronically low fluid or electrolytes can cause real problems for your health and performance.</p> <h3>What happens when your body is low on electrolytes?</h3> <p>Common signs that your body is low on electrolytes include<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541123/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a></sup>:</p> <ul> <li>Cramping</li> <li>Headaches</li> <li>Extreme thirst</li> <li>Decreased performance during workouts* <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23121348" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup></li> <li>Decreased cognitive performance <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6603652/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup></li> <li>Elevated heart rate</li> <li>Fatigue</li> <li>Dizziness</li> </ul> <p><i>*Even mild forms of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can negatively impact your workout performance, which is why replacing both are so important if you're trying to achieve your fitness goals.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4580808/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22150427" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a></sup></i></p> <p>A few other, much more severe side-effects include:</p> <ul> <li><i>Hyponatremia</i> (when sodium levels become dangerously low; causes cells to swell and can lead to nausea and vomiting) <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26036654" rel="nofollow noreferrer">11</a></sup></li> <li><i>Hyperkalemia</i> (when potassium levels become dangerously low; can lead to severe muscle cramping and heart palpitations) <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4376419/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">12</a></sup></li> <li><i>Chronic dehydration</i> (this can impair nervous system function, and cause your cells to shrivel or malfunction) <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541123/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">13</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8098459" rel="nofollow noreferrer">14</a></sup></li> </ul> <p>But keep in mind, the more severe symptoms usually only happen if you don't replenish your fluids and/or electrolytes within 48 hours.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5407738/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">15</a></sup></p> <p>Drink plenty of water and eat electrolyte-rich foods regularly, and you should be just fine.</p> <p>Below, we'll look at what you can include in your diet to prevent these things from happening.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>What are some natural electrolytes?</h2> <p>Foods and beverages that naturally contain one or more of the six natural minerals mentioned earlier can help your body return to its ideal ratio of fluids to electrolytes.</p> <p>In fact, most people don't need to take electrolyte supplements if their diet includes plenty of naturally electrolyte-rich foods (see section: "<a href="#section3">How to stay in balance</a>" for one exception). <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10410838" rel="nofollow noreferrer">16</a></sup></p> <p>Below are 15 of the best natural foods and drinks that will boost your electrolytes, as well as which minerals they can help replace.</p> <h3>Best foods to replace electrolytes</h3> <ul> <li>Leafy greens like <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/creamy-mushroom-and-spinach-chicken/" rel="noreferrer">spinach</a> and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/salmon-kale-salad/" rel="noreferrer">kale</a> (potassium, sodium, calcium)</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/carbs-in-avocados/" rel="noreferrer">Avocados</a> (calcium, potassium, magnesium)</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/germain-assyrian-eggs-tomato-breakfast/" rel="noreferrer">Tomatoes</a> (sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride)</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/broccoli-cheese-soup/" rel="noreferrer">Broccoli</a> (potassium)</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/fermented-foods/" rel="noreferrer">Yogurt</a> (calcium)</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/cinnamon-trail-mix/" rel="noreferrer">Nuts</a> (sodium, phosphates)</li> <li>Sea salt (sodium)</li> <li>Oranges (calcium)</li> <li>Potatoes (sodium, potassium)</li> <li>Bananas (potassium)</li> <li>Watermelon (potassium)</li> </ul> <h3>Best drinks to replace electrolytes</h3> <ul> <li>Coconut water (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus)</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-matcha-smoothie/" rel="noreferrer">Smoothies</a> (using fruits from the list above)</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/homemade-bone-broth/" rel="noreferrer">Bone broth</a> (sodium, potassium, calcium)</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/kombucha-keto-to-drink-or-not-to-drink/" rel="noreferrer">Kombucha</a> (sodium, potassium)</li> </ul> <p>In the next section, we'll look at the three other ways to keep your electrolytes balanced.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/natural-electrolytes-infographic-0044.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/natural-electrolytes-infographic-0044.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/natural-electrolytes-infographic-0044.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/natural-electrolytes-infographic-0044-LR.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="natural electrolytes infographic"> </picture> <h2>How to stay in balance</h2> <p>Besides eating and drinking plenty of natural electrolytes, you should also:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Drink plenty of water (especially after you exercise)*.</strong> Your bodyweight is composed of at least 45 percent water (if not more), and your cells need water to function properly.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.google.com/search?safe=active&sxsrf=ALeKk01I5iBrGG3OqIddd1bjj87LCaStDg%3A1583268553194&ei=ycJeXpnAC4m9-gSW-K-ICg&q=how+much+water+in+cells+body+ncbi&oq=how+much+water+in+cells+body+ncbi&gs_l=psy-ab.3..33i160.803.3569..3682...0.4..6.327.6226.0j7j16j4......0....1..gws-wiz.......0i71j35i39j0i273j0j0i131j0i67j0i20i263j0i22i30j0i22i10i30j33i22i29i30.xtavnw9JOQA&ved=0ahUKEwjZyMn9lv_nAhWJnp4KHRb8C6EQ4dUDCAs&uact=5" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup> Rehydrating after a workout helps bring your body back to the correct ratio of fluids to electrolytes, and also helps your cardiovascular system recover faster from workouts). <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23047713" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup></li> <p><i>*The <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day/" rel="noreferrer">U.S. Food and Nutrition Board</a> daily recommendation is 125 ounces (oz) for men, 91oz for women.</i></p> <li><strong>Consider an electrolyte supplement if you exercise frequently or spend a lot of time outside in the heat.</strong> <i>Very</i> high-intensity workouts, such as <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/what-is-functional-training-and-can-it-benefit-you/" rel="noreferrer">HIIT training</a> has been shown to deplete electrolytes far greater than other types of exercise.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6373370/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">17</a></sup> If you do lots of high-intensity cardio-based training (5+ days per week for more than an hour) or spend long hours outside in the heat, you're likely losing more electrolytes than most people. In this case, not only do you need more water than the average person, you <i>might</i> also want to consider taking a sugar-free electrolyte supplement (but you can also just eat/drink more natural electrolytes).</li> <li><strong>Avoid oversalting your food.</strong> Sea salt is a natural electrolyte you can add to your food, but too much of it can mess with your electrolyte balance, too. Further, consuming too much sodium has been shown to raise other health markers like blood pressure.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5098396/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">18</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24434760" rel="nofollow noreferrer">19</a></sup> Feel free to use some with meals (a few grinds of pink himalayan sea salt is perfectly fine), just don't overdo it.</li> </ul> <p>Finally, let's look at why your best option is to stick with naturally-occurring electrolytes over the sports drinks you may be familiar with from television.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>Why you should avoid some electrolyte drinks</h2> <p>Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade contain sodium and potassium to replenish what you lose through sweat.</p> <p>But you should avoid using these drinks to rehydrate, because they're also packed with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.</p> <p>Just consider, one 20z Gatorade contains<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.pepsicobeveragefacts.com/Home/Product?formula=33877&form=RTD&size=20" rel="nofollow noreferrer">20</a></sup>:</p> <ul> <li>140 calories <li>36 grams of sugar (nearly the same amount as a can of Coca Cola)<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.coca-colaproductfacts.com/en/faq/sugar/how-much-sugar-in-coke/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">21</a></sup></li> <li>Artificial colorings (yellow 5*)</li> <li>Artificial preservatives (gum arabic**, glycerol ester of rosin)</li> </ul> <p><i>*At least one study concluded that yellow 5 dye is a carcinogen, meaning it can increase your chance of getting cancer.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23026007" rel="nofollow noreferrer">22</a></sup></i></p> <p><i>**Studies show many people are allergic to gum arabic, which has been linked to respiratory issues.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3124965/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">23</a></sup></i></p> <p>Basically, you get a lot more bad than good from these drinks. </p> <h3>What to do instead</h3> <p>Here are three much healthier (and simple) ways to replenish electrolytes:</p> <ul> <li>Pack yourself a water bottle and a few sprinkles of sea salt that you can add right to your water if you will be exercising, sweating, or in a hot climate. </li> <li>Pack a water bottle, and eat a salad made with spinach, avocado, and tomatoes (and perhaps a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-salad-dressing/" rel="noreferrer">healthy dressing</a>, too).</li> <li>Pick up coconut water or kombucha from the store (read labels, though, as some of these products can also contain a lot of sugar)</li> </ul> <p>All three of these approaches are much healthier than drinking sports drinks, and won't interrupt your health or fitness goals like a sugary Gatorade will.</p> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section5"> <h2>Key Takeaways</h2> <p>Your body needs electrolytes and water to rehydrate when you sweat a lot. The ratio of fluid to these natural minerals helps your body maintain homeostasis and function properly.</p> <p>To maintain an ideal balance, drink lots of water, but also eat and drink foods with naturally-occurring electrolytes, such as spinach, kale, tomatoes, and coconut water.</p> <p>If you exercise a lot at a high-intensity (5+ times per week for more than an hour) or spend a lot of time outdoors in the heat, you might consider taking an electrolyte supplement. But you can always just consume more foods and drinks that contain these natural minerals, too.</p> <p>Sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade aren't a great choice for replacing electrolytes because they're packed with artificial dyes and chemicals that simply aren't good for you. </p> <p>The important thing to remember is that staying hydrated helps you feel and perform better. If you're working hard to reach a fitness goal, drink plenty of water and eat lots of natural electrolytes to help keep your body healthy, happy, and functioning at its best.</p> </section> </article>

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