If you're in the Midwest ... you're well aware that it's been hot. Summer is in full swing, humidity is high, and it's uncomfortable to say the least.
And when this happens, we get flooded with questions about proper hydration.
But more specifically ... questions about electrolytes & electrolyte supplements.
Those are great questions to ask ... because proper hydration & electrolyte balance in your body is CRUCIAL for your overall health & fitness results.
But do you really need an electrolyte supplement? Let's take a look.
First ... a couple quick facts about hydration:
- Roughly 75% of Americans are dehydrated ... and they don't even know it.
- Water makes up over 60% of your body (a huge part of why it's so important to stay hydrated!)
And being properly hydrated helps with many aspects of your overall health, including:
• Regulating body temperature
• Lubricating joints
• Preventing infections
• Delivering nutrients to cells
• Keeping organs functioning properly
• Quality sleep
• Cognitive function
• Exercise performance, muscle growth, & fat loss
...and even just slight dehydration can negatively affect all of the above.
Must of us know that being hydrated is important, and that we all could (and in most cases should) be drinking more water ... but it's not just water that plays a role in proper hydration.
Making sure you're taking in enough electrolytes also plays a major role ... and they're extremely important for many other factors of your health & wellness too.
But what exactly are electrolytes...
What are electrolytes & what do they do for us?
Electrolytes are essential minerals ... meaning you need them in order to survive, and that your body doesn't make them on its own. So you have to take them in, either through food or supplementation.
Some of the main electrolytes include:
You need electrolytes for multiple important bodily functions, including:
-Transporting water & nutrients throughout the body
-Muscle contraction & muscle relaxation
-Sending signals from the brain to the rest of the body
-Maximizing physical performance & injury prevention during exercise
...and of course, maintaining fluid balance in your body.
Maintaining fluid balance in your body is how they help with hydration. Your body needs to have a specific balance of water vs. electrolytes in order to stay fully hydrated.
Think of electrolytes as helping you hold onto the proper amount of water you need to stay hydrated ... helping maintain that balance.
And because it's a balance ... the answer to being more hydrated isn't necessarily to drink more water. It can be, and often times that's true ... but not always.
For instance, if you're drinking too much water and not taking in enough sodium ... that balance is thrown off and can lead to health issues.
This is where your kidneys comes in ... because your kidneys will help your body hold onto sodium, while also signaling to release more water.
If you're noticing extra clear urine ... that's your kidneys helping maintain a proper balance of sodium vs. water in your body, and it's doing so by getting rid of some extra water.
If you're noticing more colored urine ... it's your kidney holding onto more water, and excreting electrolytes in order to maintain a better fluid balance.
So, you can see here it's not always as simple as just drinking more water.
This also shows why salting your food isn't always a bad thing ... if you're also making sure you drink enough water to maintain that balance. In fact, salting your food can be very positive for many people.
It's not actually salt/sodium that causes issues like high blood pressure either ... it's the improper balance of sodium & water in the body.
So ... do you need an electrolyte supplement?
Well ... that depends.
You now know that electrolytes are essential for our survival ... so how much do you need to worry about making sure you're taking in enough of them?
First, you need to know that we're always losing electrolytes. We mainly lose them through sweat, urine & bodily waste. And of course, if it's blazing hot out like it is here in the Midwest ... you'll lose even more through sweat.
So, it's important that you replace them ... either through food or supplementation.
If you don't properly replace them, and that balance of water & electrolytes is thrown off ... you risk symptoms like:
• Irregular heartbeat
• Fast heart rate
• Convulsions or seizures
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Abdominal cramping
• Muscle cramping
• Muscle weakness
• Numbness and tingling
...and not to scare you, but yes ... even death is possible from chronic dehydration.
It doesn't necessarily matter whether you replace lost electrolytes through food or supplements ... as long as the job gets done.
High electrolyte content foods include:
-Many different fruits (watermelon, oranges, and bananas are some of the main ones)
-Veggies like kale, broccoli & spinach
-Turkey & chicken
Now, you'll notice that a lot of the electrolyte-rich foods are not always consistently part of our diet.
And even if you're salting your foods ... that's still just providing you with sodium & chloride.
You want a full spectrum of electrolytes ... and you want to take them in consistently in order to function at your best.
This is where an electrolyte supplement can help...
If you're active, spend a lot of time outside in the heat, workout more than once per day, or even struggle with some of the symptoms we mentioned above ... you could benefit greatly from an electrolyte supplement, especially if your diet is low in electrolyte-rich foods.
When it comes to picking out an electrolyte supplement ... there's tons of great options.
Just make sure it's giving you a full spectrum that includes sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium ... and phosphorus as well.
You can even find electrolytes in pre-workout supplements, intra-workout supplements, and other products too.
So, if you need help figuring out whether or not you could benefit from an electrolyte supplement, or want to look at some great options ... your local S2 location & their team are more than happy to help. We'll make sure you have the best product possible for your specific goals.
*This post was written by Andrew Lynn, who has a B.S. in Nutrition & Dietetics. He's also a N.A.S.M. Certified Personal Trainer and N.A.S.M. Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.