Ask anyone about hydration and staying hydrated, and they will quickly respond with how much water you should drink, but we rarely hear about the true players in hydration - electrolytes.
The amount and distribution of electrolytes controls how acidic our blood is, how much water is in the body, and it guides the flow of water, and in turn nutrients and waste in and out of the cells. This means that the balance and amount of electrolytes within our bodies are directly responsible for the flow of water throughout the body. Consuming water gets that water into the body, but for that water to be helpful and effective at hydrating the body, we must have electrolytes present in the proper amounts.
Electrolytes are minerals which carry an electrical charge within a fluid environment (i.e. water) and they include calcium, sodium, potassium, phosphate, and magnesium (SOURCE). They act like engines within the body, providing energy and allowing the body to function optimally. Electrolyte balance is actually one of the tightest regulated functions within the body, because with a poor electrolyte balance, things go south fast.
They allow our cells, tissues, and fluids to communicate, and perform necessary functions including things like:
In basic terms, we don’t have hydration with simple water - we need electrolytes.
We obviously lose electrolytes through bodily fluids - when we sweat and when we pee. So, if you are working out and sweating heavily, especially in something like a hot-yoga class, or a hot gym in Florida, you are more likely susceptible to electrolyte depletion.
Other populations that are susceptible to losing electrolytes quickly are elderly people, breastfeeding women, and those who take diuretics or laxatives.
It is important to note that your kidneys are constantly working to prevent electrolyte depletion since electrolytes are lost through our urine. Additionally, drinking too much plain water can also cause electrolyte imbalance. If you are finding that your pee looks closer to a clear water color, it is likely you are nearing being over-hydrated and diluting the levels of electrolytes in the body as you want your pee to have a light yellow tint.
Interesting fact - without electrolytes, our heart wouldn’t beat and we wouldn’t be able to function. If you simply drink water and don’t focus on adding electrolytes in through your diet of whole foods or supplements, like our HYDRATE, there won’t be enough electrolytes in your body fluids to optimize function.
Our body is mostly water (about 60% in healthy individuals), and that water is split between intracellular fluid, which is within the cells, and extracellular fluid, which is outside of the cells. Each of these fluid compartments has a different amount of electrolytes, for example - there is about 40x more potassium in intracellular fluid than there is compared to extracellular fluid (SOURCE).
Our cells have mechanisms to move electrolytes in and out of the cells, and in and out of the different fluid compartments to change the properties and surroundings of the cell. Anything which is a network of nerves, which is most of the body, requires electrolytes to help adjust ‘charges’ for those nerves to function.
To break that down into applicable terms - if our muscles need to tighten, every cell needs to shorten to allow that to happen, and for cells to shorten they need to change the electrolyte concentration in them. Our brain is a large network of nerves that is also dependent on proper electrolyte balance as it is responsible for controlling our body’s temperature, coordination, and energy throughout the day.
Different electrolytes serve different purposes within the body - some of those purposes include:
When it comes to consuming electrolytes, many people think of sports drinks first, but the problem with sports drinks is the sugar. Not just because it is sugar, and ideally we keep sugar limited, but because it throws off the delicate balance of electrolytes. When there is a proper balance of sugar and electrolytes, the rate at which water is absorbed is faster, but too much sugar slows that absorption.
This is why we developed HYDRATE utilizing stevia and adequate amounts of each important electrolyte. Other forms of whole foods that we can get electrolytes from include:
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