If you’re like me, then summer means spending all your time outdoors. Whether you’re running after a bocce ball on the lawn, running a few miles after work, or running after your kids at the pool, summer activities can bring on some serious sweat. Although being active means a stronger and healthier body, sweat-inducing activities during the summer can also mean the loss of important electrolytes in your body.
What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals found in your blood and cells that break into small charged particles (ions) when they are dissolved in water. Electrolytes not only help to regulate your bodily fluids, but also contribute to overall cell health by supporting healthy digestion, blood flow, muscle and nerve function, and body temperature fluctuation.
Functions of Electrolytes
Each electrolyte plays a necessary role in your body’s overall health and function, and they work together to make sure that your body fluids are regulated. The most common electrolytes are sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Some of the individual functions of these electrolytes are:
- Sodium and Chloride
- Sodium and chloride are primarily responsible for maintaining blood volume and pH. They are also the electrolytes that are most often lost when sweating. Although the average person usually consumes the proper amount of sodium chloride, there are some situations where your level of sodium chloride may need to be supplemented.
- Calcium is primarily stored in the bones, but is also found in blood. Having proper calcium levels contribute to (among other functions) the healthy formation of bones and teeth, muscle contraction, and the normal functioning of many enzymes.
- While it may not be as well known as ions like calcium or sodium, magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body, and is essential for functions like protein and DNA synthesis, energy production, and neurological function. Magnesium deficiency is also one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in America, so it’s essential that you maintain proper magnesium levels in your body.
- Proper levels of potassium are essential for nerve impulse transmission, as well as muscle contraction, heart function, and tissue repair. Although it’s not as easily lost while sweating as sodium chloride, prolonged exposure to sweating in hot environments can trigger loss.
Common Symptoms of Electrolyte Imbalance
When we exercise (especially during high-intensity workouts) we can lose electrolytes (often sodium and potassium) through sweat, which causes the balance in our bodies to change. However, another common cause of electrolyte loss is dehydration, which becomes more prevalent as the weather warms. Loss of electrolytes in the body can cause a number of negative effects, including:
- Muscle fatigue
- Rapid heart rate
- Muscle cramps
While mild dehydration is fairly easy to combat, severe electrolyte disturbances can reduce blood flow to vital organs and requires immediate treatment. This is especially important in children, since they have a higher metabolic rate than most adults and are at a greater risk for electrolyte imbalance.
Luckily, there are a number of ways that you can ensure you and your children are maintaining proper electrolyte levels, especially in the summer. Although it’s always necessary to drink plenty of water year-round, there are a few additional options when it comes to supplementing your electrolytes.
Delivers essential potassium and B vitamins, as well as all major electrolytes and 72 ionic trace minerals
Contains 1,200mg vitamin C
Natural orange flavor
Made without caffeine, stimulants, or artificial flavors
30 single-serve packets per box
To use, combine with 2-3oz of water and drink
All-natural, alkaline-forming drink mix
Provides essential electrolytes for hydration
Replenishes minerals and antioxidants
Contains no sugar or artificial sweeteners
Natural lemon-lime flavor
Free of dairy, gluten and soy
Ideal for vegans
30 packs per box
20 oz. sports drink concentrate
Makes 1 gallon
Contains trace minerals
Supports normal electrolyte balance
Formulated for athletes
Refreshing, natural raspberry flavor
Balanced electrolyte concentrate
Vegan and gluten free
Contains trace minerals including sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium
Makes 48 servings
Designed to replenish electrolytes after workouts
Contains sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride to retain hydration
Tablet form provides easily customizable dosages
Free of gluten, yeast, soy protein, milk/dairy, corn, sugar, starch, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
You can also make your own natural energy drink to replenish your electrolytes. Low in sugar, this drink will help you maintain the optimal amount of electrolytes, and is also a delicious beverage that can be safely given to children and adults. This recipe also uses trace mineral drops that are added to help you maintain healthy electrolyte levels.
Lime & Coconut Sports Drink
(recipe via mommypotamus)
3 cups coconut water
1 cup water
½ cup lime juice (you can also substitute lemon or grapefruit juice if you prefer)
2 Tbsp. raw honey
¼ tsp. sea salt
Combine all ingredients and keep cold.
Have you ever made your own electrolyte replenishing drink? Let us know your favorite recipes in the comments!