6 Benefits Of Electrolytes In Sports Drinks

No matter if you’re a hardcore gym rat or somewhat health conscious, chances are you have downed a post-workout sports drink. In doing so, you may have noticed that some labels include promises to replenish depleted electrolytes. However, those labels rarely tell you what electrolytes are and why you need them in the first place. The aim of this article is to answer those and other questions about electrolytes. First things first, we can thank the ancient Greeks for giving us the word electrolyte via the combination of the Greek words electro and lytos.

Combined, these two words mean “loosened electricity” in English. What does loosened electricity have to do with your body? In a word, everything. Your brain, heart and lungs run on loosened electricity, in a manner of speaking. Electrolytes carry electrical charges that cause your muscles contract, like your heart and diaphragm, for example. How do they do this? Electrolytes are substances. Specifically, they are atoms – the tiny particles that scientists believe everything is made of. These particular atoms act as electrical conductors “when dissolved in a solution such as water.” In most cases, your body creates its own supply of electrolytes.

The big three are sodium, potassium, and chloride. Honorable mention goes to calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate and phosphate. All of them can be found floating around in your “extracellular and intracellular fluid,” and they are excreted through sweat and urine. If your body doesn’t maintain an adequate supply of these nutrients either through your daily diet or supplements, let’s just say you’re not going to be a happy camper for long.

1. Replenishment of Electrolytes

If you’re wondering what causes electrolyte depletion, the following are some common culprits: Dehydration caused by excessive caffeine consumption or prolonged exercise, Eating disorders and restrictive diets, Alcoholism, Certain medications and diseases

How can replenishment of electrolytes be accomplished? Mayo Clinic staff suggest “water is generally the best way to replace lost fluids.” They go on to state that sport drinks are more beneficial after prolonged workout sessions due to their energy-boosting carbohydrate content. This sounds simple enough. Unfortunately, knowing when you are running low on electrolytes is not easy to determine. In fact, a blood test is the only way to accurately determine if you have an adequate amount of electrolytes or not.

Therefore, you may not experience any symptoms if you only have a mild electrolyte imbalance. This means you may not realize something is wrong until your electrolyte reserves are dangerously low. In light of this fact, here are some symptoms that you may experience when your body doesn’t have enough electrolytes:

Irregular heartbeat, Fatigue, Convulsions or seizures, Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea or constipation, Muscle weakness, Muscle cramping, Irritability, Confusion, Headaches, Numbness and tingling

Healthcare experts advise you to contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.