Electrolytes are ionic solutions (salts), existing in nature in the form of minerals. Electrolytes are responsible for keeping the body properly hydrated so the muscles and nerves can function properly.
Since the human body is composed mostly of water, it is important that we take in adequate amounts of these minerals. What is more, when we are well-hydrated, we are able to release toxic internal wastes such as harmful chemicals, urea and ammonia.
The essential electrolytes most commonly found in the human body are sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, chloride, calcium, and phosphates.
Why Are Electrolytes So Important?
When the kidneys are functioning properly, they are able to regulate concentrations of these vital minerals, in conjunction with fluid levels in the body. As we go about the day, and particularly when we exercise, much of the bodys precious fluid (and mineral electrolytes) are lost. We can also lose these vital salts through our lungs when we breath, as well as through urination, vomiting, going to the bathroom (especially diarrhea), and through the liquid content of wounds.
When we sweat, we are particularly apt to lose the minerals sodium, potassium and chloride. This is why athletes are so concerned with replenishing electrolytes after a strenuous workout. In fact, all of the major fluids of the body require large amounts of potassium to function, and 90% of the bodys potassium lies within the cellular walls. For this reason, it is essential to replenish these electrolyte on a daily basis through intake of clean fluids and foods.
When we expend sweat and lose these vital minerals, we need to replenish, not only with water but with minerals. If we combine intake of fluids with electrolytes, we will actually hydrate quicker, as water follows electrolytes. Moreover, taking in electrolytes like sodium reduces the amount of water lost in urination, allowing the fluids to be more readily absorbed back into the muscles, tissue and nerves.
How to get more electrolytes naturally
You may think of getting a re-surge in electrolytes from a bottle of Vitamin Water or Gatorade, but truly the best and most natural way of replenishing electrolytes is from food. In fact, sugary sports drinks only provide a quick burst of minerals, but deplete the body over time.