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What Are Electrolytes: Types of Electrolytes

Electrolytes are mentioned all over the labels of sports drinks and fitness products as game-changing nutrients. Maintaining good electrolyte levels is proclaimed by many professionals as the most effective way to achieve peak athletic performance. But what are electrolytes and how do they actually affect your body?

What Are Electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals and salts in the body that carry positive and negative charges when dissolved in water. The six main types of electrolytes include:

  • Sodium
  • Chloride
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Phosphate

Out of these, the four most commonly found in everyday food and drinks are sodium, calcium, chloride, and magnesium. Learning the importance and uses of different electrolytes can be vital in creating a healthy biosphere in your body.

Why Are Electrolytes Essential?

Electrolytes are ions that contain positive and negative charges and are dissolvable in water, tissue, and other fluids. The average person is 60% water, meaning that electrolytes and the maintenance of their levels are incredibly vital in your body's fluid balance. These powerful ions flow through your body conducting electric charges through your muscular and nervous systems, regulating chemicals, and balancing fluids. On a more specific level, these minerals can also work to regulate blood pressure and Ph levels in the body.

How Do You Lose Electrolytes

Electrolytes are depleted through fluid loss. They can be lost through sweat during exercise or vomiting and diarrhea caused by sickness. Electrolytes can be depleted even through daily activities and normal urination. With all the ways electrolytes help us, it is vital to maintain a healthy intake in order to properly support your body’s fluid balance, especially if your daily activity contains rigorous or prolonged exercise. Whether you're an athlete, a professional who spends all day on your feet, or have just been feeling under the weather, consuming food and drinks with high levels of electrolytes is one sure way to keep yourself hydrated and comfortable.

What Are the Different Types of Electrolytes?

Each electrolyte affects your body differently. Potassium, chloride, and sodium all work hand in hand to help your cells maintain a fluid balance. Magnesium on the other hand helps your cells convert nutrients into energy. Calcium is not only great for bone health and development, but also can transmit signals in your nerves and muscles. Phosphate not only helps in transporting chemical compounds in your cells but is actually a significant material in your DNA. These electrolytes all work as a team to keep you functioning in your day-to-day life, making it all the more important to replenish them.

Signs of Low Electrolyte Level

If you have ever felt overly fatigued or dizzy during daily activities or strenuous exercise you may be experiencing low electrolyte levels. When you lose fluids faster than you replace them through sickness and exercise you may feel symptoms of dehydration including exhaustion, irregular heartbeat, or muscle contractions. More serious symptoms include dry mouth and tongue, listlessness, and sunken or hollow eyes and cheeks. Many people may disregard or mistake these symptoms especially when they are used to strenuous activity. It is incredibly important however to take note of any discomfort you may have and to seek medical advice if you are experiencing worsening or long-lasting symptoms.

How To Maintain Electrolyte Levels

It might seem daunting to try and fit all of these electrolytes into your day, but in truth, you can combat fluid and electrolyte imbalances simply by eating a balanced and diverse diet. Calcium for example can be found in dairy products and dark leafy greens while potassium can be found in beans and lentils. Nuts like almonds and cashews can be high in magnesium while tomatoes, lettuce, or seaweed can be great sources of chloride. Many white meats and seafoods are full of phosphate while simple Himalayan sea salt can provide daily doses of vital sodium. Whether your diet mainly consists of a few or all of these electrolytes, including any in your daily life can greatly prevent signs of dehydration.

Drinking electrolyte-filled beverages can also help fill in any missing nutrients, especially if you are the type of person who is often on the go or missing full meals. Coconut water, pressed juices, and smoothies, are all great fluids for people who don't have time or the ability to cook with the right ingredients. Sports drinks or electrolyte-infused waters are often the top choices for athletes who need to rehydrate during strenuous exercise or high heat. These options can however often be high in sugar or processed chemicals and should be consumed in moderation.

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Dehydration can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like muscle cramps, dizziness, or fatigue. Consuming a balanced diet full of water and electrolytes can be the best way to prevent these symptoms but can also be more difficult to maintain for athletes or professionals on the go.

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