There's. a lot of hype around electrolyte mixes and supplements- for good reason! Keep reading to see- "should I be drinking electrolytes?"
Don't let the influencers fool you: you don't need to add powder mixes to enhance your water. However, if you were to consider adding one, I'd encourage you to add this.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are a class of minerals that includes: sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium. You get them from the fluids you drink, as well as the foods you eat! Think about it: bananas are renowned for their potassium benefits- so, you could say that bananas are indeed an electrolyte- containing food. Electrolytes conduct electricity when dissolved in water. What does that mean in human biology terms? Keep reading!
What do electrolytes do?
Electrolytes have a host of responsibilities in the body, and you don't have to be committed to an exercise regime in order to benefit from them. Electrolytes hydrate the body by maintaining fluid balance within the body. Electrolytes do this by directing fluid to the muscles and tissues that need said fluid the most at the time. This way, there's always an optimal balance of fluids within your body's cells!
Electrolytes also regulate nerve and muscle function; in fact, it is potassium specifically that accomplishes this (Women's Health & Menopause, 2002). In order for nerve impulses and muscle contractions to happen, potassium enters your body's cells to create a positive charge. When this cell is positively charged, it means that nerve impulses can be conducted through that cell! When potassium leaves the cell, the cell becomes negatively charged and no further impulses are conducted through the cell at that time.
Electrolytes exert a blood pressure lowering effect (Iqbal, 2019). This effect is seen when calcium helps blood vessel walls to contract and expand in order to maintain a healthy blood pressure. While some studies did show that a higher sodium intake has a less beneficial impact on blood pressure, supplementing a reduction (not elimination) of sodium intake with an increase in potassium had a beneficial effect on blood pressure as well!
When do you drink electrolytes?
Electrolytes are especially beneficial in warmer climates. Think exercising in the summer months, higher intensity activities in warmer environments, and especially exercise in longer durations (an hour or more).
You don't need to drink electrolytes at a certain time of day, either. While some studies suggest that drinking electrolytes in the morning can help you to rehydrate after you sleep (when you lose a bit of water weight), keep in mind: this can happen at any time of day. If you find yourself getting dizzy/ woozy in the late afternoons, you very well be suffering from dehydration! In this instance, electrolytes are absolutely appropriate too.
Not only do you lose fluids when you sleep, you also lose them from a crucial detoxification process that happens anytime of day: sweating. When you sweat, you are helping the health of your skin, your thermoregulation, and even help in defending from infection. Sweating happens at any time of day! If you take this into consideration, you don't need to time your electrolyte intake for a specific workout session or time of day- you sweat from morning to night, particularly in warmer climates.
Should you be drinking electrolytes?
You should be actively incorporating electrolytes into your daily food consumption...but that doesn't mean that they are only beneficial when they are ingested through a fluid.
Nuts & seeds
These are just a few foods that will give you some form of electrolyte- whether it be one, or all five!
Do you drink electrolytes, or eat them? I personally love using LMNT in my day to day, as well as throwing bananas and berries in with my breakfast!