What are electrolytes?
You have probably heard of electrolyte drinks, often found in the form of sports drinks. Electrolytes are minerals that are dissolved in your body’s fluids and are responsible for a number of bodily functions. They include sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride, and bicarbonate.
What do electrolytes do?
Electrolytes are essential for the functioning of our cells, organs, and muscles. They regulate fluid levels, keep your blood’s pH in the normal range, help the blood to clot, help the body renew tissue, transmit nerve signals to your cells, and enable muscle contractions. These are vital functions, so it is crucial to maintain the body’s electrolyte balance.
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What causes electrolyte imbalance?
When exercising, we sweat. Sweat is mainly water, but you may have noticed that it is salty. This is because sweat also contains electrolytes. Your regular diet replenishes the electrolytes you lose in normal, day-to-day activity. However, if you are exercising for longer than one hour or you are sweating more than usual, for example during a HIIT workout or Ashtanga yoga class, you may need to supplement your electrolyte intake.
General guidelines suggest that for activity longer than one hour, you need to add approximately 0.5-0.7g salt to every litre of fluid you consume. Not only will this help to replace the salt you have lost through sweating, but it also increases your “drive to drink”, which means you are likely to drink more. During vigorous activity your thirst is dulled, so anything that helps you drink more is a good thing. However, it is important not to add more salt than this because excessive thirst can increase your perception of exertion, and will decrease your performance.
How to replenish electrolytes naturally
There are a few ways to replenish your electrolytes and restore your electrolyte balance. Commercial sports drinks are rich in electrolytes, but they can be expensive and some are higher in sugar and calories than is necessary. There are many great sources of electrolytes in food too, such as potassium-rich bananas, table salt, and cheeses and leafy greens containing calcium. However, when you are on the go and active, a homemade electrolyte sports drink is the answer. A good electrolyte drink has a balance of water, electrolytes, and carbohydrates, perfect for refueling the body and making sure you are performing at your best. Add an active recovery workout to your routine and you’ll be ready to take your fitness to the next level.
How to make a homemade electrolyte drink
This sports drink takes just a minute or two to make and has the key ingredients to balance your electrolytes, hydrate you, and supply energy in the form of carbohydrates to help you perform at your best.
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 3 tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Mix all of the ingredients together in a container of your choice.
- Store in a refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Nutritional value per 600ml
- 35g CHO
- 500mg sodium
- 330mg potassium
- Glucose and fructose (multiple transportable carbohydrates)
Tip: You can also make a simple oral rehydration solution by mixing one litre of water with 3⁄4 tsp salt and 6 tsp sugar. Make a fresh batch after 24 hours.
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