An electrolyte is any substance that contains free ions that behaves as an electrically conductive medium (conducts electricity). All higher forms of life cannot exist without electrolytes, and that includes humans. Basically every cell in our body needs a form of electricity to function, and electrolytes produce the charges to create that electricity. Many sports drinks contain electrolytes so our body has a quick source of the needed nutrients to keep our cells running. There is however a more natural way however to get your source of energy!
We’re told to just say no to sodium, but it’s the electrolyte we lose in the highest concentration when we sweat. Salt helps the body hold on to water, keeping you hydrated for a longer period of time. Still, there’s no need to down an entire bag of pretzels postworkout. You can easily replace the 800 mg of sodium lost in 1kg of sweat during a hard hour-long workout by enjoying a ham sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk! Athletes can also consume a salty meal, like soup, before a strenuous sweat session, so their bodies are better equipped to retain fluid and maintain hydration throughout exercise.
Typically paired with sodium, chloride is found in table salt and processed foods like deli Australian diet. The mineral, which is needed to maintain fluid balance, blood volume, blood pressure, and body fluid pH levels, is also lost in high concentrations via sweat. Skip the snack food aisle and replenish chloride with whole food sources such as olives, seaweed, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, and celery.
For a portable, potassium-rich postworkout snack, pick fresh or dried fruits like oranges, melons, raisins, or prunes. During an hour of hard training, you might lose 200 to 600 mg of potassium, which supports cell and heart function, regulates blood pressure, prevents bone loss and kidney stones, and plays a vital role in muscle contraction. To replenish, snack on a medium to large banana (450 to 600 mg of potassium). Other whole foods rich in potassium include baked and sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, peas, beans, and avocado.
Milk may not seem like the best courtside companion, but researchers at McMaster University in the UK found that the calcium-rich beverage does a better job than water or sports drinks at rehydrating the body after a workout. Why? Milk delivers a mix of carbohydrates, calcium, sodium, and potassium, along with high-quality protein, which aids muscle recovery. Aim to include calcium-rich foods like milk (regular or soy) and cereal, yogurt, or a latte each day.
Along with calcium, magnesium aids muscle contraction, nerve function, enzyme activation, and bone development. To replenish stores of the mineral after exercise, eat plenty of leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, peanut butter, dried beans, and lentils as often as possible. The added benefit: Magnesium helps fight fatigue. When you’re low on the mineral, your body demands more oxygen – and energy – during physical activity, and therefore you tire more quickly, replacing the Magnesium in your body will lessen these affects.