Electrolytes are generally a measure of sodium, potassium and other minerals needed by the body for proper functioning of nerves and muscles. During exercise, the body loses electrolytes through perspiration, but fluid loss due to vomiting and diarrhea, illnesses such as kidney disease, and medications such as antibiotics may cause electrolyte deficiencies. Not replacing the electrolytes lost can result in illness, kidney damage, or in rare cases, death.
Drinking water alone during strenuous sports activities doesn’t replace electrolytes, but in fact decreases the amount of electrolytes in your body even more!
My suggestion is to avoid sports drinks. Often they are a necessary evil, highendurance activities for example, but generally, the high fructose corn syrup or sugar they contain cause more damage over time than they are worth. Some people avoid diary as a part of their dietary regime. If that’s you, ignore the diary advice!
Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and hard cheeses, provide valuable amounts of protein and electrolytes, including calcium and potassium. Cheeses also supply significant amounts of sodium, chloride and iodine. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that most Americans increase their intake of low-fat milk, yogurt and cheeses for improved wellness. Since high-fat dairy products, such as whole milk and high-fat cheeses, are rich in saturated fat, choose skim, fat-free or low-fat versions most often. Drinking skim or low-fat milk may also help prevent electrolyte imbalances associated with dehydration.
Vegetables are prime sources of antioxidants — nutrients that help your body defend itself against infections and disease. Numerous varieties can also help you meet your electrolyte needs. Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, collard greens and mustard greens, contribute plentiful amounts of magnesium, potassium and calcium. Broccoli, okra, red onions, parsnips, peas, chili peppers, sweet potatoes, baked potatoes and rutabagas also contain calcium. To begin adopting a healthy lifestyle, the American Dietetic Association recommends eating at least 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. Pure vegetable juices and vegetable soups provide electrolytes and support hydration.
Whole grains contain all nutritious components of the grain, including those rich in electrolytes. Fortified whole grain cereals are high in calcium. Cereal grains also provide magnesium. Eating whole grain bran cereal or oatmeal with low-fat milk for breakfast provides an electrolyte- and nutrient-rich way to start your day. Commercially-prepared whole grain crackers, whole wheat pretzels, salted popcorn and brown rice crisps are typically rich in sodium and chloride. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests choosing whole grains over refined grains, such as white flour, at least 50 percent of the time for heightened wellness.
Meat, Beans and Seafood
Meats, beans and seafood are top food source of protein and electrolytes. Meat, such as beef and chicken, canned seafood, such as sardines and salmon, and beans, such as navy and black beans, supply rich amounts of calcium. Beef, pork and sardines are high in chloride. Beans, such as kidney and lima beans, also supply valuable amounts of potassium and magnesium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests eating a variety of protein-rich foods routinely as parts of nutritious, balanced meals. Since red, processed and fried meats are high in saturated fat, consume leaner options, such as skinless white-meat poultry, beans, lentils and seafood more often.
AND on a SPECIAL NOTE——POTASSIUM intake
Most people believe that sodium intake releases/retains water in the body. While true, they overlook a KEY component in maintaining that balance: Potassium. 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. My personal favorite, COCONUT WATER- you can read/hear by my accent why its a preference! IMO, the highest concentration of potassium for re-hydration, and tasty too. Also avoid the coconut water that has sugar or preservatives added.