What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are basically what the name implies – they are chemical compounds that conduct electricity by changing into ions when melted or dissolved into a solution. In the case of the human body, the solution is water.
The human body contains a variety of electrolytes, the most common being and essential of which are sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate.
What is the role of Electrolytes in body functionality?
A good balance of electrolytes is necessary for many of the automatic processes that occur in the human body. They regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissue.
Neurons throughout the muscles rely heavily on a good source of electrolytes. Muscles require electrolytes moving through and around the tissue to properly function.
Let’s break down what each of these primary electrolytes do in the body.
Sodium is most commonly found mixed with chloride. This mixture creates your standard everyday table salt. While is often the recipient of much criticism, a proper balance is essential for good health. Sodium regulates the total amount of water in the body and the transmission of sodium into and out of individual cells also plays a role in critical body functions. The movement of sodium is critical for electrical signals to properly be passed to and from different areas of the nervous system, brain and muscles.
Sodium Rich Foods
- Deli Meats
Potassium is crucial to heart function and plays a key role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, making it important for normal digestive and muscular function.
Potassium Rich Foods
- Sweet and White Potatoes
- Black Beans
Like sodium, chloride influences neural activity and muscle function, but chloride carries a negative charge rather than a positive one. Chloride is primarily found along with sodium in ordinary table salt, otherwise known as sodium chloride, and because it is in most foods, insufficient intake is rare. Chloride, in the form of hydrochloric acid, is also a major component of gastric juice, which in turn digests and absorbs essential nutrients from food.
Chloride Rich Foods
Bicarbonate is a major element found in the digestive tract and most notably the stomach. However, it plays a major role in acid-based balances in all fluids and muscles in the body. It is released from the pancreas in response to high influxes of acid from digestion and works to keep the acidic balance in check.
Bicarbonate Rich Foods
- Grape Fruit
Unlike its cousin sodium, calcium is everyone’s favorite electrolyte. We all know that calcium helps to strengthen bones and teeth, but it does much more than that on a more direct level. Calcium makes up approximately 2 percent of your total body weight and contributes to many basic body functions, including disease prevention and absorption of other nutrients. As an electrolyte, or a particle that helps conduct electricity in the body, calcium is also one of the key players in maintaining a regular heartbeat.
Sources of Calcium (non-dairy):
The impact of magnesium in the human body is immense. Magnesium is the second most abundant element inside human cells and the fourth most abundant positively charged ion in the human body. Within the body’s cells, it serves literally hundreds of functions. Magnesium helps signal muscles to contract and relax. And when the muscles that line the major blood vessels contract, your blood pressure rises. Magnesium also helps maintain a normal heart rhythm and is sometimes given to reduce the chance of atrial fibrillation and cardiac arrhythmia
Magnesium Rich Foods
Phosphate is simply phosphorus combined with oxygen in the body. Bone contains about 85% of the body’s phosphate. The rest is located primarily inside cells, where it is involved in energy production. Phosphate is necessary for the formation of bone and teeth. Phosphate is also used as a building block for several important substances, including those used by the cell for energy, cell membranes, and DNA.
Phosphate Rich Foods
- Red meat
Sources of Electrolytes
A well-balanced diet will usually keep a person’s electrolyte levels in check. While various foods may contain higher amounts of a particular electrolyte, they all work in combination to provide what you probably need. There are exceptions however. In the case of individuals who may suffer from malnutrition with IBD or other eating issues, electrolytes can be depleted easily. Bouts with illness that cause diarrhea can quickly deplete your electrolyte levels as well.
To ensure you are getting enough electrolytes, focus on fruits and vegetables like bananas, apples, corn and beets as well as high density dairy products like milk and cheese.
Do You Need Electrolyte Supplements?
Its not usually easy to tell if you need electrolyte supplements until they get into the extreme outlier levels. For instance, sodium levels that are too high can lead to constricted blood vessels and cause stroke, heart attack, and other blood related issues. Conversely, a drop in potassium and calcium levels can cause severe muscle cramps and dangerous heart conditions. If you have ever felt your fingers start tingling and cramping up, this might be an early sign that one of these electrolytes is dangerously low.
If you are experiencing anything like this, drop what you’re doing and get your ass to the doctor. And by that I mean now.
If you are having issues like this, you need more than a supplement. Your doctor will likely prescribe you a daily dosage of the lacking electrolyte.
If you are working out frequently and really pushing yourself, or just want a little boost in energy levels, an electrolyte supplement might be the answer for you. They will help replace depletions after workouts more quickly leading to faster recovery time and improved performance. They will also make you feel much more energetic in your every day routines.
Pre-workouts are also a great supplement to improve performance. We created an article a while back listo 40 Great Creatine-Free Supplements.
So, without further ado, here the top electrolyte supplements to enhance performance, recovery, and improve energy levels.
Each Bottle contains Vegetarian Capsules that replenish electrolytes lost during exercise. The vegetarian capsules contain a proprietary blend of Organic Fruits and Minerals to really define Organic Electrolyte management.
Potassium enriched coconut water. Nitric Oxide boost from beets and 6 natural adaptogens for increased VO2 max. Himalayan Pink salt for electrolytes and black pepper for absorption. Pomegranate for antioxidant and recovery
Buffered Electrolyte Salts used to reduce heat stress, reduce muscle cramping, and maintain electrolyte levels
Tablets build for enhancing endurance performance and replacing eletrolytes quickly and efficiently.
Highly bio-available, quick absorb vegetarian capsule is convenient, portable, has ZERO calories and contains MORE electrolytes than popular “sports drinks” WITHOUT the dangerous sugar, corn syrup, artificial additives, and questionable “natural remedies”.
LyteShow is an electrolyte-replenishing, liquid concentrate made for those who don’t want unnecessary additives, sweeteners, or calories in their hydration products.Each 4 oz. bottle contains 40 servings of LyteShow concentrate. Contains no calories, sweeteners, carbohydrates, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Non-GMO, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free.
Balanced formula helps restore electrolytes and trace minerals lost through sweat. Lyte Fuel is ideal for those on ketogenic diets.
Powder easily dissolves in water or other solutions. Not gritty like some other powders and the taste is pretty good too.
Electrolyte supplement with a variety of workout addatives including BCAAs and glutamine. Quick dissolving and decent taste.
Base is Pink Himalayan salt, plus added Magnesium, Calcium and Potassium. All of which are vital in replacing electrolytes lost during physical activity.
Hi-Lyte is the highest Potassium, Zinc and Magnesium Electrolyte Concentrate available. No Calories. No Sugar. No artifical colors or flavors. Vegetarian. Vegan. Non-GMO. Gluten Free. Keto Diet Approved. Made in the USA in an NSF Certified Manufactring Facility.
Zero calories – stevia sweetened; vegan and free of dairy, gluten, soy and artificial flavors and colors.
Dr. Price’s Electrolyte Mix has a blend of over 72 Trace Minerals and Electrolytes created to benefit individuals ranging from the elite athlete to your personal hydration need