You may only know electrolytes as the hydrating minerals in sports drinks, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
These badboys have a boatload of benefits. This article covers what electrolytes are and what they can do for your health... and how they're help speed up weight loss.
Electrolytes are minerals that produce ions when dissolved in a solution like blood, sweat, or urine. They’re called “electro”-lytes because they produce either a positive or negative electrical charge. Whatever you do, don’t let your electrolytes get out of balance-Your entire body and brain can get thrown out of whack!
They work as a team to allow nutrients into the cells, expel waste, and produce energy. Oh...and they have health benefits too...
But first up:
How do you know if your electrolyte levels are out of whack?
In most cases, you’ll have at least a few symptoms. Common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include:
Sooooooo what are the benefits of these little beggars...
Electrolyte drinks can help replenish the water, minerals, and energy lost during exercise.
Believe it or not, losing just 1-2 percent of your body weight in sweat can decrease your strength, speed, and focus . And when you sweat like a maniac, you lose electrolytes like crazy too. Sweat contains a ton of sodium, but it also has magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Especially during long workouts in hot weather, keep an electrolyte drink nearby. A simple tip is a pinch of table salt and sugar in a 1 litre bottle of water.
Good quality sleep is another major health benefit of electrolytes. For example, calcium helps the brain transform tryptophan into the sleep hormone melatonin. And according to the journal Neuroscience, calcium promotes deep rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Electrolytes may even help people with insomnia!
For example, a 2012 study showed that magnesium supplementation can increase sleep time and sleep efficiency which helps with eliciting faster fat loss.
Researchers also noticed increased levels of sleep hormones and lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Naturally, better sleep leads to less daytime fatigue, enhanced focus, and more productive days. Dang, these electrolyte benefits are really stacking up! The more rested you are, the better you perform and the easier you lose weight!
Electrolytes have a close relationship with our immune system.
Magnesium, for example, helps the body control inflammation. Inflammation can decrease the body's capacity for weight loss. Working together, electrolytes like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium control what’s allowed to enter the cell. They promote a healthy homeostasis- a happy internal environment helps speed up weight loss.
When you’re low on electrolytes, memory and attention can go downhill... fast.
What’s crazy is that you don’t even have to be that dehydrated to start feeling the side effects. Researchers have found that even the slightest bit of dehydration of as little as 1-2% can negatively affect brain function. Take sodium for example-too much of it can cause the brain to swell (that's what causes hangovers FYI), but too little can cause the brain to shrink, and both are bad for cognition.
At the same time, electrolytes like calcium, phosphate, and magnesium are equally important.
Low levels of these minerals can affect mood and even trigger seizures in severe circumstances. The key is to keep your electrolyte levels in the Goldilocks zone---not too high and not too low.
Luckily the body is naturally pretty good at making adjustments, but it’s up to you to consume enough electrolytes through food and supplements and replace them when needed.
Stress and anxiety reduction is another key benefit of electrolytes. Stress reduction and reduction in allostatic load can actually help speed up weight loss!
Magnesium is especially important for reducing anxiety.
For example, Magnesium plays a central role in the body’s natural stress response.
At the same time, chronic stress can easily deplete magnesium and increase the risk of anxiety and depression.
The solution? Get enough magnesium in your diet, either from supplements or magnesium-rich foods like dark chocolate, avocados, almonds and fatty fish.
According to a recent study, type 2 diabetes may be linked to low potassium.
In a study conducted at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, researchers linked potassium deficiency to high levels of insulin and glucose, both of which are signs of diabetes.
Electrolyte levels have a direct impact on the health of your heart... kinda a big deal right?
For starters, the combination of too little potassium and too much sodium is associated with high blood pressure.
In general, most people eat too much sodium in their diet.
Research shows that by increasing your potassium intake, you can decrease blood pressure. . One study found that people who consumed about 4,000mg of potassium each day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from heart disease compared to those who consumed roughly 1,000 mg per day.
Magnesium and calcium also help support proper blood pressure. Plus, magnesium reduces inflammation, prevents arteries from becoming clogged, and normalizes irregular heartbeats.
The benefits of electrolytes even extends to your muscles and bones!
A diet that’s high in potassium can help stabilise pH, and retain lean muscle mass. One recent study found that people who get a high daily potassium intake maintain an average of 3.6 more pounds of lean tissue mass than people who get 50 percent less potassium. Leaner means less body fat.
Electrolytes keep the digestive system chugging along. Your intestines are lined with smooth muscle tissue that’s controlled by the autonomic nervous system, the part you can’t consciously control.
Their rhythmic contractions are important for nutrient absorption and waste elimination.
Potassium allows the muscles in the intestines to contract. However, low potassium levels can inhibit healthy digestion.
That’s why it’s so important to load up on potassium with food and electrolyte supplements!
When headaches are caused by dehydration, electrolytes can help.
According to a recent study, roughly 10 percent of people experience dehydration headaches.
They can be caused by a loss of water, a loss of electrolytes, or both.
Magnesium and sodium play an especially important role in fighting dehydration headaches.
When they get out of balance, it can lead to issues like headaches and fatigue. Most people have too much sodium and not enough magnesium in their diet. Magnesium deficiency can trigger headaches by:
The good news is that electrolyte supplements can be an easy and affordable way to prevent dehydration.
Wondering how to refuel and keep your electrolyte levels in check? Following a healthy diet is a simple and effective way. This means eating more of the foods that replenish electrolytes and avoiding the ones that can throw them out of balance. Here are some of the best electrolyte foods:
These foods also contain a number of other important nutrients like vitamins and antioxidants.
Keep those electrolyte levels topped up! Especially when the weather is warm, and training is intense!
Love and Light,