The Next Level
YMCA Personal Training News
Electrolytes are important nutrients for our bodies as they play key roles in sending electrical impulses that influence our heart, muscles and nerves. Lack of sufficient electrolytes can contribute to muscle cramps, delayed muscle soreness and spasms following exercise and can contribute to headaches.
Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride and magnesium. Most often, electrolytes can be found in foods but they can also be found in beverages such as coconut water and juices made from electrolyte-rich fruits and vegetables.
Foods that are naturally higher in electrolytes include all plant-based foods, but particularly fruits and vegetables, and primarily those that are red, orange, and/or yellow. These fruits and vegetables not only contain a rich-source of potassium but are also good source of magnesium. Nuts, seeds, and beans are also a good source of magnesium and calcium, but are not rich sources of potassium and sodium. Green leafy vegetables can also be a good source of calcium and potassium.
When you sweat, you primarily lose potassium and sodium, therefore to replenish the electrolytes lost, you can make a juice made from red, yellow, and orange produce (for natural sodium) with some green leafy vegetables (for potassium). Coconut water is also a great source of both potassium and sodium and is lower in calories. For the most part, coconut water is also higher than most juices in electrolytes, and therefore can make for a great way to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat. Be sure to look around your local grocery store for a brand that you enjoy drinking- all coconut waters have their own unique and distinct taste.
If you are participating in a high intensity exercise regimen, it’s important to prepare your body with electrolytes prior to exercising. For most, it may be more beneficial to drink 16-20 oz of an electrolyte-rich beverage such as coconut water or electrolyte-rich juice, prior to exercising instead of waiting until after. Pre-exercise, your body is more likely to benefit from a higher electrolyte beverage as you provide your body with sufficient electrolytes before losing them through sweat. Post-exercise, the focus should be more on a protein-rich beverage to repair muscle damage due to the exercise output.
Though water does not contain a good source of electrolytes, it still plays an important role in hydration and should not be forgotten. If you are not exercising, generally ~64oz per day will suffice, however if you are exercising you should bump that amount up to 80 oz of fluid daily. Coconut water and other electrolyte-rich beverages do count toward your total daily fluid intake, but your main focus should be on water, with ~16-20 oz coming from an electrolyte-rich source.