Do You Need Electrolytes in Your Water?
Last summer I looked forward to my outdoor pickle ball games two mornings a week. During an afternoon on one of those days, I also loved volunteering at a horse therapy farm in Millsboro where I mucked stalls and helped out with riding lessons. Both activities kept me outside in the summer sun.
I always carried my stainless steel 32-ounce water bottle filled to the brim with cold spring water. I know how important it is to stay hydrated. The more water I drank, the more I sweated. I thought I was doing well.
Then one morning on the courts in the middle of my second game my heart began beating fast. I had a hard time breathing. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was lightheaded and nauseous. I dropped out of the game and sat in the shade drinking water for a while. When I felt I was able, I went home and rested. What I didn’t realize at the time was, I had electrolyte imbalance.
I learned something valuable last summer. Even though I was drinking a lot of water, because I was exercising in the hot sun and sweating, I was depleting my body of the minerals that facilitate important bodily functions. My body was not able to cool off. I thought something could be wrong with my heart. I had heat exhaustion and was dangerously close to heat stroke.
A friend who is a nutritional chef suspected what my problem was and picked up packets of Emergency at the CVS for me. (I use them when I fly, but never thought about using them on a daily basis.) Emergency is a powder I add to my water that replenishes the electrolytes that were leaching through my pores when I sweated. The additives did the trick.
Electrolytes are minerals that conduct electricity when they dissolve in water. They help send electrical signals throughout your brain and body and ensure that many bodily functions run optimally. They do everything from helping with muscle contractions to maintaining proper fluid balance to balancing pH levels throughout the body. Whether you drink bottled or tap water, it most likely contains trace amounts of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, and calcium. We lose these minerals regularly through sweat and urine.
Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance can include fast or irregular heartbeat, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramping or weakness, diarrhea or constipation, headaches, brain fog, and poor exercise performance. You don’t have to be an athlete or strenuously exercising to experience a depletion of electrolytes.
Living in a beach town we tend to spend lots of time outdoors. In the summer the heat can cause us to sweat even when we are just walking from our car into a store. A daily dog walk, an outdoor cookout, or a slow neighborhood jog can trigger fluid loss. Enjoying alcoholic drinks can also strip these important minerals from your body.
To replace electrolytes you need to hydrate—at least 64 ounces of water a day; more if you’re exercising. Eating a balanced diet helps to sustain healthy electrolyte levels; you can also choose a supplement that replenishes those much-needed minerals.
You can buy electrolytes in powdered or tablet form either online or in a health food store or pharmacy and add them to your bottled or tap water. You also may purchase one of several bottled waters that already contain the minerals, or you can make your own drink at home. One recipe I found to be refreshing is: ¼ tsp of salt; ¼ cup of lemon juice; ¼ cup of lime juice; 1 ½ cups of coconut water (unsweetened); and 2 cups of cold water. (Yields 4 cups.) Unlike some store-bought drinks, this recipe provides a boost of electrolytes without added sugar, chemicals, or any artificial colors or flavors.
You don’t need to be drinking water enhanced with electrolytes all the time. I always do when I am outside and take it with me when I’m driving, but at home I tend to stick with my spring water.
Since last summer I’ve tried several different electrolyte powders, one brand in tablet form, and several enhanced bottled waters to figure out which tastes best to me. I try to stay clear of added sugars and artificial flavors. After you read the ingredients, the flavor and brand you like is subjective. Great products exist that promote electrolyte balance.
Replenishing electrolytes is another tool you can use to help you stay well while doing those summer activities you love. ▼
Pattie Cinelli is a health and fitness professional and writer who has been teaching, training, and learning about products, techniques, and methods that help people get and stay fit and healthy for more than 25 years. Contact her at: email@example.com.
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