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What Are Electrolytes?

You’ve probably heard all about electrolytes at this point, but maybe you aren’t quite sure what they really do for the human body.

Whether you’re a bona fide regular at the gym or a retired youth soccer player who now plays on your local rec league, it’s more than likely you’re familiar with electrolytes at some level.

They’ve become a staple to athletics of all kinds. Electrolytes feature prominently in sports drinks, helping active people stay active with the right fluid balance.

Electrolytes are often advertised to boost performance, restore body fluids, and keep us playing longer. And we’ve seen their results and probably even felt them ourselves after we’ve sipped down a post-exercise sports drink.

You may already have a basic grasp of what electrolytes are. But for those who strive to make the most of their fitness, having a deeper knowledge of electrolytes, what they are, and what they do can help you capitalize on your goals.

Let’s learn a little more about electrolytes and just how important they are to our body — especially our fitness potential.

From a professional level to folks taking just a casual approach to fitness, electrolyte infusions give us a huge leg up in our physical activities by restoring our proper levels of electrolytes.

What Are Electrolytes?

So what is it that makes these minerals so special?

Electrolytes are minerals that hold electrical charges, such as phosphate, sodium chloride, magnesium, and potassium. Our body needs electricity to operate, so electrolytes play a significant role in a wide range of body functions like blood pressure and muscle function.

Electrolytes do everything from balancing our body's water levels and pH levels to moving nutrients and waste to and from our cells to muscle contractions to the synaptic firings in our brain.

From a cellular level to bigger picture aspects like our muscle health, electrolytes are an integral part of our body’s ability to keep going — especially when it comes to rehydration.

These minerals have such an important role in our bodily function, especially when it comes to physical activity thanks to the part they play in the function of muscle contractions and balancing our hydration level.

What Are Some Examples of Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are different minerals and compounds you’re likely somewhat familiar with already.

We come across electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in so much of the food we eat or vitamins we take on a daily basis. Each of these electrolytes has different functions, helping our body perform a multitude of different tasks.

Sodium may be easier to find than the others, but you can get other less frequently occurring electrolytes in foods like avocados, leafy greens like spinach and kale, bananas, or legumes like beans and lentils, amongst others.

Of course, the easiest way to be certain you’re getting all of the electrolytes you need is with supplemental infusions like the supplements we offer here at Gainful. When you’re already on a strict diet, getting the electrolytes you need to get the most out of your workout can turn into a struggle.

With our Personalized Hydration pack, chock full of much-needed electrolytes, you’ll ensure you’re getting your body everything it needs to seize on your gains. Personalized Hydration includes four key electrolytes alongside cane sugar so you can rehydrate more quickly and effectively.

What Are the Risks of Electrolyte Imbalance?

We lose electrolytes in many ways, but one of the most common is through sweating. When we sweat, our body is cooling itself so that we are able to stay active for longer periods of time.

However, that cooling process comes at a cost: diminishing our hydration levels as well as our electrolyte levels.

For those of us who have really exerted ourselves out on the field, on the track, or at the gym, you may be familiar with some of the indications of low levels of electrolytes.

Muscle cramps are a prevalent symptom of low electrolytes. You’ll often notice professional athletes sidelined when their muscles cramp up on them due to their insufficient electrolyte levels. Less overt symptoms of insufficient electrolytes include headaches, dizziness, and even nausea.

Whatever the symptoms, electrolyte imbalance not only disrupts the effectiveness of our physical activity but the overall function of our bodies, needlessly putting us at risk when we can cover our electrolyte losses easier than ever with supplemental infusions.

Electrolyte imbalances have the potential to progress beyond a mild nuisance and into fatal risks to our health.

What Are Healthy Electrolyte Levels?

Electrolytes are important to our health, that’s clear. However, gaining a better understanding of how electrolytes keep you healthy, and what your electrolyte levels should be, empowers you to take charge of your wellness.

Understanding what the right electrolyte balances look like allows you to have an even larger role in your own wellbeing and fitness.

Sodium

The easiest electrolyte to include in your diet — think about all the high-sodium processed foods stocking supermarket shelves — the recommended levels of sodium are framed in a maximum suggested amount, seeing as how they’re a little too easy to get.

General recommendations for healthy levels of sodium in your diet max out at 2,300mg daily. However, dietary guidelines recommend taking care not to exceed 1,500mg daily, depending on your levels of activity.

Low sodium levels in your body can result in your feeling sluggish, dizzy, and generally fatigued.

Magnesium

For most adults, the recommended amount of magnesium your body needs ranges between 420mg to 310mg a day. Low magnesium levels can make you feel tired, like low sodium levels. Additionally, low magnesium levels can result in muscle cramps and muscle irritability.

Calcium

Calcium is rich in dairy products like milk and cheese, so like sodium, it’s one of the easier electrolytes to come by.

For most adults, the recommended amount of calcium you need daily is about 1,000mg for both men and women. When you’re not getting enough, you may have muscle cramps, especially in your legs. Additionally, low calcium affects your reflexes, which is certainly a disadvantage for those of us who get our exercise through competitive sports.

Potassium

The recommended amount of potassium for adult men and women is 3,400mg and 2,600mg, respectively.

Like other electrolyte deficiencies, lowered potassium levels may increase your risk of experiencing muscle cramps or spasms. Low potassium levels can also affect your respiratory system, disrupting your ability to get the full, strong breaths you need to keep exercising.

Why Are Electrolytes Key for Peak Performance?

Understanding the importance of your electrolyte balance brings results. Keeping on top of your magnesium, potassium, sodium, and other electrolytes helps enhance your physical abilities. In all likelihood, you already know the boost you get when you consume electrolyte drinks while you’re exerting yourself.

Electrolytes produce results, working to sustain your energy, support your muscles, and maintain your overall health and hydration.

For folks who want to achieve all that we can with our exercise, giving your body the sustenance it needs — like electrolytes — propels you past your limits so that you’re making the absolute most of every mile or every rep.

Get Supplements Tailored to Your Body and Program With Gainful

Exercise is a deeply personal experience. You should only be working out at a level that you’re comfortable with, building your progress as you put in the work.

We want to make that work easier for you, with supplements catered to your needs. Our mission provide personalized performance products and 1:1 Registered Dietitian support to empower active people to reach their unique goals by transforming their health.

We have Registered Dietitians on our team that will help you find the right balance of supplements so that you can unlock all your potential.

Learn more about how we help you be all you can be on our website.

Sources:

Fluid and Electrolyte Balance | Medline Plus

What are Electrolytes? | Cedars-Sinai

Hyponatremia - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

25+ Foods to Replenish Electrolytes: Natural Sources for Hydration | NASM

Magnesium | NIH

Calcium | NIH

Potassium | NIH

How much sodium should I eat per day? | American Heart Association

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