If you ever heard someone say eating a banana helps prevent muscle cramps, or heard about someone putting pink Himalayan salt in their water when working out, this are because potassium (found in bananas) and sodium (abundant in Himalayan salt) are electrolytes. When it comes to hydration, everyone knows to drink water, but few people realize the importance of electrolytes. Electrolytes play an important part in hydration, carrying tiny, electrically charged particles that help our bodies make the most of the water we drink and liquids we consume. When you drink liquids that contain electrolytes, you’re able to metabolize them more quickly, cutting down on any nutritional loss you might experience in taking electrolyte supplements through pills.
Why are Electrolytes Important?
Believe it or not, salt is good for your hydration. Elements like Sodium, have an important roll in how well your muscles fire and regulate your blood flow. These are obviosuly important for everyone but especially for physically active people. For athletes and dancers, electrolytes are especially important because of the constant loss of water experienced through strenuous activity. Because electrolytes make it easier for your body to stay properly hydrated while drinking less, they not only aid in everyday bodily functions and long term health, they also enhance overall athletic performance and recovery. Strenuous activity like dancing causes you to sweat, losing a percentage of the water in your body you need for everyday functions. Drinking liquids that contain electrolytes before, during, and after your workout helps you to more easily retain and replenish the water you lose. This help occurs from the inside out, starting on a cellular level and extending to help keep muscles and organs functioning properly. Because of this, electrolytes contribute to help you recover more quickly, as your organs and muscles are less likely to be put under the stress they would when your body becomes dehydrated.
How do I Know I Need to Drink More Electrolytes?
If you’re thirsty at any point throughout your day, that’s a red flag. Thirst is a natural indicator of dehydration and should be taken seriously. (Hunger can also be an indication of dehydration, as oftentimes we feel hungry but we’re actually thirsty.) When athletes and dancers are dehydrated, there can be extreme consequences like muscle cramps, longer recovery times, fatigue, and in extreme cases even fainting or injury. Consuming liquid (or food) with electrolytes helps to regulate muscle and nerve function, blood pressure, and pH levels within your blood and body, lowering your risk for these types of consequences. The negative effects of electrolyte deficiency are often seen through the lens of dehydration, but electrolyte deficiency is also a serious issue in and of itself. When you aren’t consuming enough electrolytes, your body reacts negatively through a variety of symptoms, including irregular heartbeat and in some cases, seizures. Because of this, it is important to drink fluids that contain enough electrolytes for your body to continue performing at a high level.
What Are Some Ways I Can Consume Electrolytes?
Natural electrolyte boosters are sea salt, coconut water, lemons, green vegetables, and basically anything that’s high in magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, phosphate, hydrogen, bicarbonate, and chloride. Looking for (or making your own) drinks with these types of natural ingredients is best when you’re trying to consume liquids that contain electrolytes, because it replenishes you without flooding your body with processed or artificial ingredients. While popular soft drinks and sports drinks claim to contain electrolytes and minerals that will replenish your body, many of these are using artificial flavors and sugars that aren’t good for you.
Proper hydration is important for everyone, but especially for those who are more active like athletes and dancers. When you sweat, your body not only loses water, it loses electrolytes too (this is why your sweat is salty) making it important to consume drinks that naturally replenish your body’s supply of electrolytes. If you don’t properly hydrate before, during, and after your workout, you’ll end up dehydrated. To help prevent dehydration and electrolyte deficiency, you can buy electrolyte drinks, or make your own using ingredients like sea salt, lemonade, and coconut water. Keeping your body properly hydrated not only helps your performance and recovery as an athlete or dancer, it helps boost your overall body function, making you happy and healthier over time.