5 Ways To Use Electrolytes
It often feels as if no one can agree on what equates to a healthy lifestyle, but if there’s one thing nutritionists, fitness experts and other health professionals can agree on it’s that being properly hydrated is crucial to our optimal health.
Hydration impacts everything from our brain function, energy, skin health, digestion and muscle health. Normally when people mention ‘hydration’ the first thing you think of is drinking more water. But true hydration requires water and electrolytes.
Cellular hydration is all about fluid balance. Electrolytes are simply minerals which are charged and conduct electrical impulses which your body needs for many processes such as powering your nervous system, muscles and maintaining stable PH levels.
Electrolytes are often lost through sweat or when other issues throw the balance off. We also obtain minerals from our diet, however if our diets aren’t quite as good as they could be or are lacking in key mineral rich foods, we may not have optimal mineral status. In these times, using electrolytes as we drink water can be supportive and restorative.
To recap - the key electrolytes we need include;
- Sodium - helps maintain blood volume and osmotic pressure, important for nerve transmission and muscle contraction.
- Potassium - plays an important role in how nerves transmit and muscles contract as well as supporting normal blood pressure.
- Magnesium - plays a major role in energy production and muscle relaxation.
- Calcium - vital for nerve transmission and muscle contraction.
- Chloride - supports the health of your tendons and joints.
If they are so important, should we drink electrolytes with every glass of water? Not necessarily. There are great times to use electrolytes and other times in which drinking water, herbal teas, coffee and other fluids can be a-ok.
TOP 5 WAYS TO USE ELECTROLYTES
During or Post-Workout:
As we lose electrolytes through sweat, this one may be the most obvious, however plenty of us are chugging down excessive amounts of plain water when we exercise, which can actually be detrimental if it upsets the mineral:water balance. When you go beyond your thirst cues and drink too much water, it can dilute blood electrolyte levels which can lead to issues such as headaches, low energy, cramps, and poor recovery from exercise.
Using electrolytes during, post-workout or after physical activity, such as a hike on a hot day, you can restore and replenish the body, aiding in recovery, joint lubrication (especially important to avoid injury) and avoiding cramps. Some ‘sports drinks’ are created for this exact reason but it is worth noting that many of them also contain high amounts of sugar (some with a whopping 22g per drink) and flavourings alongside the electrolytes.
Whether or not you like to jump out of bed or hit snooze, most of us will wake up in a mild state of dehydration. Our bodies have not had the opportunity to take on fluids whilst we slept and as you snooze your body and brain needs to restore, rejuvenate and detoxify, using your water supply for these processes. The metabolic waste you excrete when you pee in the morning (apologies for the TMI) can be a good indicator on how dehydrated you are; the darker the urine, the more you need to hydrate. In fact, it is thought that we lose an average of 1kg of water weight through the night from these processes, as well as breathing, sweating and any midnight trips to the bathroom. Whilst arguably not ‘essential’ to your health, a large glass of filtered water with added electrolytes allows you to fully replenish and start your day with optimal hydration.
If you’ve ever travelled by air, it’s likely you’ve felt the effects of dehydration on the plane. A mix of low cabin pressure, temperature, oxygen levels and humidity all put your body’s own hydration levels at a disadvantage. In fact some research suggests that in just a 10-hour flight, you can lose up to 2 litres of water (an average a day's worth!) which will make you feel pretty lousy.
Consuming plenty of H20 onboard helps counteract the drying conditions on planes that lead to brain fog, fatigue, swelling, dry and lacklustre skin and bloodshot eyes. Equally important, yet often overlooked, is the impact of dehydration on our immune system. Already with a lot to deal with on a flight, our immune system uses a key defence - our mucus membranes - to trap and filter our airborne bacteria and viruses. When we become dehydrated our mucus membranes, especially the ones in our nose and throat, become dry, leaving us vulnerable. Dehydration can also cause slowed circulation, digestive issues, and fatigue, all of which further impair the immune system.
Top tips here start with increasing your water intake with frequent sips, rather than glugging down glassfuls as the optimal choice. Some people find infusing water with herbs like mint or thyme or fruits such as berries, citrus or even cucumber make water more enjoyable whilst also providing those much needed in-flight antioxidants. And of course, a simple easy tip for rapid replenishments: include electrolytes in your in-flight drinks and when you land.
The benefits of heat therapy and sauna use for our health have a long history and are well documented, and are now a staple for many. There’s no doubt, sweating is part and parcel of the sauna experience and when we sweat, we lose electrolytes. If you’ve ever had a sauna, you may have noticed a salty taste to your skin (don’t pretend you haven't). This is a salty mix of electrolytes which is deposited out into your sweat along with water, which then needs to be replaced. Electrolyte formulas are a great way to quickly rehydrate and replenish lost minerals.
So you’ve enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine and know you’ll feel the after effects the next day? Alcohol is a diuretic, therefore it's really important to drink plenty of water before, during and after drinking. Some people also use electrolytes before they go to bed and as soon as they wake up to combat the dehydrating and drying effects of alcohol and potentially avoid headaches (in of course, a balanced and responsible way).
Choosing your electrolyte:
Just like collagen, not all electrolyte formulas are created equal. Many also come packaged with sugar, artificial sweeteners, fillers and low grade minerals with poor absorbability. A product is only as good as its ingredients and selecting the best ingredients for body and planet is always a priority in Ancient + Brave formulations including our True Hydration.