The McGuigan Blog

How Electrolytes Supports Hydration

This week we are going to discuss electrolytes and the role they play in both adequate hydration and health. To give you some background information electrolytes are nutrients and chemicals found in the body and they are calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus and chloride which some of us may have heard of. These electrolyte based nutrients play various roles within the body which include:

 

  • Assisting muscle contractions and function (including the heart)
  • Maintaining fluid balance
  • Nerve signalling and function
  • Stabilising blood pressure

 

They are found in bodily fluids which means they can be depleted with exercise due to sweating, so those that train regularly and/or hard may need to pay attention to keep electrolyte levels in check. A few signs and symptoms of depleted electrolyte levels are some of the following:

 

  • Muscle aches and spasms
  • Insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Blood pressure change
  • Nervous system disorders

 

The above should begin to highlight an importance of electrolytes and how optimal hydration can be more than simply drinking enough water (though that’s an excellent place to start). If you have been sick or unwell and have been suffering from vomiting, sweats or diarrhoea this is a major cause of electrolyte loss, so after is a critical time to replenish stores. With that in mind let’s look at the nutritional sources we have available to ensure we are getting enough through our diet:

 

  • Magnesium – found in dark green leafy vegetables (spinach and kale etc), pumpkin and squash seeds
  • Calcium – found in yoghurt or high-quality dairy products
  • Potassium – found in broccoli, tomatoes, winter squash, bananas, kiwis, citrus fruits and coconut water
  • Sodium and Chloride – found in table salt, tomatoes, seaweed, celery and olives (goes without saying NOT to overdo the salt, moderation is key!)
  • Phosphorus – found in high-quality meats, milk and nuts

 

There are also now electrolyte drinks, tablets and powders that we can buy which can be found in most health stores or online. However, are only necessary if you have been very sick or unwell (vomiting, sweats etc), are training extremely long and hard or training in hot temperatures and sweating more than usual. Getting them in naturally is always the preferred option especially as it means eating healthful foods to get your quota.

– Chris