When You Need More Electrolytes

This summer’s global heat wave means there’s a greater potential for dehydration, and excessive sweating means electrolyte losses. Electrolytes are essential for fundamental functions like the electrical signals needed for brain function, muscle contraction, and fluid balance. Important electrolytes include sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonates.

Though many Americans fall short on two key electrolytes, calcium and potassium, it is best to get these from food. They are abundant in leafy green vegetables and fruit. 

The key electrolyte in many drinks that are marketed for hydration is sodium. On average, American adults already consume about 150-percent of the recommended maximum amount of sodium: 3400 mg vs the recommended 2300 mg max per day.

  • Sweating mainly leads to losses in sodium and chloride, with smaller losses in potassium, magnesium, and calcium. But they all work together to keep the body hydrated. 
  • The amount of salt lost in sweat varies from person to person. Some people are even “salty sweaters,” which is largely genetic, and it means they lose more sodium in their sweat. A telltale sign is white salty stains on skin and clothes after a workout. 
  • Basic table salt is made up of 40% sodium and 60% chloride, and many hydration drinks contain about ⅛ teaspoon’s worth of salt. 

Under normal conditions, most people have zero need for specially formulated electrolyte beverages. However, there are certain cases when it’s important to stay hydrated with both water and electrolytes.

To learn more about the benefits of electrolytes, when you do and don’t need to seek out special supplements, and some simple ways to get your electrolytes without all the added sugar, check out my interview with MindBodyGreen here.

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