If you're into your exercise or even follow sports(or use social media for long enough at a time), chances are, you have heard of electrolytes. They're one of the science-y health and fitness words that makes people feel like they're healthy without actually knowing what they are, and unless you need to, they aren't particularly interesting.

They are, however, essential to keeping you up and running, and even more so in keeping you healthy. You need electrolytes to do some of the most basic bodily functions, after all. But still, we're getting ahead of ourselves.

We're here to help you learn everything you need to know about electrolytes, what they are, and where they come from all in one place. Listen up.

What are Electrolytes

Let’s start with the very basic’s; what actually are electrolytes. They sound complicated after all, right?

Actually, they are just like micronutrients like salts and minerals that get broken down by your body once you consume them in your diet (and they're in way more than you think, but we'll get to that). Once you've consumed them, that's when the magic happens. They turn into liquid and get absorbed into your blood for your body to use wherever it needs to. In a nutshell, that's it.

Typically, they look like this:

  • sodium
  • chloride
  • potassium
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • bicarbonate
  • phosphate

What do Electrolytes do?

 

Person using water while running

 

Now that we know what exactly they are, we need to look at what exactly it is that they do. They're vital for a lot of bodily processes, and they're needed for way more than you might think.

Hydration

One of the most common uses for electrolytes that people look to utilise for performance is how they help with hydration. They make it possible after all, since they are what allow your water to move in and out of your cells, and to what extent that will be. You need water to do just about everything, after all.

Nervous System

The next go-to point we tend to see electrolytes at work is in the central nervous system. That covers just about everything in your whole body. Your nervous system works by sending and receiving electrical signals across your entire body, and without electrolytes, they couldn't get very far. Having enough of them it essential here again to keep things running as they are supposed to.

Muscle Use

Finally, we'll have a look at how your muscles need electrolytes to function too. Although they really need a combination of the two points above, they need sorting else to work too. The movement of your muscles as they do their thing it's totally reliant of them as well. The entire process of muscular action depends on them being present.

 

Where do you get them?

So we know how important all of these things are to everyday life, and even more to exercise but where can you get them. Generally speaking, you get more than enough from a regular balanced diet, but just in case you need a fix (or you have a hangover), let’s look at some electrolyte replenishing foods.

Fruit and supplements are generally considered to be the best sources of them since they are absolutely packed full of the stuff, but there's more to it than that as well.

As we said, it comes from just about everything. There's an amazingly useful table on Medical News Today that shows all of this too:

 

Electrolyte sources

 

To summarise, electrolytes keep you going strong and are responsible for your nerves, muscles and hydration above all else. Make sure you keep topped up and eat a healthy, balanced diet. If you’re about to do a workout or have a long game ahead of you, get topped up.

 

 

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If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.