Getting electrolytes in isn't just for when you've thrown up and have lost those stores or when you've just finished a major sweaty workout session. For instance, here's what to eat before and after yoga. Still, your body needs a good electrolyte balance to maintain bodily function, so it's important to get enough in the day to stay replenished, not just in these particular moments.
So, what are they, exactly? "Electrolytes are minerals in the body that carry an electric charge. These include sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2+), bicarbonate (HCO3-), magnesium (Mg2+), chloride (C1-), and hydrogen phosphate (HPO42-). Every single system depends on having a stable electrolyte balance, from the nervous system to the acid-base balance of our blood, to the contraction of our muscles," says Dr. Michelle Davenport, PhD, RD, Co-Founder of Raised Real.
"That's why severe losses of electrolyte balance, when we have major loss of bodily fluids such as with diarrhea or vomiting, can be fatal," she adds. That's also why it's important to restore your electrolyte balance after a long run. (Or, when you're hungover, too.)
Electrolytes also spark energy and jump-start the metabolism, thus reducing inflammation and preventing digestive problems. What's more, electrolyte stores also help speed recovery from injury or sore/damaged muscles.
Though, most people think "Gatorade" when it comes to electrolytes, and you can't sip a sugary sports drink all day. (Those calories and sugars add up.) Luckily, here are a few other sources of electrolytes to be mindful of. And they all have tons of other nutritional benefits, too!
Bone broth contains all five of the major electrolytes calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorous, and potassium, in comparison to "electrolyte-infused" sports drinks that typically only contain two of the major electrolytes, says Soo-Ah Landa, founder and CEO of BRU bone broth. "Bone broth also contains glucosamine, proline, glycine, arginine, in addition to easily digestible gelatin (a gut mending protein) and collagen," she adds.
Here's the best part: These minerals are released over the course of several hours, as the bone softens and breaks down in the simmering heat, she says, so it'll give you a steady stream of electrolyte power. (Here's a great chicken broth recipe.)
What's that? Well, it's good for you, so here's the gist. Cactus water is high in electrolytes and can be super refreshing, so it's a killer post-workout sip. "It is high in taurine, electrolytes and contains betalians. I also like the fact that it is low in sugar and half the calories of coconut water," says Dr. Elizabeth Trattner.
While it has more sugar than cactus water, it's still an excellent option. "Coconut water, which is packed with potassium (600 mg in 1 cup)," is a top source of electrolytes, says Davenport, and it's really tasty. And, versatile! Here are some interesting ways to use coconut water.
It comes in several flavors, like pineapple, mango, and even chocolate or coffee, so have some fun mixing it up. You can also add as a base to smoothies and juices, too.
Leafy greens are pretty good electrolyte options, says Davenport, and most people don't realize this. (Among the other laundry list of health benefits, of course.)
For instance, "kale, which is high in calcium (101 mg in 1 cup of chopped kale), and spinach, which is high in magnesium (157 milligrams in 1 cup)," are great for smoothies, side veggie dishes, and salads. And, you can always top with extra protein for some fuel and satiety.
Don't think pickles are only a garnish for hamburgers or deli sandwiches. You should be eating pickles if you're looking for a way to get some electrolytes in, says Davenport.
"Pickle, which is high in both sodium and chloride (85 mg sodium, 128 mg chloride in 1 spear)," she says, is a fantastic option, and it's something you can quickly eat in a pinch for an immediate shot of electrolyte benefits. Plus, here's how to make your own pickles at home.