“Electrolytes” has become a household word, thanks to some sports drinks, but how much do you really know about them? You may have been told that electrolytes are good for you and it’s ideal to have them when you are sick, but when you’re sick, a sugary sports drink is the last thing your body needs. You also can get electrolytes from healthy foods.


The Facts

Electrolytes are solids, liquids or gases that contain electrically conducting ions. The general public wasn’t too aware of the term “electrolytes” until some sports drinks began making claims that they had more electrolytes than water. People lose electrolytes when they sweat and need to replenish them to regain energy.


Types

The best source of electrolytes is not from drinks, but from food. Fruit and vegetables, even canned or frozen vegetables, such as corn, carrots and green beans, are high in electrolytes, as are bread, milk and fruit. Water with a small pinch of salt, sugar and flour added to it will provide lots of electrolytes for your body. Tap water or spring water does not contain electrolytes.


Misconceptions

When you have been exercising, do not drink large amounts of water to hydrate. It is best to drink small amounts of water while eating an energy bar, which is a source of electrolytes. Sports drinks are usually full of sugar, but sugar-free options are available. It is important not to drink too much during strenuous physical activity, whether you are drinking water or a sports drink. While your body is still active, it will have difficulty absorbing the electrolytes until it has had a small period of rest.


Benefits

The benefits of drinking or eating electrolytes to replenish your active body include less cramping, increased stamina and less soreness after physical activity. If you wake up in the middle of the night with muscle cramps or spasms, toss a pinch of salt into a water glass and drink a few sips. Your body will replenish itself overnight and you will not experience the same severity of muscle cramps the next morning.


Warning

Beef jerky is one food that is high in electrolytes that should not be eaten regularly. Smoked foods contain carcinogens, and while most beef jerky eaters do not eat enough jerky to become ill, it is important to eat it sparingly. Do not eat beef jerky more than a few times a week. Because beef jerky is very salty, it is a great source of electrolytes, but not a great source of anything else.

References and Resources

Cramp No More: Sugar-Free Electrolytes