Electrolytes | Why you Need them and How they Help

Can Electrolytes Help?

We all love a good sports or energy drink, and if you look at the label you’ll most likely see that they contain electrolytes!

What are Electrolytes

Electrolytes are ions that carry an electrical charge and can travel in and out of cells. These ions come in many different forms but the most common are: Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Chloride and Magnesium.

Electrolytes have multiple roles on the body from normal body function to cell membrane stability. However, the main role of electrolytes is to trigger an action potential.

Action potentials are signals sent from the brain to your muscles to activate or contract your muscles.


How do Electrolytes help Muscle Contraction

By having these electrolytes such as sodium and potassium travelling in and out of cells, the charge of the cell switches between negative and positive. This process continues all the way down nerve cells and onto other nerves until it reaches a muscle.

Upon the signal reaching the muscle, the electrolyte calcium is released into the muscle and forces muscle contraction.

So if you have a reduced level of electrolytes it will lead to a weaker and reduced muscle contraction.


What causes Electrolyte Deficiency

  • Potassium –  excessive alcohol consumption or vomiting and can lead to irregular heartbeat
  • Sodium – dehydration and can lead to muscle cramps
  • Calcium – Diet (not consuming dairy) can lead to fragile bones
  • Chloride – Inefficient water uptake and dehydration
  • Magnesium –  diet and can lead to body dysfunction

So are sports drinks the answer

Now although sports drinks are very calorie dense and aren’t the healthiest if drinks due to being packed full of sugar… they might be better than water. If you are depleted after a long workout or are doing long periods of exercise then they might help you to perform better for longer.

A great alternative to these expensive sports drinks is natural coconut water such as vita coco.

When you think positive, good things happen – Matt Kemp

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Harmanhealth