You’ve just finished a bomb workout and you’re sweating all over. Thinking you’re doing what’s best for your body you grab that bottled water that’s been calling your name and take a series of big gulps. Finally, you think you are feeling satisfied when all of a sudden you feel some cramping in your legs. You could’ve sworn you stretched prior to your workout! What’s the problem?
It may very well be that you have not consumed enough electrolytes or have lost a lot of it during your sweaty workout.
WHAT ARE ELECTROLYTES?
Electrolytes are responsible for our body’s water balance as well as a variety of functions such as keeping our heart pumping, muscle movement, nerve activity, bone health and more. The following 7 electrolytes are important for maintaining good health.
Helps with overall cell function, fluid balance within and outside of cells. Excess potassium is released through urine by way of the kidneys. Normal levels of potassium range from 3.6-5.0 mmol/L (millimoles per liter). Too little potassium (hypokalemia) can result in muscle cramps, feeling weak, fatigue, risk of kidney stones, loss of calcium in urine and constipation. Hyperkalemia (too much potassium due to kidneys not filtering for example) can cause swollen and painful muscles, breakdown of muscles, heart palpitations, heart attack and prickling sensations in hands/feet.
How much potassium should I be getting?
According to National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements you should be getting the following amount of potassium:
Age 0-6 months: 400 mg(milligrams)
Age 7-12 months: 860 mg
Age 1-3 years: 2,000 mg
Age 4-8 years: 2,300 mg
Boys Age 9-13 years: 2,500 mg
Girls Age 9-13 years: 2,300 mg
Boys Age 14-18 years: 3,000 mg
Girls Age 14-18 years: 2,300 mg
Men Age 19-50: 3,400 mg
Women Age 19-50: 2,600 mg
Men Age 51+: 3,400 mg
Women Age 51+: 2,600 mg
Pregnant Teens (Age 14-18): 2,600 mg
Breastfeeding Teens (Age 14-18): 2,500mg
Pregnant Women: 2,900 mg
Breastfeeding Women: 2,800 mg
Some great food sources of potassium are:
Helps to regulate fluid outside of cells as well as help our muscles and nerves function properly. Excess salt is released in urine by way of the kidneys. Normal levels of sodium in the body are between 13.5 -14.5 mmol/L (millimoles per liter). Low blood serum levels of sodium (hyponatremia) can result in nausea, confusion and headache. Hypernatremia (high sodium) levels can result in some symptoms such as restlessness, rapid, shallow breathing and swelling/fluid retention.
How much sodium should I be getting daily?
There has been differences in opinion on how much to get daily. According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 it is based on the maximum amount of salt intake daily which goes as follows:
Age 1-3: 1,200 mg (milligrams)
Age 4-8: 1,500 mg
Age 9 -13: 1,800
Age 14+: 2,300
Some food sources of sodium, according to the CDC here include:
Most foods in their natural state have some level of sodium in them, but it is not nearly the high amount we see in fast foods, packaged foods, canned foods and believe it or not certain brands of water. So when purchasing certain foods of this nature, check the labels for things like ‘added salt’, ‘sodium’, ‘sodium chloride’, etc. Even when it doesn’t taste like it has a lot of salt, it is best to check to see if it was added. You’ll be surprised, as you become more conscious in reading nutritional labels, how and where sodium is used in our food.
Helps to build strong bones and teeth, aids in muscle contraction, nerve signals and hormone secretion. It is absorbed in the intestines and is dependent upon levels of Vitamin D3 hormone in the form of 1,25 dihydroxy as well as the parathyroid hormone levels. The later two hormones are also dependent on kidney function. Normal blood serum levels of calcium are 8.6-10.3mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) according to UCLA here. If calcium levels are too low (hypocalcemia) it can result in numbness, muscle cramps, low appetite, abnormal heart rhythm and more. Hypercalcemia, too much calcium, can result in kidney stones, calcification of arteries, veins and other parts of the body.
How much calcium should I be getting daily? (according to NIH Office of Dietary Supplements)
Age 0-6 months: 200 mg(milligrams)
Age 7-12 months: 260 mg
Age 1-3 years: 700 mg
Age 4-8 years: 1,000 mg
Age 9-13 years: 1,300 mg
Age 14-18 years: 1,300
Adults Age 19-50: 1,000 mg
Men Age 50-70 years: 1,000 mg
Women Age 50-70: 1,200 mg
Pregnant Teens (Age 14-18): 1,300 mg
Breastfeeding Teens (Age 14-18): 1,300mg
Pregnant Women: 1,000 mg
Breastfeeding Women: 1,000 mg
Some food sources of calcium:
Cereal (10% Calcium fortified)
Responsible for bone, teeth. soft tissue health and cell energy. It is dependent upon calcium levels, Vitamin D3 hormone, parathyroid hormone. Kidneys help to get rid of excess phosphorous. Normal phosphorous levels in adults range from 2.8-4.5 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) according to Medline here. Hypophosphatemia (too little phosphorous) can result in feeling irritable, confused, having low appetite, numbness, weak bones and more. High phosphorous can cause itchy skin, joint pain, rashes, stroke, heart attack.
How much phosphorous should we be getting daily according to NIH here?
Age 0-6 months: 100 mg(milligrams)
Age 7-12 months: 275 mg
Age 1-3 years: 460 mg
Age 4-8 years: 500 mg
Age 9-18 years: 1,250 mg
Adults Age 19-50: 700 mg
Pregnant Teens (Age 14-18): 1,250 mg
Breastfeeding Teens (Age 14-18): 1,250mg
Pregnant Women: 700 mg
Breastfeeding Women: 1700 mg
Some food sources of phosphorous include:
Chicken (breast roasted)
Lentils and beans
Aids the processing of energy in our cells, movement of muscles, bone health, (according to NLM here) as well as synthesis of DNA, nerve signals, protein metabolism, blood sugar control, blood pressure and so much more according to NIH here. Kidneys help to regulate how much magnesium is present in the body. Normal blood serum levels of magnesium are 0.75-0.95 mmol/L (millimoles per liter). Hypomagnesemia (low levels of magnesium) can result in stiff muscles, muscle cramps, arrhythmia, changes in personality, tingling, numbness. Some symptoms of hypermagnesemia (too much) can cause face flushing, slow heartbeat, slow breathing, slow reflexes and muscle paralysis (according to Drugs site here).
How much magnesium do I need daily?
According to the NIH here:
Age 0-6 months: 30 mg(milligrams)
Age 7-12 months: 75 mg
Age 1-3 years: 80 mg
Age 4-8 years: 130 mg
Age 9-13 years: 240 mg
Boys Age 14-18: 410 mg
Girls Age 14-18: 360 mg
Men Age 19-30: 400 mg
Women Age 19-30: 310 mg
Men Age 31-50: 420 mg
Women Age 31-50: 320 mg
Men Age 51+: 420 mg
Women Age 51+: 320 mg
Pregnant Teens (Age 14-18): 400 mg
Breastfeeding Teens (Age 14-18): 360mg
Pregnant Women (Age 19-30): 350 mg
Breastfeeding Women (Age 19-30): 310 mg
Pregnant Women (Age 31-50): 360 mg
Breastfeeding Women (Age 31-50): 320 mg
Some foods that provide magnesium:
Cereal (10% Daily Value of Magnesium)
Regulates the acidity levels in your body by way of your blood (which should have a PH level between 7.3-7.5. The blood brings bicarb to the lungs and is expelled as Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Bicarbonate also helps to neutralize excess stomach acid. It is regulated by the kidneys that help to filter the blood. Normal levels of bicarbonate in the blood are between 22-29 mEq/L (milliequivalent per Liter). If blood serum bicarbonate is too low you can experience tiredness, rapid heartbeat, nausea/vomiting and heavy breathing according to Health Checkup here. If too high (metabolic alkalosis) it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, disorientation and agitation according to Healthline here.
Considering Bicarbonate is essentially part of the metabolic process of the body, natural food sources and daily intake recommendations are not provided. Staying healthy by having a balanced eating regimen and keeping your organs healthy will keep the blood serum levels within normal range.
Helps to balance Ph levels, fluid and nerve signals. It is also important for digestion. Kidneys play a role in ensuring the balance of chloride as well. Normal levels of chloride in the body are between 98-107 mEd/L (milliequivalents per Liter). Signs of hypochloremia (too little chloride due to low bicarb levels) are vomiting and congestive heart failure. Hyperchloremia (too much chloride) can show as dry mucous membranes, high blood pressure, muscle weakness, etc. as noted here.
How much chloride do I need daily?
According to the Food Pyramid here:
Age 0-6 months: 180 mg(milligrams)
Age 7-12 months: 570 mg
Age 1-3 years: 1,500 mg
Age 4-8 years: 1,900 mg
Adults Age 9-50 years: 2,300 mg
Adults Age 50-70: 2,000 mg
Adults Age 70+: 1,800 mg
Pregnancy & Breastfeeding: 2,300 mg
Some foods that provide chloride:
Getting in as many electrolytes as possible in our food in simple ways are very convenient. The following are some examples of things you can consume together, along with the individual foods listed above:
*~ Smoothies containing a mix of fruits and veggies, chia seeds, peanut butter, oats, yogurt, etc.
*~ Salads that contains spinach, dried fruit such as raisins, chia/pumpkin seeds, chicken, etc. Feel free to experiment/mix it up.
~* Soups with beans and a variety of veggies such as potatoes, celery, brown rice, etc.
*~ Sports drinks typically have a balance of some electrolytes while naturally including water to help with hydration. They can useful for an immediate replenishing of electrolytes and it is no wonder it is pushed towards use for athletes.
It is clear the more you workout and sweat the more you’ll need to replace these electrolytes. Electrolytes work together so that our bodies can remain in a state of homeostasis (balance). It also helps to prevent pain and misfunction of our cells. It is imperative that we take in the correct foods, and as I like to say, “eat your colors” to ensure you are getting a variety of nutrients and electrolytes to help keep you functioning in tip-top shape. So yes you can grab a water after your workout or spending lots of time in the heat, just make sure to also eat a variety of foods to help replenish what was lost.
Disclaimer: Remember to speak with your doctor on how to do this specifically for your needs, especially if you have underlying health issues such as reduced renal function (as has been my personal case that I share in my story here) (video version here) or if you decide to take certain herbs or supplements.
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Remember to stay active in your self-care!