Go natural with homemade electrolyte drinks.
Ever felt the uncomfortable effects of exercising?
You might not understand exactly what electrolytes are, but chances are you’ve experienced an imbalance. If you’ve ever done any distance running or undertaken a lengthy and grueling bike ride, you probably had some momentary dizziness, nausea, or even an intense headache. Perhaps you even vomited or were struck down by muscle spasms in more extreme circumstances. All of these are symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance in the body.
When we sweat profusely for more than 90 minutes, our hydration levels dramatically reduce, and with that loss of water, we also say goodbye to all important electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, and potassium.
What Is An Electrolyte?
In nutritional terms, electrolytes are essential minerals found in the blood, sweat, and urine. Once dissolved in fluid, these minerals form positive or negative ions that are used for metabolic processes in the body. For us to function at an optimal level, we need electrolytes. They are crucial to muscle contraction, the operation of our nervous system, and maintaining fluid balance while regulating our internal pH. They also are key to ensuring our minds stay sharp and our hearts strong.
A Multimillion-Dollar Industry
Electrolyte replacement drinks make millions for the companies that produce them. Gatorade is one of the most popular. This vibrantly colored beverage was initially marketed to athletes, but it has been widely adopted by all Americans, including children, who’ve bought into the belief that optimal hydration is key, whether or not they actually undertake the level of physical activity that necessitates support of that kind. Along with Red Dye #40, Blue Dye #1, and Yellow Dye #5 — all of which are derived from petroleum and have been linked to cancer, according to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest — the regular versions of these types of drinks can contain up to 36 grams of sugar, while “low-fat” versions are packed with artificial sweeteners that have not yet been researched well enough to ensure their safety. Fruit flavorings often feature in the ingredient list despite clarifications to note that “no real fruit” is added.
So how do we make smart decisions to replenish smartly and healthily?
The three most important electrolytes are potassium, sodium, and chloride, closely followed by magnesium, calcium, and phosphate. Yes, it’s easy to reach for a sports drink when you’re horribly fatigued by over-exertion or dehydration, but did you know that many of these essential minerals can be found in whole food ingredients?
- Coconut Water: This potassium-rich, naturally low-sugar drink offers immediate hydration. Look for one with minimal ingredients and, where possible, one that is organic.
- Watermelon: This super fruit is 90 percent water and contains both potassium and magnesium, ensuring it hydrates while replacing those all-important minerals back into your system.
- Lemon: Simultaneously able to detox the liver, balance pH levels, and boost the immune system, lemons are an excellent source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
- Green vegetables: Kale, Swiss chard, beet greens, and spinach all are packed with electrolytes. They are particularly rich in magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
Homemade Is Best
Crafting your own natural version of an electrolyte replacement drink is much simpler than you’d think. Here’s a quick and easy recipe you can add to or adjust for your tastes.
Tamsin Edwards is a South Lake Tahoe resident who found a fascination for understanding natural ways of treating the body after an autoimmune diagnosis and subsequent desire to limit the amount of toxins she put in her body. She is the marketing manager of Elevate Wellness Center in South Lake Tahoe.
(courtesy of Tamsin Edwards, marketing manager, Elevate Wellness Center in South Lake Tahoe. Serves 1)
6 ounces organic coconut water
2 ounces organic fruit juice
2 to 3 slices fresh ginger root
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Pinch of Himalayan salt
Start with a base of coconut water, then add your preferred organic fruit juice (for flavor and sweetness), fresh ginger root, Himalayan salt (it’s largely formed of sodium chloride, but contains many more trace minerals), and finish with a good squeeze of lemon. You’ll feel on top of your game again in no time.