Most of us think of electrolytes as something we get in sports drinks like Gatorade. However, it might surprise you to learn that a number of common foods and drinks can serve as a great source of electrolytes. That makes figuring out how to get electrolytes much easier than you might imagine.
Here we will cover a brief overview of electrolytes as well as how to best replenish your body’s needs aside from common sports drinks.
Let’s get started!
What Are Electrolytes
At a basic level, electrolytes are substances that have a positive or negative electrical charge when dissolved in water. These charges help our bodies perform a variety of essential processes including enabling muscle contractions like our heartbeat, transmitting nerve signals, and much more!
Although electrolytes are often thought of as mysterious substances, chances are you have heard of one or more electrolytes in the human body. Here’s a short list of electrolytes:
- Sodium (Na+)
- Potassium (K+)
- Calcium (Ca+)
- Bicarbonate (HCO3-)
- Magnesium (M+)
- Chloride (Cl-)
- Phosphate (P-)
Maintaining a proper balance of these electrolytes is essential to good health. Our kidneys and specific hormones are responsible for regulating the concentration of each electrolyte. As a result, imbalances in electrolyte concentrations may be signs of kidney problems or a more serious health issue.
Is Sugar An Electrolyte?
Simply put, sugar is not an electrolyte. However, it still plays an important role in electrolytes and rehydration. For example, glucose may help transport and absorption of key electrolytes, such as sodium, throughout the body. In addition, sugar may help improve the voluntary consumption of electrolytes through improved taste preference.
Is Salt An Electrolyte?
Salt is an electrolyte as it is composed of sodium and chloride. Sodium and chloride are extremely important; they contribute to the concentration balance and charges across different cell membranes. Sodium, in particular, plays a critical role in skeletal muscle contraction. Additionally, sodium is one of the most common electrolyte imbalances in the body.
Why Are Electrolytes Important
Electrolytes are important because you can’t survive without them. They enable muscle contractions like our heartbeat, and they regulate basic functions related to our nerves and brain. When our bodies don’t have a good balance of electrolytes, these systems don’t function properly. This can result in side effects such as fatigue, headaches, nausea, blood pressure changes, and muscle cramps. You may also feel less energized or simply “off.”
In order to feel your best and for your body to function well, you need electrolytes.
Do Electrolytes Give You Energy
Electrolytes give you energy, although not necessarily in the way you think. Electrolytes support various functions throughout the body, that affect and control energy levels. For example, our heart relies on a variety of electrolytes in order to contract and pump blood throughout the body. Additionally, other electrolytes support reactions such as the citric acid cycle, which allows us to convert stored energy into usable energy. So while electrolytes may not give you a “boost” of energy in the way you think, they certainly give you energy.
What Has Electrolytes
It may surprise you to learn that electrolytes can be found in many common foods and drinks. For example, milk is a great source of calcium, while most fruit juices provide a significant level of magnesium, potassium, and/or phosphorus. In addition, foods like bananas and other fruits can provide a great source of potassium.
What Foods Have Electrolytes?
Whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and eggs, are all great sources of electrolytes. Here is a short list of specific electrolytes the body needs and the foods that contain them:
Sodium (Na+) – Eggs, salmon, cheese, etc.
Potassium (K+) – Bananas, avocados, potatoes, beans, etc.
Calcium (Ca+) – Milk, collard greens, soybeans, etc.
Bicarbonate (HCO3-) – Baked goods, and products with baking soda
Magnesium (M+) – Coffee, nuts, seeds, whole grains, etc.
Chloride (Cl-) – Tomatoes, lettuce, celery, olives, etc.
Phosphate (P-) – Chicken, turkey, sardines, etc.
Please note, this list is not a suggestion or recommendation to change your diet, but rather to show that many common foods and drinks are a great source of electrolytes. These foods and drinks can help to replenish electrolytes in the body that you may be lacking. As with anything else, balance is key. Consume a balanced diet from a variety of natural sources, and your electrolyte levels will likely be good to go!
Does Water Have Electrolytes?
Distilled water does not have electrolytes. However, most tap and bottled water contains trace amounts of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
But just drinking water won’t necessarily replace the electrolytes you’ve lost if you’ve just finished a period of intense exercise where you have been sweating. In these cases, electrolyte-enhanced water options or coconut water could be better choices to replenish your body’s needs.
Does Vitamin Water Have Electrolytes?
Vitamin water does contain a small number of electrolytes. However, similar to its unflavored counterpart, vitamin water will likely not replenish the necessary electrolytes following a period of intense workout. According to the nutrition label, vitamin water contains no sodium as well as a small amount of potassium and an insignificant amount of magnesium. Unfortunately, these electrolytes are also the most common deficiencies meaning most people will need something more than Vitamin Water to meet their needs.
Does Powerade Have Electrolytes?
Powerade does contain electrolytes sodium, potassium, and magnesium. However, while it contains 10% of the recommended daily value for sodium, it contains less than 2% for magnesium and potassium. In addition, one bottle of Powerade also contains 35g of added sugar which is nearly 70% the recommended daily intake. On a positive note, Powerade does contain a variety of B-complex vitamins B-3, B-6, and B-12, which support energy metabolism.
Does Pickle Juice Have Electrolytes?
Pickle juice does have some electrolytes with the amount varying dramatically by brand. For example, one leading brand contains 470mg of sodium and 47mg of potassium per serving. However, for some people, electrolyte replenishment may not be the main reason to incorporate pickle juice. Some studies suggest that pickle juice may effectively reduce cramps through various mechanisms that are not fully understood. In other words, for individuals suffering from chronic cramps, it may be worth incorporating pickle juice as a part of a balanced overall diet.
Does Lemon Juice Concentrate Have Electrolytes?
Lemon juice concentrate does not have a significant amount of electrolytes. While lemons and freshly squeezed lemon juice provide a good electrolyte source, lemon juice from concentrate does not retain all of the vitamins and minerals. However, this may vary based on the brand and product of lemon juice and concentrate.
How To Get Electrolytes
Eating a balanced diet is the best answer for how to get electrolytes. However, sometimes you may need the best bang for your buck quickly. For example, during intense exercise or severe fluid loss, you might need fast electrolyte replenishment. In that case, here are 4 great options.
Milk is a great source for a variety of electrolytes. Packed with a variety of essential nutrients, 1 cup of whole milk contains various electrolytes including calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, and phosphorus. Milk is also a significant source of protein and carbohydrates which add in muscle building following exercise.
Electrolyte tablets are another viable option for replenishment. All you have to do is drop these dry tablets into your favorite beverage and stir or shake to dissolve. In addition, most of these tablets tend to be low calories with no added sugar making them a perfect option for the diet conscious. Most will contain a significant amount of sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium at the minimum, although this may vary by brand.
Pedialyte can be considered the classic electrolyte replenishment. As the name suggests, it was created as a rapid electrolyte replenishment formula – specifically for babies. The classic formula contains a significant amount of sodium, potassium, and chloride, with newer offerings containing additional electrolytes.
Coconut water is another great option for replenishing electrolytes. In fact, a single serving of Vita-Coco contains a range of electrolytes, including sodium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and even magnesium. Additionally, Vita-Coco is available at most grocery stores and gas stations making it highly accessible and easy to find.
What Foods Have Electrolytes
There are many foods that are rich in electrolytes. For example, bananas, avocados, and lemons are rich in potassium and a variety of nuts and leafy greens are rich in magnesium. The key is not to overconsume any one of these foods, but rather to eat a varied, nutrient-rich diet that ensures you’re getting a balanced mix of electrolytes.
Although, sodium is an electrolyte as well, be wary of chasing salty snacks to get your fix for this electrolyte, as many of these may contain processed ingredients that can be harmful to your health.
How To Replenish Electrolytes
The easiest answer for how to replenish electrolytes is to maintain a balanced diet. However, your body will naturally go through periods where it is low on electrolytes, for example, when you lose fluid through exercise and sickness. Thus, it is important to know how to replenish electrolytes to restore balance to your body when you need it.