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What Are Electrolytes?

Keeping your body properly hydrated not only helps you to avoid dehydration, but makes it less likely that your electrolytes will be imbalanced. Keep reading to find out more about why electrolytes are so important.
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When it comes to keeping your health in great shape and having effective workouts, maintaining a healthy balance of electrolytes is critical. With the summer approaching and the mercury levels rising, you're probably going to be spending a lot of time outdoors. In the summer, particularly, dehydration, sweating and heat exhaustion become common occurrences—all of which can be factors in fluid loss and possibly contribute to electrolyte imbalances. This may have a negative impact on your athletic performance and health in general. You're probably familiar with the term “electrolytes” and its association with dehydration, but do you really know what electrolytes are and why they're so critical in maintaining overall health? 

What They Are
Electrolytes are electrically-charged minerals in your body that have important roles in maintaining your health through a variety of ways, many involving your muscles. Here are several of the most significant electrolytes found in your body and their purposes:

  • Sodium: Your body relies on sodium to help muscles and nerves function properly while maintaining a balanced fluid supply and balance of acid and base. If your blood sodium is too low, you may experience muscle cramps during your workouts. 
  • Potassium: This mineral is also necessary for proper muscle function, and it works to keep your muscles from cramping when working together with sodium. 
  • Chloride: Necessary for helping to maintain a healthy blood balance, chloride levels are also responsible for keeping your blood from becoming too basic, alkaline or acidic. 
  • Calcium: In addition to being essential for bone health, calcium also works to promote contraction and expansion of muscles and blood vessels, cause hormone secretion and encourage communication between enzymes and the nervous system. 
  • Bicarbonate: Working as a buffer for lactic acid in the blood, bicarbonate also helps maintain a normal pH balance. Research suggests that it may be able to provide benefits for improving certain aspects of short, high-intensity exercises, like reducing fatigue and boosting performance. 
  • Magnesium: Required for normal nerve, enzyme and muscle function, magnesium is also important for maintaining a healthy heart, blood and bones. 
Negative Effects of Electrolyte Imbalances
When your electrolyte balance is thrown out of whack—whether it's because of dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea or intense sweating—it's usually due to a disturbance with your fluid levels. However, other conditions like kidney disease, heart failure, cancer treatment and certain other drugs can also make your electrolyte levels dwindle. A lack of sufficient electrolytes can stir up negative physical symptoms, causing you to feel sick; however, having too many electrolytes, or more of one than the other, can also be problematic. According to Medical News Today, electrolyte imbalances can manifest through a variety of symptoms:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Twitching
  • Numbness
  • Problems with bones
  • Dizziness and/or confusion
Replenishing Electrolytes
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, your electrolyte imbalance might be severe and you should seek medical attention immediately. If you have any questions regarding your electrolyte balance, you should speak to your doctor. However, if you're simply looking to provide a boost to your electrolytes and prevent dehydration, whether it's during an intense workout or just an outdoor summer activity, there is a myriad of products that can help provide hydrating support. Adding an electrolyte-boosting tablet to your bottle of water, like these from Nuun, can help keep your mineral levels balanced and your body fueled with fluids. Additionally, a sport electrolyte supplement like Vega's Electrolyte Sport Hydrator can flood your body with mineral support from potassium, chloride, magnesium and more to promote and maintain great muscle function during your workouts. Trace Minerals Research also makes an electrolyte liquid which can be added to your beverage of choice to amplify the mineral support in your body. 

The most important thing to remember when it comes to keeping your electrolytes balanced is to keep yourself properly hydrated, especially during the summer when heat and humidity can contribute to dehydration. If you are experiencing any symptoms out of the ordinary, you should always talk to your doctor to rule out an electrolyte imbalance or other condition.

Check out our selection of electrolyte-boosting products and other wellness essentials to keep you healthy and hydrated all summer long at eVitamins. Come back next time for more health news!

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