Electrolytes


electrolytes_header

By: Nikki Nies

I’m sure you’ve heard Gatorade’s advertisements of their load of electrolytes in every drink.  If you’re like me, you may have wondered from time to time, what does that mean?

As minerals, electrolytes become ionized when placed in a solution.  They are anywhere in one’s body that contains liquid—blood, cells, cells surroundings.  For one’s body to properly function, balance of electrolytes is ideal.

Examples include bicarbonate, calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium.

Sodium:

  • Major positive ion in fluid outside of cells
  • Excess sodium’s excreted in urine
  • Regulates total amount of water in body
  • Movement of sodium’s critical for electrical signals of brain, nervous and muscle systems
  • With increased concentration aka hypernatremia–occurs with excess sodium in relation to water, which causes: kidney disease, inadequate water intake, loss of water due to vomiting and diarrhea
  • With decreased concentration: Aka hyponatremia, which is increased water in relation to sodium.  Occurs with burn victims, liver and kidney disease, those with congestive heart failure
  • Normal level: 135-145 milliEquivilent (mEq/L)

Potassium: 

  • Major positive ion inside cells
  • Essential for normal cell function—regulates heartbeat, function the muscles
  • With increased concentration: Aka hyperkalemia, Can be caused by problems with kidneys or being predisposed by meds
  • With decreased concentration: Aka hypokalemia. Can be caused by kidney diseases, heavy sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, eating disorders, meds
  • Normal level: 3.5-5.0 mEq/L

Chloride: 

  • Major anion in fluid outside cell and blood
  • Helps body maintain balance of fluids
  • With increased concentration: Can be caused by diarrhea, kidney disease, overactivity of parathyroid glands
  • With decreased concentration: Caused by urine, sweat and stomach secretions
    , excessive loss can be caused by adrenal gland, kidney disease or vomiting
  • Normal Level: 98-108 millimoles/liter

Bicarbonate: 

  • Acts as buffer to maintain normal levels of acidity in blood
  • Acidity’s impacted by foods and meds, one’s kidneys and lungs
  • With increased concentration: may be caused by respiratory function, kidney disease, metabolic conditions
  • Normal level: 22-30 mmol/L

For endurance athletes and those training for long intervals of time (i.e. for marathon), one doesn’t have rely on sports drinks to replace the lost electrolytes.  You can turn to a bagel with peanut butter or chocolate milk for the needed sodium.  One can chloride in seaweed, rye, tomatoes, celery, lettuce and olives.  Also, potassium rich foods include oranges, melons, raisins, prunes, avocados, beans, peas, kale, sweet potatoes and spinach, which help replenish the 200-600 mg of possible potassium lost during a work out.  Milk is a solid choice when wanting replenish one’s calcium. Combining milk with cereal, yogurt or one’s latte is a great addition.  Lastly, magnesium’s needed for nerve function, enzyme activation, bone development and muscle contraction, one should opt for peanut butter, nuts, grains, lentils, dried beans, leafy green vegetables.

Keep these suggestions in mind when planning your next post workout or with these hot summer days, you feel you need an extra boost in the electrolyte department.For endurance athletes and those training for long intervals of time (i.e. for marathon), one doesn’t have rely on sports drinks to replace the lost electrolytes.  You can turn to a bagel with peanut butter or chocolate milk for the needed sodium.  One can chloride in seaweed, rye, tomatoes, celery, lettuce and olives.  Also, potassium rich foods include oranges, melons, raisins, prunes, avocadoes, beans, peas, kale, sweet potatoes and spinach, which help replenish the 200-600 mg of possible potassium lost during a work out.  Milk is a solid choice when wanting replenish one’s calcium. Combining milk with cereal, yogurt or one’s latte is a great addition.  Lastly, magnesium’s needed for nerve function, enzyme activation, bone development and muscle contraction, one should opt for peanut butter, nuts, grains, lentils, dried beans, leafy green vegetables.  When you sweat, you’re depleting your electrolytes, so you must replace them!  Electrolytes are considered critical for optimal performance and their essential to regulate one’s body’s fluid, maintain a healthy blood pH balance and create electrical impulses for optimal physical activity.  More specifically, magnesium aids in healthy cell function while calcium helps with muscle contraction and prevents cramping.

I challenge you to take this quiz on hydration at WebMD, some of the answers may surprise you: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/rm-quiz-know-about-hydration

Sources:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002350.htm

http://www.medicinenet.com/electrolytes/article.htm

http://blog.smartpakequine.com/2013/03/the-double-life-of-electrolytes/

http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/information/question565.htm

http://beta.active.com/articles/electrolytes-101

http://fitbie.msn.com/slideshow/5-foods-help-replenish-electrolytes

One thought on “Electrolytes

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