What Are Electrolytes?

For prolonged and rigorous exercise, water alone won't always do the trick.

If you’ve ever picked up a sports drink, you’ve probably seen something on the labeling about its electrolyte content. But what are electrolytes and why are they important?

According to Discovery Health:

Electrolyte is a “medical/scientific” term for salts, specifically ions. The term electrolyte means that this ion is electrically-charged and moves to either a negative (cathode) or positive (anode) electrode.

What you really need to know is that electrolytes serve many roles in the body including the regulation of muscle function, nerve function, blood pH, blood pressure and hydration. Electrolytes are very important – and tightly regulated by our kidneys and various hormones.

When we sweat, we tend to lose electrolytes. If your balance of electrolytes is off, you may experience weakness, twitching, fatigue, confusion or a handful of other hindering issues. To maintain a good balance of electrolytes over the course of strenuous exercise (and thus, optimal performance levels), electrolytes should be replaced. This can easily be done by eating fruits, vegetables or by consuming a sports drink.

Of course, it takes intense exercise and subsequent dehydration to cause a real electrolyte imbalance; it’s probably not something you’ll need to worry about from a short jog or trip to the gym. And though sports drinks may be tasty, they’re generally unnecessary (and often unhealthy) except during and after intense exercise.

If you are partaking in prolonged exercise – like running a marathon, a long kayak trip, cross-country skiing, etc. – then water alone won’t necessarily cut it. Opt for high-electrolyte food or drink options to help maintain optimal performance.

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  1. Florence says:

    Great post, I’ve always wondered why people drink sports drinks – well I know it was for energy but that was it.
    I personally only work out 10-30 mins a day – high intensity – so don’t need them, but if I did I’d opt for natural foods like bananas. It’s not healthy (for body or mind) to rely on factory made-unnatural foods/drinks. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Cool, never heard of those guys. But I’d really like to know what foods and drinks (other than energy ones!) that are electrolyte-rich ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Wolfgang says:

    Try coconut water – yummy and packed with electrolytes minus the sweeteners or sugars of soft drinks

  4. christopher says:

    ah yes-fruit and veggies-yes.for me sports drinks such as Gatorade-contain sodium.My Doctor told me to not drink it because ive been retaining too much swelling in my feet.my feet look good in the morning-because theyve been elevated.i cook with no added salt-and its still a battle.walking and exercise help as well.


  1. […] Many nutritionists consider coconut water to be nature’s sports drink – and a great alternative to beverages like Gatorade or Powerade. Like traditional sports drinks, coconut water contains water, carbohydrates and electrolytes. But unlike sports drinks, it contains none of the added artificial flavors, refined sugars or coloring. In other words, coconut water is a step up from sports drinks – though, keep in mind, sports drinks are really only needed during prolonged exercise. […]

  2. […] we sweat, we tend to lose electrolytes. If your balance of electrolytes is off, you may experience weakness, twitching, fatigue, confusion […]