Why are electrolytes important for the healthy athlete? Firstly, what are they?! Electrolytes are minerals that break into small, electrically-charged particles called ions when they dissolve in water. They are essential to physical activity because they regulate bodily fluids and help our muscles contract. Electrolytes are lost in sweat during hard physical exercise and can create imbalances in our bodies. They may be tiny little things, but they have a big impact when it comes to maintaining a healthy body, especially for athletes!
Types of electrolytes and some of their functions:
- Sodium and Chloride- maintain fluid balance
- Calcium- aids in muscle contraction
- Magnesium- vital role in energy production
- Potassium and Phosphate- helps prevent cramps
A good source of electrolyte minerals can be found in foods like bananas, spinach, milk and yogurt. Hmmmm, sounds like a great post-workout green smoothie! Sprinkling sea salt on a baked sweet potato is a good one. Other options include chocolate milk, watermelon, avocados, oranges and almonds.
And instead of buying Gatorade or other popular electrolyte drinks (which can have unwanted additives), try making your own. Experiment with the recipe below!
Thanks to USOC Sports Dietician and Performance Chef Megan Chacosky for this recipe!
3-4 cups filtered water
3/4 cup 100% fruit juice (OJ, apple, etc)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
1-2 TBSP real maple syrup or raw honey
1/8- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
Directions- Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate to get cold. Go workout and get sweaty. Then replenish those electrolytes with your homemade recipe!
- Drinking plenty of electrolytes and water before and after workouts maintains peak hydration
- Good electrolyte balance helps prevent muscle cramps and reduces fatigue