5 easy ways to replenish your electrolytes

Have you ever taken a swig of a sports drink after an intense workout and found yourself feeling instantly rejuvenated? This is how important electrolytes are to your body. Since they help you stay hydrated, it's important to know how to replenish electrolytes after sweating, especially if you want your energy to return quickly.

Although the word appears on a variety of drinks and mixes, it's good to know what electrolytes actually are. "Electrolytes are tiny particles that carry electrical charges and play a variety of roles in the body, such as maintaining a balance of water inside and outside your cells so that your muscles and organs Function at your best ” Chief Nutritionist at Nuun. Humans actually need electrolytes to survive. They are a class of minerals that circulate in your blood and are lost in a variety of ways. (More on that below.)

There are many types of electrolytes, and each electrolyte plays a different role in the human body. "To stay hydrated during exercise and get the best results from your workout, the most important electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium," Patel tells Bustle. Usually, you don't have to go out of your way to replenish electrolytes because they can be obtained through food. As long as you eat a nutrient-dense diet, you should be fine, says Patel.

When you're doing a strenuous workout like a long run or HIIT, you may need to take extra steps to replenish electrolytes more quickly, says registered dietitian Amy E. Reed, MS, RD, who works in nutritional therapy. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The same thing can happen if you sweat in hot or humid weather, or if you're sick and lose a lot of fluids. "Otherwise, electrolyte replacement may not be necessary," Reed told Buster.

Here you can learn more about electrolyte imbalances and how to return your body to normal (hydration).

How are electrolytes lost?

While electrolytes are lost through things like breathing and peeing, they're also lost when you sweat, which is why it's best to keep an eye on your hydration during exercise, especially during strenuous exercise. Registered dietitian Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD, recommends replenishing electrolytes one hour after high-intensity exercise.

"It's important to note that while there are some symptoms associated with electrolyte depletion, you shouldn't wait until you have these symptoms to replenish electrolytes," she tells Bustle. Since it can negatively impact your health (see more below), imbalance is not something to be taken lightly.

How to tell if you need more electrolytes

If your electrolytes are abnormal, you may notice some changes in how you feel. "Symptoms of low electrolytes may be blurred vision, increased heart rate, irregular heart rate, or vomiting," Jaramillo said. Decreased electrolytes can also trigger dizziness, muscle cramps, fatigue, and even brain fog, which is why runners often start cramping and feeling exhausted.

You can also check your skin's elasticity to get an idea of ​​what's going on underneath, according to registered dietitian Luciana Godoi, MS, RD, LDN. As a test, gently squeeze the back of your hand. "If your skin recovers immediately, that's a good sign," says Godoy. "But if recovery is slow, it's a sign that your electrolytes may be out of balance."

You should also pay attention if you feel dehydrated, as thirst is closely related to electrolyte imbalance. As Patel says, "You'll know your electrolyte balance is being maintained when you feel completely hydrated and replenished."

How to replenish electrolytes

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Remember, don’t wait until you feel sick to replenish electrolytes. Do these things regularly, especially if you enjoy exercising.

1. Diversification of electrolytes

Consuming large amounts of salt or large amounts of potassium to replenish electrolytes is not helpful. Instead, you have to get a healthy mix: To make sure you're getting what you need during exercise, Patel recommends looking for sports drinks that contain a mix of sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Jaramillo also recommends using an electrolyte gel, especially if you're in a pinch. Like sports drinks, they are designed to replenish the types of electrolytes you lose during exercise. These chia energy gels from Huma+ contain sodium, potassium, and magnesium from coconut water and sea salt.

2. Eat an avocado

Eating nutrient-dense foods every day is a good idea, but after a particularly sweaty workout, you may want to kick your levels up a notch by adding some electrolyte-rich foods to your plate. Godoi recommends choosing from spinach, avocado, broccoli, oranges, raspberries, strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, kale, passion fruit, blueberries, papaya, clementines and/or blackberries.

Drinking smoothies or green juices containing these ingredients is also OK, Godoy says. She loves Green Powder AG1, which contains spirulina, kelp, wheatgrass and other superfoods to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.

3. Add salt to meals

Life Time nutritionist Paul Kriegler, RD, LD, CPT, CISS, says that while you don't want to add too much salt to your food to replenish electrolytes, it's a good idea to sprinkle some salt on your meals after you've worked up a sweat. Another tip, he says, is to eat salty snacks, such as olives, pickles or salted nuts.

Sea salt is the best choice because it contains sodium and chloride. In general, it's recommended that you consume 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, because electrolytes, especially sodium, require water to be absorbed by the body, says Patel. If you sweat a lot, increase your intake slightly.

4. Drink coconut water

Research shows that fresh, tender coconut water is an ideal drink for total body rehydration, especially after exercise. According to registered dietitian Kristin Gillespie, MS, RD, LD, that's because coconut water contains sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

"Potassium content varies between brands depending on processing, but most coconut water products are rich in potassium, with more potassium per serving than a banana," she tells Bustle.

5. Easy to use H20

Drinking water after a workout is obviously important. But did you know it’s possible to take things too far? "If you drink a lot of water, you may develop hyponatremia, a condition in which excess water in the body thins the blood and reduces the amount of important electrolytes," Reed says. In other words, it actually depletes you of electrolytes and makes you feel worse.

The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before you start exercising; 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up; and 7 to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise. Water; drink 8 ounces of water within 30 minutes of exercise.

You can also overdose on electrolyte water. "This usually occurs when someone uses electrolyte water/drinks without electrolyte loss," Reed says. So save these for workout days or whenever you sweat a lot.

Research references:

Balchi, A. (2013). General characteristics of patients with electrolyte disorders admitted to the emergency department. World Journal of Emergency Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4129840/

Jung, A. (2005). Effects of hydration and electrolyte replacement on the incidence and timing of exercise-related muscle cramps. Athletic Training Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1150229/

Mohn, R. J. (1991). Fluid and electrolyte loss and replacement during exercise. Journal of Sports Science. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1895359/

Rondon H, Badireddy M. Hyponatremia. [Updated January 25, 2021]. See: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (Florida): StatPearls Publishing; January 2021 -. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470386/

Saat M, Singh R, Sirisinghe RG, Nawawi M. Rehydrate after exercise with fresh coconut water, a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink, and plain water. J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2002 Mar;21(2):93-104. doi:10.2114/jpa.21.93. Phone number: 12056182.

Schmidt BM. Die häufigsten Elektrolytstörungen in der Notaufnahme: ist sofort zu tun? [The most common electrolyte disorders in the emergency department: What must be done immediately? ]. Physician (Bell). 2015 Jul;56(7):753-9. German. DOI: 10.1007/s00108-015-3670-7. Erratum: Physician (Berl). 2015 Oct;56(10):1212. PMID: 26036654.


Vishal Patel , NASM Certified Fitness Nutritionist Expert

Amy E. Reed, MS, RD, CSP, LD, registered dietitian, Division of Nutritional Therapy, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Luciana Godoi, MS, RD, LDN, registered dietitian

Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Kristin Gillespie, MS, RD, LD, registered dietitian

Paul Kriegler, RD, LD, CPT, CISS, nutritionist