Nutrition

What Are Electrolytes, and What Is Electrolyte Imbalance?

What are electrolytes good for in your wellness journey? Electrolytes benefit nerve and muscle function, and they are essential for good health.

SUMMARY

What are electrolytes, and how to do they support your well-being? Electrolytes benefit health, and they impact the way your body functions. An electrolyte imbalance can cause everything from muscle twitching to heart rhythm disturbances. You can ramp up your intake of these nutrients via electrolyte supplements such as electrolyte drinks.   

Fresh N Lean is the nation’s largest organic meal delivery service. Our tasty, chef-prepared cuisine is always fresh and never frozen, and we offer five convenient meal plans: Protein+, Keto, Paleo, Standard Vegan and Low-Carb Vegan. Choose Fresh N Lean for affordable nutrition, delivered to your doorstep. 

If you want a healthy body, you need to feed it an optimal blend of nutrients. 

Electrolytes are an essential part of this mix. Among other things, electrolytes govern nerve and muscle function throughout the body.  

If your body gets too much or not enough electrolytes, it can cause problems. Electrolyte depletion or an electrolyte imbalance can cause symptoms such as fatigue, irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness and muscle spasm. 

You can boost your intake of this nutrient with electrolyte supplements. These include choices such as electrolyte drinks, electrolyte powder, electrolyte tablets and electrolyte water. And certain foods are great sources of electrolytes. 

So, what are electrolytes good for in your health journey, and what do electrolytes do to support wellness? Let’s take a closer look. 

In this article, we will:

  • Provide an electrolyte definition
  • List the different types of electrolytes
  • Discuss electrolyte benefits
  • Explain what an electrolyte imbalance is
  • List electrolyte imbalance symptoms
  • Discuss causes of electrolyte imbalance
  • List key sources of electrolytes

What are electrolytes?

Electrolytes are substances that transmit electricity when they are dissolved in water. Our bodies rely on many automatic processes to support life and wellness. These automatic processes need a small electric current for effective completion. Electrolytes provide this necessary current. 

So, what do electrolytes do throughout the body? And how do electrolytes benefit wellness?

These chemicals help govern nerve impulse and muscle function. Electrolytes found in foods, electrolyte drinks and other electrolyte supplements provide the body with much-needed hydration, and they help to regulate blood acidity and blood pressure. And the right electrolyte balance is needed to help rebuild and restore damaged tissue. 

Types of electrolytes

There are many different types of electrolytes. Whether you get them from food sources or electrolyte supplements such as an electrolyte drink, your body needs the right mix of these various types to prevent electrolyte imbalance and function optimally. 

Here are some of the most common electrolytes. Each of these electrolytes benefit your health and can help maintain optimal fluid balance througout the body: 

  • Sodium
  • Calcium
  • Phosphate
  • Potassium
  • Bicarbonate
  • Chloride
  • Magnesium

Electrolyte benefits

So, how do electrolytes benefit health? Here are some key ways in which having an ideal electrolyte concentration can support wellness:

Electrolyte benefit #1: May boost exercise performance

When it comes to exercise performance, what are electrolytes good for?

Your body loses water, electrolytes and energy during periods of intense physical activity. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it’s essential to quickly replace the fluids that your body loses in sweat. It’s estimated that a water loss of as little as 1-2 percent of your total body weight can have a negative effect on your strength and speed during physical activity. It can also make it harder for you to focus. 

Electrolyte water and other electrolyte beverages can help replenish this nutrient when it runs low. Supplements that include these electrolytes benefit your ability to deliver peak physical performance. 

Electrolyte benefit #2: May help prevent heatstroke

Electrolytes benefit your body when the temperature rises. 

If you’re in a very hot environment, it can create certain health challenges. One such challenge is heatstroke. This condition can be fatal. 

What causes heatstroke? Your body typically manages excessive heat by sweating. This heat is also released through the skin.

In very hot temperatures, the body’s cooling system that governs these activities may fail. When this happens, it can cause your body temperature to soar.

At a certain point, this becomes dangerous. This situation can ultimately result in heatstroke. 

To prevent heatstroke, you should limit the time spent in excessively hot conditions. If you’re in hot weather, electrolyte intake can help minimize heatstroke risk.

So, what do electrolytes do to prevent heatstroke? If you’re facing hot weather, electrolyte supplements can help your body stay cool and manage the heat. Electrolyte drinks such as electrolyte water can support your body during these times. 

Electrolyte benefit #3: Helps the body rehydrate during illness

If you have an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea, it can cause the body to become dehydrated.

During these types of illnesses, what are electrolytes capable of doing for your health and wellness? 

Electrolytes benefit the body when you’re experiencing these types of sickness. Electrolyte drinks such as electrolyte water can help replenish fluids and ward off dehydration. 

What is electrolyte imbalance?

As we’ve mentioned, electrolytes benefit a host of bodily functions. To support the body, we need to maintain an adequate electrolyte level.

Electrolytes are present in the blood. When the level becomes too high or too low, an electrolyte imbalance takes place. 

Electrolyte loss occurs when we sweat. Sweating causes sodium losses and a loss of bodily fluids. An electrolyte imbalance can occur during exercise or physical activity if heavy sweating occurs. It’s important to quickly replenish electrolytes and restore body fluid in these situations. 

We also lose electrolytes during bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. If you have an illness that includes these symptoms, it may cause an electrolyte imbalance. 

Electrolyte imbalance symptoms

Here are some symptoms of electrolyte imbalance: 

  • Weakness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Muscle twitching
  • Bone disorders
  • Numbness
  • Seizures
  • Muscle contraction
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Muscle spasm
  • Muscle cramp
  • Fatigue
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry mouth or throat
  • Thirst
  • Nausea
  • Moodiness or irritability

Causes of electrolyte imbalance

What are electrolyte problems triggered by? An electrolyte imbalance can be caused by these factors:

  • Kidney disease
  • Poor hydration after exercise
  • Cancer treatment
  • Severe dehydration
  • Inadequate electrolytes in the diet
  • Certain drugs, such as diuretics
  • Heavy vomiting or diarrhea

Sources of electrolytes

Suffering from low electrolyte levels? You can up your intake of electrolytes by adding certain foods to your diet. This nutrient is found in many fruits and vegetables, and it’s also present in certain animal-based menu items.

Here are some examples of foods high in electrolytes:

  • Spinach
  • Avocados
  • Kale
  • Potatoes
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Beans
  • Coconut water
  • Broccoli
  • Milk
  • Fish, such as flounder
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Olives
  • Veal
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Watermelon
  • Tofu
  • Raisins

And of course, you can also use an electrolyte supplement. These include electrolyte drinks, electrolyte water, electrolyte tablets and electrolyte powder. 

Next steps

What are electrolytes capable of doing for your fitness evolution? Electrolytes benefit wellness, but they need to be constantly replenished. Make electrolyte-rich foods a regular part of your diet. You can also utilize electrolyte supplements; these may be especially valuable after intense workouts. 

Optimize your diet by subscribing to Fresh N Lean. Our weekly menu includes electrolyte-rich foods such as fish and broccoli, and we provide convenient delivery to your home or office. Our meal plans range from vegan to keto, and our cuisine is chef-prepared and dietician-approved.