What to Know About Electrolytes

What comes to mind when you think electrolytes? Post-soccer game drink when you were younger? An easy BandAid for a hangover? Over the years, it seems that the electrolyte market has been evolving, and for good reason. There are currently more products than ever and lots of research on new benefits of electrolytes. Here, I’ll help you identify why you could benefit from electrolytes and how to add electrolytes into your routine.

what are electrolytes

Electrolytes and exercise

As we enter the summer months and outdoor workouts return, electrolytes are all the more needed in the exercise space. Simply put, the more output via sweat, the more hydration and electrolytes are needed. Losses are primarily water, but your sweat does contain the electrolytes sodium, chloride and potassium.

The amount lost varies from person to person based on genetics, workout type and timing, and outside temperature. As a rule of thumb, experts recommend that you rehydrate with electrolytes for over an hour of strenuous exercise, or if the workouts are heated. 

Other reasons for electrolytes

It may be beneficial to look into electrolytes for reasons outside of exercise. Essentially, electrolytes are a necessary component of hydration and fluid balance, so that’s always a factor to consider when your hydration is out of whack. I often advise clients that travel frequently for work or leisure to add electrolytes to their hydration plan, since they are more prone to dehydration when traveling. Supplementation also may be beneficial for those with disregulated adrenal function. That’s because fluid and sodium/potassium balance is the main role of one layer of the adrenal glands. 

Electrolytes products and sources

As electrolyte brands have evolved, we’ve also gotten different forms for convenience. This includes tablets and powder packets, which are great for those of you who are active and busy! Here’s a look into a few electrolytes products and natural sources.

Nuun: Nuun comes in easy to use tablets (just drop in some water and go). This also has different formulas for exercise, recovery, and energy, which is beneficial to tailor to your specific needs. 

UCAN hydrate: UCAN comes in tubs or single serving packets. UCAN contains sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium to replace sweat losses during exercise. 

365 Coconut Water: This is more of a natural source of hydration and electrolytes. However, coconut water is lower in sodium compared to the electrolyte supplements. On the plus side, 365 Coconut Water is a great natural source of potassium.

Water, Himalayan sea salt, and lemon juice: These products (which you probably already have on hand) are an easy natural trio that I often recommend for a mild electrolyte replacement. 

The bottom line

If your habits are leading to dehydration and fluid imbalance, it might be time to look into some electrolytes. Although water plays a big role in hydration, electrolytes are sometimes the missing and overlooked piece to the puzzle. If you have any questions about specific recommendations for electrolytes, don’t hesitate to consult a practitioner! 

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About Chelsea Stegman

Chelsea is the owner and founder of Chelsea Stegman Nutrition, LLC. She is a Chicago based virtual dietitian working with active professionals through energy management, recovery, and adrenal health. She takes a well rounded approach to working with clients, including nutrition to fuel strength, cardio, and recovery based exercise; overall recovery; adrenal testing; habit development; and supplementation. You can catch her hanging with her mini husky, exploring the local restaurants, or running by the lakefront. Find her online at www.chelseastegmanrd.com.