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Do you feel tired and dehydrated after a sweaty workout? That’s because sweat isn’t just made of water; it’s full of electrolytes that help your body absorb and retain enough liquids to keep your fluid levels in balance. Even when you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day, if your electrolytes aren’t replenished, you may still become dehydrated!
What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes play a key role in chemical exchanges by moving electrical charges and signals throughout your body. Therefore, electrolytes are essential for proper nerve functions. There are many different types of electrolytes that help regulate body functions.
Electrolytes are closely linked to the water balance in your body. If your sodium level is too high, for example, your body will tell itself that you’re thirsty. In response to that, your kidneys will release less liquid to direct water back into your blood to dilute the sodium. On the other hand, when sodium levels get too low, your kidneys excrete more water.
Electrolyte imbalances occur when your body is carrying too many or too little electrolytes. While electrolyte imbalance can occur with over-hydration, dehydration is often the contributing cause. Low levels of magnesium, potassium, and calcium are the main contributors to electrolyte imbalance.
Electrolytes are often lost through vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, kidney problems, and as a side effect of certain medications. Other culprits include alcoholism, liver cirrhosis, heart failure, kidney disease, diabetes, eating disorders, severe burns, and some forms of cancer.
Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include:
Low levels of magnesium, potassium, and calcium often lead to electrolyte imbalances.
How to Maintain Healthy Electrolyte Balance
Electrolytes are essential for keeping your body at optimal health but they can only do so when there’s the right amount of them in your body. By eating a nutrient-packed diet, drinking plenty of water, and replenishing any lost electrolytes, you can ensure that your body stays balanced and healthy.
Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.
Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.
She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.
Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!