The summer sun is upon us and dehydration is a problem that can be avoided. When we sweat our body is trying to maintain a constant core temperature and in doing so, we lose electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that when in solution contain ions that conduct electricity. This is important for proper functioning of nerves and muscles because they function via electrical impulses. Electrolytes also have a role in blood pressure and blood pH. When there is short term depletion of electrolytes it can cause cramps, nausea, GI discomfort, vomiting and heat stoke. Long term imbalances can have more drastic consequences.
Electrolytes present in drinks help to more quickly rehydrate the body. They do so by decreasing the time it takes for fluid to pass from the stomach to the intestine, decreasing the absorption time in the intestines and encouraging fluid retention.
When it comes to commercial sports and electrolyte drinks the execution is poor although their intention is positive. They contain artificial food colorings, and are loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup or contain fake sugar that can negatively affect the nervous system. Some of the sports drinks can contain more than 30grams of sugar per bottle. Plus they contain synthetic sources of minerals that either pass right through the body or can make your depletion of minerals worse by competing with natural sources. Electrolyte drinks can also be expensive.
My first suggestion as an alternative to sports drinks is coconut water. This fluid is identical to our blood plasma, containing the same balance of electrolytes present in the blood. Being identical to human plasma, coconut water can be injected directly into the blood stream in severe cases of dehydration. To combat dehydration, coconut water can be drank before, after or during a strenuous work out. You can also dilute it down with regular water to make your money go farther.
Coconut water is a wonderful source of electrolytes but it can also be kind of pricey. Another way to replenish your electrolytes is to make your own electrolyte drink. This is the recipe I use:
- 1 L of water
- the juice of 1 1/2 fresh lemons
- 1/4 - 1/3 cup of raw honey or agave nectar
- 1/2 tsp of sea salt
- fruit juice concentrate to taste
So next time you're considering buying one of those sugary electrolyte drinks at the store, rethink it and instead try one of these healthier options.