Nutrition 101: Why your bod needs electrolytes, like, right now
“Electrolyte” is just a fancy way to say salts, or ions. The term means that the ion is electrically charged, either positively or negatively. The major electrolytes in your body are: calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate, phosphate and sulfate.
So why are they important? Well, cells use electrolytes to maintain voltage across their membranes and to carry electrical impulses, like reflex reactions and muscle contractions. That means they regulate your nerve and muscle function, your body’s hydration, the pH of your blood, blood pressure and the rebuilding of damaged tissues. Your kidneys, which filter the water for all of the ions in it, try to always keep the electrolyte concentration in the blood constant no matter how much you eat or drink.
You lose electrolytes (especially potassium and sodium) the most rapidly when you sweat—that’s why it tastes so salty! Those lost electrolytes have to be replaced to keep all of your bodily fluid concentrations constant.
If you lose too many, your muscles (including your heart!) can become too weak, or sometimes, they’ll try to work too hard. The most common symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance are muscle spasms, fatigue, confusion, weakness and blood pressure change.
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