Time and time again, you hear people preaching the importance of staying hydrated. Research shows that the average human can go up to 3 weeks without food, but you can only survive about 3 days without water. However, staying hydrated is about more than drinking enough water, especially when you sweat excessively from exercise. Your sweat contains a variety of different components, particularly elements known as electrolytes. Read on to learn more about electrolytes, how they keep you hydrated, and the greater roles they play throughout your body.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes describe several nutrients and minerals within your body that hold an electric charge. These minerals can be found in your blood, urine and other bodily fluids. The main electrolytes found in your body include:
- Sodium – Maintains fluid balance and regulates nerve signaling and muscle contractions
- Potassium – Keeps blood pressure stable and regulates heart contractions and muscle function
- Calcium – Best known for maintaining health of bones and teeth but can also help with muscle contractions, blood clotting, mitosis and nerve signaling and communication
- Chloride – Necessary for maintaining balances in fluids
- Magnesium – Plays a role in muscle contraction, heartbeat, nerve processes, bone growth, digestion and proper protein-fluid balance
- Phosphate – Helps muscles contract, repairs bones and teeth and assists in nerve functioning
You can get your electrolytes from various foods and drinks, though you can lose them just as easily through your sweat, urine, bowel movements and exercise. The main electrolytes you lose via sweat are sodium and potassium. Thankfully, your body naturally regulates electrolyte levels via the kidneys and various chemicals and enzymes, and you can replenish electrolytes with a healthy dose of fruits and vegetables. Any excess electrolytes in your blood can be filtered out by your kidneys.
However, a poor diet, too much exercise and illnesses that cause vomiting and diarrhea can all potentially lead to excessive electrolyte loss, which can eventually result in some serious problems.
Why are Electrolytes Important?
Electrolytes are necessary to your everyday life, playing a role in a wide range of functions and processes that you probably are not even conscious of, like:
- Regulating basic nerve and muscle functions
- Maintaining a consistent, healthy blood pH
- Keeping you and your entire organ systems hydrated
- Rebuilding damaged tissue
- Regulating your blood pressure
Your muscles and neurons rely on the movement of electrolytes between cells, allowing for the proper electric signals to move your body. An imbalance in electrolytes, particularly sodium, potassium, and calcium, can either cause your muscles to contract too severely or not at all. Your heart and muscles also require electrolytes to carry electrical impulses to other cells and maintain the proper voltage in cell membranes.
The most common types of imbalances involve sodium and potassium. Too much sodium is known as hypernatremia, while too little is known as hyponatremia. If you have hyperkalemia, you have excessive potassium, while hypokalemia describes a deficiency in potassium.
Symptoms of electrolyte balance differ based on the specific mineral and whether you have too much or too little of it. Altered levels of sodium, calcium, potassium or magnesium can lead to:
- Bone disorders
- General weakness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sudden changes in blood pressure
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Nervous system issues
Key Electrolytes for Your Body: Potassium Gluconate, Taurine and Sodium Chloride
As mentioned above, two of the most important electrolytes for bodybuilders, athletes and those who just work out a lot are sodium and potassium. Thankfully, the two can be generally easy to find in your diet, but sometimes, disorders or hereditary issues can keep you from getting the proper amount of electrolytes. This is why many people turn to supplements to get an extra boost in their electrolyte intake.
Potassium gluconate is the potassium salt version of gluconic acid. It is commonly used as a supplement for hypokalemia, or low levels of potassium. Low potassium can result in a variety of symptoms, including general weakness, fatigue and a degradation of reflexes.
Sodium chloride, which you known simply as regular table salt, is not an electrolyte in its solid form, but it becomes an electrolyte replenisher when it is placed in water or any other ionizing solvent. When sodium chloride dissolves in water, it becomes separated into its two component parts, sodium and chloride, thanks to dissociation reactions. Both sodium and chloride play important roles in maintaining your body’s balance of fluids and helping your brain and nerves communicate with each other and with your muscles. Deficiencies in sodium chloride, which is also one of the main components in sweat, can lead to a variety of different symptoms, including:
- Muscle irritability
Excessive sweating and release of sodium chloride commonly leads to heat cramps, which describes a series of muscle cramps in the abdomen and extremities.
Taurine is not an electrolyte. Instead, it is a conditional amino acid that contains sulfur. Over the years, taurine has become a popular component of sodas and energy drinks, but it can be found in a variety of dietary sources and can be synthesized in the body. Unlike most other amino acids, taurine is not involved in the construction and maintenance of proteins, but it does play a variety of important roles, primarily in maintaining hydration and balancing electrolyte levels in your cells.
Studies have also found that taurine has a significant effect on the cardiovascular system. In the presence of taurine, cardiovascular muscles have been shown to grow stronger, allowing for improved overall function. Taurine has also been shown to have the same effect on skeletal muscles, potentially allowing for improved exercise capacity and physical performance.
Electrolytes play an important role in your strength, athleticism and everyday life. If you think you could use some reinforcements to ensure your electrolytes are balanced, consider taking a supplement like mTOR Pro™ from MYOKEM™. This supplement offers 10.5 grams of essential amino acids per serving along with taurine, potassium gluconate, and sodium chloride. The formula improves amino acid absorption and recovery while increasing your hydration and electrolyte balance for greater physical performance.