Ditch the Sports Drinks and Go for a Healthier Impact!
While walking the track at our community rec center the other day, I couldn’t help but notice all the fancy electrolyte drinks so many folks were glugging. “What do all these people know that I don’t,” I wondered.
I went to one of my favorite sites, Care 2 (www.care2.com), to find out. Turns out, electrolytes are compounds that have a great impact on the human body. They’re mostly associated with dehydration issues, which is why many energy and sports drinks promise to deliver big doses of them. Any time your body loses fluids, you’ll also lose electrolytes, which is why restoring them is important.
Stated simply, an electrolyte is a type of mineral that carries an electric charge. In physiological terms, that means compounds like sodium, potassium, and magnesium that turn into ions that can provide a current to control fluid balance within the body.
Consider some of the main things electrolytes do:
Maintain proper balance between acid and base pH levels in the body
Control proper fluid levels throughout the body and all the organs
Regulate muscle and nerve function
Electrolytes can be any one of several different minerals that are part of the average diet. The most common types of electrolytes found in foods and beverages include:
Potassium (found in collard greens, beans, bananas, oranges, coconut water and melons). In addition to being one of the key electrolytes, this mineral can help to naturally lower blood pressure, prevent bone loss, reduce the chance of developing kidney stones, and help support normal cellular function.
Sodium/Chloride (found in beef, cheese, olives, and any canned foods that include salt). Though it’s essential to have some on a daily basis, it’s important to limit intake of sodium chloride to about 2,300 milligrams a day since excess can increase blood pressure levels.
Magnesium (found in leafy greens, cereals, nuts, coconut water and beans).
Calcium (found in dairy products, eggs, beans, coconut water and some fruits like figs and apricots).
Phosphorus (found in meats, coconut water and dairy).
It’s important to remember that just a single type of electrolyte isn’t enough to maintain health. Instead, the right balance of essential minerals should be the focus.
And electrolyte imbalances are fairly common, with dehydration one of the biggest culprits. According to recent data, about 75% of Americans are likely dealing with chronic dehydration without even realizing it.
Poor fluid intake is usually the factor; sweating eliminates electrolytes, so this is the key reason my fellow track walkers/runners were chugging their sports drinks. But whatever your activity, be sure you’re staying hydrated on a consistent basis. Water is always a good bet, but coconut water is even better since it has natural electrolytes.
An electrolyte imbalance triggers several symptoms, many the same as dehydration (fatigue; insomnia; muscle aches, twitches, or spasms; anxiety; frequent headaches; constant feelings of thirst; irregular heart rate; joint pain; numbness; dizziness that occurs when standing up from a sitting or lying positions; changes in appetite; diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive issues).
All this leads me to my point. While sports drinks have been branded as a quick fix for replenishing electrolytes (and they’re successful at it), there’s a big problem: They’re loaded with sugar and extra calories. Thus, it’s better to focus on replacing electrolytes through other, more natural means.
There are several foods and drinks that make it easy to do just that:
Milk (it’s just as effective at replenishing electrolytes as a sports drink)
Leafy greens (especially turnip greens, kale, and collards)
Since store-bought sports drinks are sugar-loaded and tend to be expensive, why not go the natural route? Next time you’re exercising, drink up, but do it from a green smoothie made with fresh collards and coconut water, sweetened banana. Now there’s a healthy impact for you! But if you’re not a green smoothie fan, then here’s a super recipe for a homemade sports drink from one of my favorite sites, Wellness Mama (www.wellnessmama.com):
HOMEMADE SPORTS DRINK
1 quart of liquid (options: green tea, herbal teas, coconut water, plain water, etc)
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon high quality salt
1 teaspoon calcium magnesium powder (found at natural or health food stores)
¼ cup or more of non-sugared juice (grape, apple, lemon, lime, pineapple, etc)
1 tablespoons sweetener (raw honey, stevia, etc.; optional)
Brew tea if using or slightly warm base liquid. Add sea salt and calcium magnesium to mix. Add juice and sweetener if using and mix or shake well. Cool and store in fridge until ready to use. Will last up to four days in fridge.
Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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