By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Consuming enough electrolytes is an important part of any Reboot plan but I often get asked where can I get them? So here’s a break down of everything you need to know about electrolytes, where they come from, when to consume them, and our favorite juices to keep you full of them!
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are important nutrients for our bodies as they play key roles in sending electrical impulses that influence our heart, muscles and nerves. They also play an important role in fluid balance and hydration in our cells, tissues, and our muscles. Lack of sufficient electrolytes can contribute to muscle cramps, delayed muscle soreness and spasms following exercise and for some can contribute to headaches.
Where are electrolytes found?
Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride and magnesium. Most often, electrolytes can be found in foods but they can also be found in beverages such as coconut water and juices made from electrolyte-rich fruits and vegetables. Electrolytes cannot be consumed by drinking water as water lacks these important electrolytes.
What foods contain electrolytes?
Foods that are naturally higher in electrolytes include all plant-based foods, but particularly fruits and vegetables, and primarily those that are red, orange, and/or yellow. These fruits and vegetables not only contain a rich-source of potassium but are also good source of magnesium. Nuts, seeds, and beans are also a good source of magnesium and calcium, but are not rich sources of potassium and sodium. Green leafy vegetables can also be a good source of calcium and potassium.
Good sources of potassium:
– Beans: white beans
– Green leafy vegetables: spinach, chard, kale
– Dried apricots
– Squash: acorn, butternut, zucchini
– Red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables: bananas, beets, oranges, bell peppers (slightly lower in potassium)
– Coconut water
Good sources of natural sodium:
– Bok choy
– Bell peppers (red, yellow, orange)
Good sources of magnesium/calcium:
– Nuts & seeds (magnesium mainly)
– Almond & cashew nuts (highest)
– Sunflower & sesame seeds (highest)
– Green leafy vegetables (calcium)Wheat-based grains (magnesium)
When you sweat, you primarily lose potassium and sodium, therefore to replenish the electrolytes lost, you can make a juice made from red, yellow, and orange produce (for natural sodium) with some green leafy vegetables (for potassium) to help replenish. Coconut water is also a great source of both potassium and sodium and is lower in calories. For the most part, coconut water is also higher than most juices in electrolytes, and therefore can make for a great way to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat. Be sure to look around your local grocery store for a brand that you enjoy drinking- all coconut waters have their own unique and distinct taste.
Pre or Post-Exercise?
If you are participating in a high intensity exercise regimen, it’s important to prepare your body with electrolytes prior to exercising. For most, it may be more beneficial to drink 16-20 oz of an electrolyte-rich beverage such as coconut water or electrolyte-rich juice, prior to exercising instead of waiting until after the exercise bout. Pre-exercise, your body is more likely to benefit from a higher electrolyte beverage as you provide your body with sufficient electrolytes before losing them through sweat. Post-exercise, the focus should be more on a protein-rich beverage to repair muscle damage due to the exercise bout.
What about water?
Though water does not contain a good source of electrolytes, it still plays an important role in hydration and should not be forgotten. If you are not exercising, generally ~64oz per day will suffice, however if you are exercising you should bump that amount up to 80 oz of fluid daily. Coconut water and other electrolyte-rich beverages do count toward your total daily fluid intake, but your main focus should be on water, with ~16-20 oz coming from an electrolyte-rich source.