Sweat, Electrolytes and You
Summer survival requires sweat! Sweat is the bodies way of reducing our core temp, so we don’t start burning things out on the inside….
Basically as our bodies heat up, (either thru passive heat and humidity or thru excercise) our bodies shunt as much blood as possible to the surface of our bodies to help cool us down and as sweat evaporates it takes a bunch of heat along with it…leaving behind a thin layer of salts….otherwise known as electrolytes.
By definition electrolytes are compounds that dissolve in water into charged ions…these charged particles then allow an electrical current to be transmitted thru the solvent….since our nervous system operates both electrically and chemically, you can see why electrolytes are important to bodily function. Our nerve impulses are electrical and we need the ions to complete any nerve impulse…we need the proper level of electrolytes to maintain neural activity, muscle contraction and fluid balance.
So–now that we know what electrolytes do–what are they? The most common ones are sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium and phosphate. Many of these minerals can be found in mineral water. Check out my past post on the benefits of mineral water and dehydration, if you missed it.
When do we NEED to replace electrolytes? after any serious loss of water–ie: vomiting, diarrhea, excessive sweating. So for every liter of sweat we lose, we lose approximately 900 mg of sodium, 200 mg of potassium, 15 mg of calcium and 13 mg of magnesium. If you start feeling nauseous and dizzy during or after sweating profusely–start re-hydrating and eating something salty…yep, you read that right…you have permission to eat salt! salty carbs and water to be specific…..we lose lots of sodium thru sweat…..and despite it being demonized sodium chloride (salt) is an essential nutrient for humans.
There are way too many specifics to go into great detail, and each of our bodies is different, so no one recipe for electrolyte amounts is going to be helpful for everyone. But here are some basic electrolytes and how they function.
muscle cramping–imbalance of magnesium and sodium
irregular heartbeat-low chlorine
muscle spasm-low calcium
muscle paralysis and weakness-low potassium
I generally promote drinking coconut water or mineral water for the electrolytes, as opposed to gatorades or sports drinks which tend to be loaded with sugar as well. Coconut water is pretty low in sodium, but very high in potassium….so drinking coconut water daily will help prevent a host of muscle issues, it won’t help replenish your sodium chloride after intense sweating. It does, however, help combat high blood pressure as it increases potassium so your kidneys can release sodium, helping your arteries out…so eating salt and drinking coconut water after heavy sweating may just be the perfect solution.
As with everything–we can over analyze and try to create the perfect diet….or we can simply relax and eat a variety of good whole foods, drink lots of healthy stuff–coconut water, mineral water, infused water, (1 glass of red wine or dark beer counts as healthy, by the way–but does little to help dehydration) move it and groove it and experience gratitude….we will be much healthier and happier!
So go forth and stay hydrated to survive the summer season by sweating it out…sweat is good for us, it cleanses and cools the body…..so go for it–be grateful every time you break a sweat–it does the body good!