Balancing Electrolytes The Natural Way
Sweating in hot weather is just a fact of life. Most people just need to drink a bit more water to supposedly replace the lost fluid. However, in some more extreme situations, you’ll need to replace electrolytes found in your body such as sodium and magnesium which you lose throughout the day. If you’re constantly asking yourself, “How much water should I drink in a day?”, then this article is perfect for you. Read on to learn how to balance electrolytes when exercising in the heat.
Activities That Warrant Electrolyte Replacement
- Endurance events like marathons, bike races, Ironman events, or triathlons
- Long-distance bike rides or cross-country mountain biking events
- Wildfire fighting
- Working on a road crew, landscape, or construction project, doing heavy lifting, digging, or other demanding labor
- Participating in high-level sports that involve prolonged running, such as soccer or lacrosse
- Outdoor camping
How To Balance Electrolytes Lost Through Sweat
Anytime you’re active outside in the heat of the beating sun, chances are you’re going to be sweating pretty heavily. The more active you are, the more you sweat. As the sweat evaporates off the surface of your skin, it helps cool you down through evaporation. But sweat is not just water. It contains a lot of components that help your body cool down in one way or another like salt or sodium chloride and some potassium. If you sweat heavily in extreme heat, you could lose significant amounts of electrolytes such as sodium, putting you at risk for low blood sodium. Most people get enough electrolytes such as sodium and potassium from the food and beverages they eat and drink. However, you may need to consider a sodium replacement in some situations where an unusually high of electrolyte loss may occur.
How About A Potassium Replacement?
Unlike sodium, potassium is not lost easily in sweat, so you are unlikely to develop low potassium by sweating profusely. Risk factors for developing low potassium levels include prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, alcoholism, eating disorders, and possible heart failure.
A poor diet can aggravate the risk of low potassium levels. To replace electrolytes naturally, like potassium, eat potassium-rich foods, such as dried apricots and leafy greens among other fruits and vegetables.
Good Sodium Replacement Food
Try a small amount of salty foods on a daily basis such as the following and monitor how you feel after your activities.
- Salted nuts
- Tortillas with salted, crunchy peanut butter
- Sweet potato fries
Rehydration tip: Eating a mere 1/2 oz of pretzels and drinking 2 cups (16 oz) of water provides about the same amount of sodium as a 16-oz sports drink. This provides you with the same potassium value at a much lower price.
Older adults are at an increased risk for dehydration without even exercising in the heat. As we age, we lose certain mechanisms that allow us to monitor our thirst, making it more challenging to stay on top of hydration. It is also possible to experience adverse health effects from only slightly lower than normal sodium levels. One helpful tip to avoid dehydration is to set recurring alarms throughout the day and even at night.