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Everything You Need to Know About Electrolytes

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An electrolyte is a substance that conducts electricity when dissolved in water. Electrolytes are essential for a number of functions in the body. Everyone needs electrolytes to survive. Many automatic processes in the body rely on a small electric current to function, and electrolytes provide this charge. Electrolytes interact with each other and the cells in the tissues, nerves, and muscles. A balance of different electrolytes is crucial for the body to function.

Fast Facts on Electrolytes

  • Electrolytes are vital for the healthy functioning of the human body.
  • Fruits and vegetables are good sources of electrolytes.
  • Common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, and bicarbonate.
  • The symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance can include twitching, weakness, and, if unchecked, seizures and heart rhythm disturbances.
  • Older adults are particularly at risk of an electrolyte imbalance

What are electrolytes?

Electrolytes are chemicals that conduct electricity when dissolved in water. They regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissue. The muscles and neurons are sometimes referred to as the “electric tissues” of the body. They rely on the movement of electrolytes through the fluid inside, outside, or between cells.

The electrolytes in human bodies include:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Bicarbonate
  • Magnesium
  • Chloride
  • Phosphate

For example, a muscle needs calcium, sodium, and potassium to contract. When these substances become imbalanced, it can lead to either muscle weakness or excessive contraction. The heart, muscle, and nerve cells use electrolytes to carry electrical impulses to other cells.

Takeaway

Electrolytes are a vital part of a person’s chemical makeup. An imbalance can affect the way the body works and lead to a range of symptoms. For example, if a person feels faint after a workout, an electrolyte imbalance could be one reason. Consuming electrolytes during or after intense exercise and other periods of profuse sweating can help preserve the balance. Be sure to stay hydrated at all times. Anyone with concerns should contact a healthcare professional.

Stuart has competed in triathlons from Sprint to Ironman distance. As a qualified Triathlon Australia, Australian Athletics Run Coach, and a certified Ironman coach, he is aware of the importance of balancing training with lifestyle, thus complementing other important aspects of an athlete’s life (family, work, study commitments, etc.).

Contact Stuart at rdytotri@gmail.com

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