If you know me, you know I love to exercise. After recently giving birth, I was frustrated to not be able to do any of the active sports I enjoy, and now that I've been cleared by my doctor, I'm so ready.
I'm sort of obsessed with pickleball. And it's a sweaty game in sunny San Diego. I'm breastfeeding and I want to be sure I'm getting the electrolytes Kaden and I need to thrive.
Electrolytes are not something we usually think about. But when you’re playing pickleball like it’s an Olympic sport in hot weather, electrolytes matter. Lactating mothers need increased levels of electrolytes, starting with with sodium. And we also need more potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.
If you don’t have enough electrolytes—or an imbalance of them—it can lead to serious problems: dizziness, fainting, nausea, muscle cramps, headaches, vomiting, tremors and even death.
Some people only know about electrolytes because of high-sugar, artificially-colored and artificially-flavored sports drinks. Obviously, that’s not healthy to drink, ever. But electrolytes aren’t just for serious athletes engaged in sweat-fueled competition.
Check out my healthy Electrolyte Orange Drink Recipe at the end of this article.
What Are Electrolytes?
Many people can name some of the most important electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. But do you know what electrolytes are and what they do?
Don’t feel bad if you don’t. I needed a refresher on what they do at a deeper level. So I geeked out a bit and read this research on it so you don’t have to. OK, so here’s what they do in simple English.
Electrolytes are essential for basic life functioning. You wouldn’t be able to contract a muscle, or think clearly, or have your heart beat effectively without electrolytes. These minerals are like mini electricians hard at work in your body. You see, we all have trillions of cells in our body. And each cell requires the perfect amount of electricity. Electrolytes send electrical signals that generate and conduct electricity that flows through our nerves and into our muscles. Without enough electrolytes, your heart, brain, muscles and nerves wouldn’t be able to properly function.
In addition, electrolytes regulate fluid balance in our cells. This helps keep us hydrated.
Which Minerals Are Electrolytes And Where Do They Come From?
All electrolytes are important. But the 3 main ones are sodium, potassium and chloride.
Phosphate, calcium, bicarbonate and magnesium are also important electrolytes. Other minerals like iron, copper and selenium are also considered electrolytes.
Besides taking a sea salt bath, pretty much the only way to get electrolytes is through food and drinks. Yet another reason why diet matters.
Any time you eat or drink something, the electrolytes dissolve in your blood and water. After the minerals dissolve, electrical impulses called ions are created. These ions are to your nerves and muscles what spark plugs are to a car. In other words, they serve as a catalyst. So in essence, electrolytes are the internal body’s spark of life.
Best Food Sources Of Electrolytes
One of the best selling points of a plant-based diet is that it’s rich in electrolytes. Fruits and veggies are hands down the best sources. Green leafy veggies, like the 7 certified-organic ones in the Chef V Green Drink delivery plan are especially high in calcium and potassium.
When you sweat, you mainly lose sodium and potassium. Even though there’s a tiny bit of sodium in Green Drink, I know I need extra if I’m sweating my butt off on the pickleball court or hot yoga.
So what I do BEFORE exercising is I add a teaspoon of Himalayan Sea Salt to my Green Drink. That way, I know that I won’t deplete my sodium and potassium levels. And to make sure they are fully replenished, I’ll have another serving of Green Drink.
Or, if I’m running low on Green Drink or am just in the mood for something else, I’ll make my own healthy, homemade Electrolyte drink.
Chef V’s Electrolyte Orange Drink Recipe
Here’s how I make a healthy alternative to Gatorade and other sugar-filled, artificial sports drinks.
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange or mandarin
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
Blend in a blender. Serve cold. Keep for up to 2 days in the fridge.