Most people can say that they’ve seen a Gatorade commercial. With athletes working out and practicing their sport of choice, these promotions aren’t unusual to see on a commercial break. They highlight the effectiveness of replenishing electrolytes, but what are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are ions in body fluid that carry necessary electrical energy for the body to function. For all of these, they used to help balance water levels in the body, balance acid/base levels, move nutrients and wastes to and from cells, and make sure the body works the way it should (3). With functions as significant as this, electrolyte balance is pretty important in the body.
There are many electrolytes that are essential to body function, but some of the more commonly known ones are sodium, calcium, and potassium (2). Each have a specific function to perform in the body.
Sodium is mostly known in its form of table salt (which is sodium and chloride). This mineral is used for keeping the nerves and muscles functioning correctly (3). In other words, this helps maintain the electrical signals from the brain (1). Sodium also regulates the amount of water in the body and cells. This is important because too much or too little of this mineral can cause malfunction of cells which could lead to hyponatremia (not enough sodium to water) or hypernatremia (too much sodium to water) (1).
Calcium is another important electrolyte in the body. It is known for keeping bones strong, but it has other functions as well. Calcium helps with muscles contracting, secreting hormones and enzymes, nervous system communication, and blood clotting (3). Essentially, calcium aids in movement of substances and the body. A lack of calcium in the body could lead to osteoporosis, a disease in the bones that causes them to weaken and thin (3). There are several foods to get calcium including leafy vegetables, fish, fruit juices, and dairy products (3).
Potassium is another electrolyte that is essential to the body functioning. The functions of this mineral include helping nerves function, muscles contract, maintain a regular heart beat, and maintain a normal cell function (3, 1). Since an excess amount of sodium can lead to a high blood pressure, potassium is used to offset sodium’s effect (3). The kidneys regulate most potassium in the body, so there are kidney diseases such as hyperkalemia (high potassium) and hypokalemia (low potassium) that affect nervous system and lead to irregular heartbeats (1).
As seen, electrolytes are essential for the body to maintain a balance and function correctly. Each mineral has to maintain in a steady range to support body and cellular systems. When there is an imbalance of these, the results can be very detrimental. Some of the symptoms of this imbalance is muscle spasm, weakness, irregular heartbeats, nervous system disorders, lethargy, and more (2). Maintaining hydration and adjusting to medicine symptoms can help prevent electrolyte imbalance (8).