Summer is here, and the entire country is roasting in the heat. When it’s hot out, you’re more likely to become dehydrated—but if your beverage lacks electrolytes, you’re ultimately flushing that liquid right out of your system.
Electrolytes are the key to helping your body manage fluid intake. They move water in and out of cells, among other functions. This enables your body to rehydrate and recover from overheating, illness or physical exertion.
Water alone may not have all the electrolytes you need, and sugary sports drinks have an excessive sugar-to-electrolyte ratio. Read on to learn about the importance of electrolytes and hydration, and the best beverages to try this summer.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals. Sodium, chloride, potassium, bicarbonate and other electrolytes become electrically charged when dissolved in water.
Each electrolyte has a positive or negative charge, which enables them to move water, waste and nutrients in and out of your cells. This makes them key to the electrical activity happening in your cardiovascular and nervous systems. They also allow your muscles to contract and relax.
These minerals help maintain the fluid balance in your body. They also keep our pH in balance. This is important because an unusually acidic or alkaline pH can lead to serious or fatal health conditions.
Why is it so important to stay hydrated?
Our bodies need water to function. Staying hydrated helps our bodies maintain a normal temperature, keep tissues healthy, encourage proper joint function and flush waste out of our system. Hydration is also key to our nervous system and muscle movement.
We can become dehydrated when it’s hot outside: it’s easy to lose electrolytes and fluid through sweating. However, that’s not the only condition that can cause dehydration. Vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal conditions and kidney, liver or heart disorders can also disrupt your electrolyte balance.
Our consumption can contribute to dehydration, too. Certain medications, alcohol, eating large volumes of processed food and sodium disrupt fluid management, and can leave you feeling awful.
How do I know if I’m dehydrated?
If you’re sweating, urinating, vomiting or having excessive diarrhea, that’s a good sign you’ll need to replenish your electrolytes. Here are other common symptoms of dehydration:
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or tingling
- Racing heart or irregular heartbeat
- Rapid blood pressure changes
- Shortness of breath
- Spasms or twitching
- Swelling or bloating
Get on board with good hydration
Ready to rehydrate? Here are electrolyte-rich drinks that will help you stay balanced:
- Beet drinks: Beets are full of electrolytes. They’re also full of sugar, so you don’t want to drink straight beet juice. Try a ready-made beet juice from the store, or add beets to your smoothies and juices.
- Bone broth: Bone broth is a great source of calcium and magnesium. You can pick some up at the store, but homemade bone broth is even richer in nutrients and electrolytes. While this might not be the ideal summer beverage, it’s certainly tasty and healthy.
- Celery juice: Celery is packed with potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium. Consider chopping and juicing some celery to drink with water or in a green juice.
- Coconut water: Coconut water has the ideal ratio of sodium and potassium—just don’t confuse it with coconut milk.
- Green drinks: Spinach, chard, kale and beet greens are all good sources of potassium, calcium and magnesium. They’re also great in smoothies and green juices.
- Plantain powder drinks: Plantains, which are similar to bananas, can be dried and powdered to create instant rehydration drinks. You can find plantain powder in natural and health food stores.
- Smoothies: Smoothies with avocado and banana are a great source of potassium and magnesium. Mix these ingredients into your smoothie for a creamy texture and electrolyte boost.
- Water with lemon or lime: Lemons and limes are full of calcium, magnesium and potassium. Squeeze a slice into your water to help stay hydrated.
All of these drinks can help you stay hydrated, even on the hottest summer days. While most people get enough electrolytes from a balanced diet, intense temperatures and humidity can cause you to lose electrolytes through sweat and urine.
Aim to replace lost electrolytes by frequently drinking one of the beverages above. If you notice any symptoms of dehydration, retreat to a cooler location and rehydrate. Should your symptoms persist, seek medical attention right away.
Staying hydrated doesn’t mean you’re limited to water. The eight drinks above will help keep you hydrated, happy and functioning all year long.