Everything You Need To Know About Electrolytes

Our body contains a large number of elements all of which are essential for some function or the other. Major elements like Sodium(Na), Potassium(K), and Magnesium are essential as electrolytes to maintain electrolyte balance. Many of these elements are present in adequate amount in normal diet so that we do not encounter their deficiencies in the population.

Electrolytes play an important role in proper hydration. These essential minerals maintain pH levels in the blood, transmit electrical to our nerves and muscles and balance fluids in our body.

Almost every runner needs electrolyte but most of them do not know what are these and how to use them. During exercise, sodium, potassium and chloride are lost in large quantities through sweat. As quantity of these electrolytes decrease in our body, our muscle function can decrease and our body can have difficulty absorbing minerals and fluids. During exercise, we must make sure that our body don’t lose more than 1 per cent of our body weight during exercise. If we are losing more than 1 per cent, let’s say 2 per cent, then we are very much dehydrated and it is important to recover them with fluids and electrolytes within a couple of hours.

Given below are the brief description of important electrolytes in our body :

Potassium(K)

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Potassium and sodium are important constituents of fluids present outside and within the cell. Proper concentration of these electrolytes inside and outside the cell is important to maintain osmotic balance and keep cell in proper shape.

In plant foods, potassium is present in higher concentration than sodium by a factor of 10 to 50 fold. Plant foods are indeed the rich source of potassium. The exact requirement of potassium is not known but potassium preset in foods is probably adequate to meet the daily requirement.

Sources of potassium are:


Bananas
Melon
Avocado
Tomatoes
Potatoes

Sodium(Na)

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Sodium is lost in urine and particularly in sweat as sodium chloride. It helps with fluid retention and cell function. Sodium present in foods is not adequate to meet the requirements. Hence sodium chloride i.e., salt has to be included in the diet. Besides imparting taste of food, salt provides necessary amount of sodium required by the body. The exact amount of sodium required in a tropical country is not certain. The daily intake of salt may be as high as 20 gram, the average being around 15 gram per adult . In view of the association of hypertension with high salt intake, a lower intake of 8 to 10 gram per day may be advisable. Under conditions of excessive sweating as in summer and for those who work in hot environment, a still higher intake may be necessary.

Sources of sodium are :


White salt
Celery
Canned vegetables
Whole grain bread
Cottage cheese

Magnesium(Mg)

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Magnesium is present in small concentration in all cells and is required for cellular metabolism. It is also present in bone along with calcium.
magnesium share many of the properties of calcium so far as absorption and metabolism and tissue distribution are concerned. It helps in muscle function. magnesium is also implicated to have a role in cardiovascular disease.

Dietary intake of magnesium to maintain balance is around 350 mg per day. cereals, pulses and nuts contain 40 to 200 mg per 100 gram. Magnesium content of food is generally much higher than Calcium. Green leafy vegetables are also good source of magnesium. Diets based on cereals, pulses, and vegetables can provide adequate amount of magnesium to meet the requirements.

Sources of magnesium are :


Nuts
Grains
Dark and green leafy vegetables