Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What are electrolytes and how should I replenish them?

Image: Carlos Porto /

This seems to be the question of the hour. Fitness professionals always talk about hydration and making sure you "replace" your electrolytes. But what does that really mean? How much water? How do you replace electrolytes?

The average person, drinking enough water for their body and eating properly probably doesn't need to worry about electrolyte replacement. People engaging in physical activity, running, biking, Bikram Yoga, etc. will probably need to drink more water and replace electrolytes.

How much water? There are different formulas and theory's on how much water to drink.
  1. 8 x 8 - Drink 8 ounces of water 8 times a day.
  2. Drink based on weight - Take your weight and divide it in half, that is approximately how many ounces of water you should you drink.
  3. Drink based on sex - If you are women, the Institute of Medicine, recommends 91 ounces of water, for men they recommend 125 ounces.
  4. Drink based on how you feel - Do you fee thirsty? Then drink some water.
All of these methods have legitimacy and if you are doing athletic activities, drinking more water will be necessary to maintain healthy levels. Be careful to not drink too much water though this can cause Hyponatremia, a condition where the body has low levels of sodium in body fluids.

Which brings me to electrolyte replacement. This was a hot topic at my yoga teacher training. Mostly the concern was what were electrolytes and what were the best replacements. Electrolytes are minerals the body needs to function properly. There are 8 major electrolytes: Sodium, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Chloride, Bicarbonate, Sulfate and Phosphate.

Electrolytes can be replaced with foods and liquids or with supplements. Although healthy foods should always be the first choice, sometimes a supplement might be necessary. Here is what I've found through personal experience.

Gu packets, Shot Bloks, energy jelly beans and most sport drinks are necessary and candidly yummy, when running or biking long distances and you need to sustain energy levels to get through whatever activity you are doing. But have you looked at one of those packages? Little to no electrolytes are in those, many simply say "trace" amounts. I'm a fan of these, not because they are "good" for me but because when I run or bike long distances these really help me push through. (Read my post where I review a few of these products.)

Before and after biking, running and in particular when I practice Bikram Yoga, I like to drink water with an electrolyte replacement to either boost my electrolyte levels before hand or replace what I just lost.

My favorite powder replacement is Ultima. It is naturally sweet, no artificial ingredients and has no sugar added. You just put a packet in water, shake, and drink. It comes in single serving packets, perfect for on the go or you can get canister like this one pictures.


For yoga or other activities where you sweat a lot and need increased replacement, there is a new product, yogafuel. It is a capsule that is taken before a class or activity. It not only contains electrolytes, it also has adaptogenic herbs (Ashwagandha and Cordyceps) intended to help the body deal with stress, fatigue and anxiety.

Perhaps my favorite electrolyte replacement EVER is coconut water. A typical serving has more potassium than 2 bananas, great for hydration. It also contains sodium, magnesium and calcium. At just 60 calories per serving (11.2 oz) it is a low calorie, healthy electrolyte replacement option. I typically drink one before yoga and one after, it is so refreshing and so much better for you then a typical sports drink.


I encourage comments but please be respectful! Any inappropriate comments will be deleted. Thank you, Namaste.

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