It can be difficult to figure out a hydration strategy that works for you, especially since there are so many conflicting messages about when to hydrate, how much to hydrate, and what you need besides plain water to hydrate optimally. You know the key to your best health is having the best knowledge that's available, but not everyone has the time or patience to read through studies and sort through data. Science is our thing, so we reviewed the studies, listened to real people, and put everything you need right here to make a hydration strategy that works for your life. Let's get into it.
What electrolytes do you need?
The 6 electrolyte minerals that power your body are Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorous, and Chloride. These 6 minerals work in balanced pairs to ensure your nerves are firing, your muscles are contracting then relaxing, and fluid is balanced in your whole body through the nephrons in your kidneys.
You need to get all of these electrolytes daily to power your cells and ensure sustained energy for all of the tasks on your list. Electrolyte balance is tightly controlled in your bloodstream, and when we don't get enough through food and drinks, these minerals are released from our tissues, like bones and muscles, leading to weaker tissues that age faster.
What if I only get 3 or 4 electrolytes?
Getting only 3 or 4 electrolytes leads to an imbalance that must be corrected. In typical diets, you can see an imbalance in the high amounts of sodium in processed foods. With electrolyte drinks, some mixes claim to be ideal for sports hydration, but don't have all of the 6 electrolytes needed to keep energy up and promote fast recovery and sleep. Because of this, you might be able to train hard with these mixes, but it will take longer to recover, meaning that you'll have more muscle soreness that lasts longer, and you might not get as much deep, restorative sleep you need to get back to the gym the next day.
Unbalanced hydration can also lead to headaches and cramping, which can be especially frustrating when you feel like you're doing your best for your health. If you aren't feeling as energetic as you think you should while using one of these limited formulas, it might be time to switch to a more complete hydration strategy.
Get Complete Hydration with All 6 Electrolytes
Some electrolyte drinks only contain 3 or 4 of the electrolyte minerals which can leave you with an imbalance if you aren't getting the remaining minerals elsewhere. This can leave you wondering why you still don't feel your best even when you're taking electrolytes. These incomplete formulas might help during exercise, but don't support recovery and rest. Since modern diets are typically low in electrolyte minerals (even if you are eating an organic, whole-food diet), we include all 6 electrolyte minerals to ensure you get complete hydration. With all 6 electrolytes, you can power through even your toughest workout AND avoid the headaches, fatigue, and soreness that comes after. Here's why these electrolyte pairs are so important:
Sodium and Potassium
When the sodium gates in the cell membrane open, the signal is transmitted along the neuron. These sodium channels open rapidly but shut off even more rapidly, preventing any further sodium from entering the cell. Finally, the electrochemical gradient is restored by vigorously pumping out intracellular sodium with potassium. Chloride is another electrolyte that you could encounter. The ionic mineral chloride (Cl-) found in salt has a negative charge. It acts similarly to sodium or potassium, just giving the negative charge to assist maintain a healthy neuron and acid/base balance within cells.
Sodium and potassium work in opposition to each other and are critical because they enable impulses to travel along our neurons and reach our muscles and other tissues in our bodies. Maintaining a healthy ratio of these is crucial for efficient signal transmission and muscle contraction. Because we lose them in our sweat, we need to replenish them as we exercise; this is in part why perspiration has a salty taste and why it is crucial to stay hydrated throughout a workout.
Calcium and Magnesium
Consider a muscle cell as a model for calcium's function. Muscles are fibrous tissues composed of myofilament fibers. What sets muscle cells apart from all the rest of the body's cells is the myofilament. Myofilaments within a single muscle cell shorten to define a muscular contraction. The sarcoplasmic reticulum is a membrane-bound organelle that wraps around each myofilament (SR). In a resting state, calcium is concentrated in the SR, which acts as an intercellular corral for the mineral. In order to modulate muscular contraction, the SR controls the amount of calcium within muscle cells.
Calcium flows quickly from an area of high concentration (inside the SR) to an area of low concentration (within the muscle) when the SR receives the signal from the brain to contract (the muscle cell). Myofilament shortening processes are kicked off by calcium. Contraction is brought on by the coordinated shortening of these myofilaments. Calcitonin is actively injected back into the SR in response to a signal from the brain to terminate the contraction. If you remember what we said about sodium and potassium channels and how changes in their concentrations trigger the want to move, this process will make perfect sense.
Similarly to how nerves must shuttle a different ion around to restore the electrochemical gradient, muscles must do the same. Similar to how potassium is required to transfer sodium, magnesium is required to move calcium back into the SR, resulting in muscle relaxation. Magnesium aids in the active binding of some cellular transporters that carry calcium across membranes or signal muscles to contract, preventing free calcium from binding and inducing greater contractions. The overexcitation of muscle fibers, which can cause cramps and spasms, is avoided when there is an adequate magnesium balance.
Magnesium, though crucial, is a mineral that is often overlooked. It is found in every type of cell in every living thing and plays a role in over 300 different enzymatic activities. Magnesium is important for performance because without it, the body cannot make efficient use of the energy it already has. The breakdown of glucose/glycogen into ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the primary source of energy in the body. ATP must be magnesium-bound in order to be biologically active and useful.
Phosphorous and Chloride
Phosphorus maintains a healthy blood pH and aids in the activation of enzymes which are necessary for reactions in all cells. Phosphorus is an essential component of DNA, RNA, and ATP, the body's primary source of energy, and plays an important role in regulating the normal function of nerves and muscles, including the heart.
Phosphorus levels are strictly regulated by the kidneys, bones, and intestines. The kidneys reduce the amount of phosphorus they expel in urine, the digestive system becomes more efficient at absorbing phosphorus, and the bones release their stores of phosphorus into the blood in an effort to retain its stocks and maintain normal levels. If the body has enough phosphorous, the opposite happens in these organs.
Chloride is a mineral found in a variety of foods; however, sodium chloride, or common salt, is the most common dietary source. Chloride, like other electrolytes like sodium and potassium, has an electric charge and is hence part of this group. It aids in controlling the flow of fluids and nutrients into and out of cells.
The body's pH is kept stable, stomach acid is stimulated to aid digestion, neuron and muscle cells are activated, and oxygen and carbon dioxide are able to circulate more freely inside the body's cells. Chloride enters the bloodstream via the small intestine and stays there. In the event of an overabundance, the body eliminates the surplus through the urinary tract. Since chloride is frequently found in a bonded state with sodium, its concentration in the blood is often found to be directly proportional to that of sodium.
Are you getting all 6 essential electrolyte minerals?
The best way to make sure you're getting all 6 electrolytes is to enjoy a daily electrolyte drink mix that includes all of them. Pick up your favorite flavor of Key Nutrients Electrolyte Recovery Plus to meet all your hydration needs. Not only will you get your daily dose of electrolytes, but you'll also be powering up with vitamin co-factors that help your cells produce energy more efficiently to help you feel fantastic all day long. There is absolutely NO added sugar, fillers, or artificial ingredients. Even our colors come from plants!