Essential Energizers: Who Needs Electrolytes and Why They Matter

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Electrolytes are unsung heroes in our bodies, playing crucial roles in keeping our systems running smoothly. They regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissue. Whether you’re an athlete, someone with a chronic health condition, or just someone trying to stay on top of your health, understanding how electrolytes impact your body can be a game-changer.

This article dives into the science behind these vital minerals and explores how supplementing with them can support various aspects of your well-being.

What Are Electrolytes

Electrolytes are charged minerals crucial for various bodily functions, and inadequate levels can lead to specific symptoms:

  • Sodium: Essential for fluid regulation and blood pressure, as well as muscle and nerve function. Low sodium levels, a condition known as hyponatremia, can cause headaches, fatigue, confusion, and in severe cases, seizures.
  • Potassium: Key for heart function, muscular contraction, and nerve transmission. Insufficient potassium, or hypokalemia, might manifest as muscle weakness, cramps, irregular heart rhythms, and digestive issues.
  • Calcium: Important for healthy bones, muscle contractions, nerve signaling, and blood clotting. A calcium deficiency can result in numbness and tingling in fingers, muscle cramps, lethargy, and in chronic cases, osteoporosis.
  • Magnesium: Supports muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. Low magnesium, known as hypomagnesemia, can lead to muscle twitches and cramps, mental disorders, fatigue, and high blood pressure.
  • Chloride: Helps maintain fluid balance and is a critical component of digestive stomach acids. Chloride deficiency can cause dehydration, fluid loss, and an imbalance in the body’s pH levels.
  • Other Trace Minerals: Some electrolyte formulas add other trace minerals like zinc, copper, iodine, selenium, chromium, boron, manganese, etc.
  • Other ingredients often added to electrolyte supplements:
    • D-Ribose: D-Ribose is a sugar molecule that plays a crucial role in the production of ATP, the energy currency of cells. In an electrolyte supplement, it helps replenish ATP stores depleted by strenuous activity, thereby aiding in rapid recovery of muscle energy. Additionally, it supports cardiac function by providing an essential component for the energy-intensive heart muscles. For athletes or anyone engaged in intense physical workouts, D-Ribose can be particularly beneficial for maintaining energy levels and facilitating quicker post-exercise recovery.
    • Taurine: properties protect muscles from damage caused by free radicals, which are produced during intense physical activity. Additionally, taurine has been shown to support overall cardiovascular health and can contribute to nerve growth and function, which is particularly beneficial in active individuals where nervous system demands are high.
    • Creatine: Creatine is known for its ability to help increase muscle mass, enhance strength, and improve exercise performance. It supports energy production during high-intensity, short-duration exercises like weightlifting or sprinting.
    • Sugar: This is sometimes appropriate for an electrolyte supplement designed for endurance athletes.

Electrolyte imbalances can occur due to a variety of reasons, including excessive sweating, long periods of illness, or simply not consuming enough electrolyte-rich foods and beverages. Supplements can help restore the balance, but it’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if symptoms persist.

Who Would Be Most Likely to Benefit from Supplemental Electrolytes?

  • Athletes:
    • Athletes or those who engage in intense or endurance sports
  • Hot Climates:
    • Individuals living in or exercising in hot climates
    • Workers with physically demanding jobs, especially in hot environments, who might sweat more than average.
    • Individuals who frequently use saunas or steam rooms, leading to significant sweat loss.
  • Health Conditions:
    • People experiencing frequent vomiting or diarrhea
    • Patients recovering from surgery or medical treatments like chemotherapy
    • Those with health conditions like cardiovascular disease
    • People taking medications like diuretics that can deplete electrolyte levels
    • Elderly individuals who are more prone to dehydration
    • People with malabsorption issues or digestive diseases like Crohn’s or celiac disease that affect nutrient uptake.
  • Diets:
    • People who fast for extended periods and may not be consuming electrolyte-rich foods.
    • People who rarely consume fresh fruits, vegetables, and other electrolyte-rich foods
    • Anyone following a restricted diet, such as low-carb or ketogenic diets
    • People who consume large amounts of alcohol, which can increase fluid loss.

What Are the Benefits of Electrolytes Supplements?

Electrolyte supplements offer several health benefits for people who are not getting enough through their diet or are losing electrolytes through sweat. These are salts that are particularly important for maintaining fluid balance. Here are some of their benefits:

Enhanced Hydration: Hydration requires more than just plain water. Electrolytes like sodium and potassium help to regulate fluid balance by directing water to the areas in your body where it’s most needed. This ensures that your cells and organs can function properly, and it’s especially important during intense exercise or high heat, where you’re losing fluids rapidly.

Muscle Function: Calcium, potassium, and magnesium play pivotal roles in muscle function. These electrolytes help regulate muscle contraction and relaxation, which is essential during and after a workout. When you exercise, your muscles use these minerals to move and contract properly. Without enough electrolytes, muscles may contract too aggressively or struggle to relax, leading to cramps and discomfort.

After a workout, it’s particularly important to replenish these electrolytes to support muscle recovery. Doing so can help soothe muscles, reduce soreness, and prepare them for the next round of physical activity. This replenishment is crucial not just for high-performance athletes but for anyone engaging in regular exercise, as it helps maintain the muscle’s ability to work efficiently and without pain.

Nerve Function: Electrolytes such as sodium and potassium are vital for the proper functioning of nerves. They generate electrical gradients across nerve cell membranes, a fundamental process for the transmission of nerve signals. These signals are crucial for everything from moving your hand away from a hot stove to regulating your heartbeat.

Acid-Base Balance: Your body’s pH level, the balance between acidity and alkalinity, is carefully regulated by electrolytes. Bicarbonate serves as a crucial buffer in the blood, neutralizing excess acids and thus helping to keep the pH level healthy. Chloride partners with bicarbonate and changes in its levels can impact the body’s acid-base balance. Potassium plays a key role in regulating the internal pH within cells and also affects how the kidneys control the body’s overall acid-base balance. While sodium is often associated with fluid balance, it also contributes to buffering systems that regulate the body’s acid-base status. A stable pH level means that enzymes and chemical reactions crucial for your metabolism work as they should.

Blood Pressure Regulation: Increasing magnesium and potassium intake while managing sodium levels can support vascular health and contribute to the regulation of blood pressure.

  • Sodium: Electrolytes play a crucial role in blood pressure regulation by influencing vascular tone and fluid balance within the body. Sodium is particularly well-known for its relationship with blood pressure—high sodium levels can lead to increased water retention, which can raise blood pressure by increasing the volume of blood within the bloodstream.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium also plays a significant role; it acts as a natural calcium channel blocker. In the walls of the blood vessels, calcium causes muscles to contract, which narrows the vessels and raises blood pressure. Magnesium counteracts this effect by blocking calcium’s entry, helping to relax and dilate blood vessels, thereby potentially reducing blood pressure.
  • Potassium-Sodium Balance: Moreover, the balance between sodium and potassium is vital for blood pressure control. Potassium helps to lessen the effects of sodium in the body. By promoting sodium excretion and relaxing blood vessel walls, adequate potassium can help to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Electrolytes like potassium and magnesium are vital for heart health. They help regulate heart rhythm and ensure that your heart muscle contracts correctly, which is essential for pumping blood effectively to all parts of your body.

Cognitive Function: Electrolytes have a pivotal role in supporting cognitive functions. They facilitate the transmission of nerve signals in the brain, which are essential for thought processes, memory retention, and learning abilities. Sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, in particular, help in the propagation of electrical signals across neurons. These signals are the foundation of all brain activities, from basic reflexes to complex problem-solving.

  • Calcium: Calcium is crucial for neurotransmitter release, which allows nerve cells to communicate with each other efficiently. Magnesium acts to protect the brain by regulating the flow of calcium into neurons, preventing nerve cells from being overloaded by calcium, which can lead to cellular damage.
  • Potassium: Potassium and sodium work together to generate action potentials—the electrical impulses that neurons use to communicate. Fluctuations in the levels of these electrolytes can influence brain function, potentially leading to reduced mental clarity, difficulty concentrating, and problems with memory.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium influences many processes that are critical for brain function, including the function of receptors that facilitate learning and memory. An imbalance of electrolytes can disrupt these critical functions, leading to symptoms like confusion, irritability, and an overall decline in cognitive performance. Magnesium aids in activating GABA receptors, which are essential for managing anxiety and promoting restful sleep.

Electrolytes: How Much Is Enough?

Daily Intake

When considering the intake of electrolytes, it’s crucial to balance them properly to meet your body’s needs. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), Daily Values (DVs), and Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) provide guidance on the amounts that most people should aim for each day. Here’s a table outlining these values for sodium, potassium, and magnesium:

ElectrolyteRDADVUL
Sodium1500 mg2300 mg2300 mg
Potassium4700 mg4700 mgNot Established
Magnesium310-420 mg (varies by age and sex)420 mg350 mg (from supplements only)
Note: The UL for potassium has not been established, but it’s important to consume it in moderation, especially for those with kidney issues or those on certain medications.

Short Workouts

During shorter workouts lasting less than an hour, focusing on water intake might be enough. However, for longer sessions, especially those that are high intensity or take place in hot environments, consuming electrolytes can be beneficial.

This can be through a balanced post-workout meal or snack that includes electrolyte-rich foods or through an electrolyte replacement drink. The goal is to replenish what you lose, without overdoing it, as too much of any electrolyte can be harmful. Always listen to your body, and if you’re sweating more than usual, you might need to increase your electrolyte intake accordingly.

Prolonged Workouts

When running, especially for extended periods, managing electrolyte balance becomes crucial due to increased sweat loss. Keep in mind that these needs will vary based on individual sweat rates, the duration and intensity of the exercise, weather conditions, and acclimatization levels. Most athletes can meet their electrolyte needs by consuming sports drinks, electrolyte mixes, or salt tablets along with their normal nutrition and hydration strategies. However, it’s important to avoid over-supplementation which can lead to electrolyte imbalances. As an example of electrolyte needs for heavy exercise, here’s a guideline for electrolyte needs per hour of running:

  • Sodium: An average runner loses about 500-1,500 mg of sodium per hour of running. For long-distance runs or those in hot climates, this number can be even higher. Consuming 500-700 mg of sodium per hour can help maintain balance.
  • Potassium: The loss of potassium is estimated to be around 200-600 mg per hour during running. A supplementation of 100-200 mg per hour can aid in preventing muscle cramps and maintaining heart function.
  • Magnesium: Typical losses are less than those of sodium and potassium, but supplementing with about 100-250 mg of magnesium over the course of a long run can prevent muscle cramps and fatigue.
  • Calcium: While less is lost through sweat, calcium is essential for muscle contractions and bone health. Supplementing with around 200 mg per hour can be beneficial during longer runs.

For runs under an hour, water is generally sufficient unless conditions are hot and humid, causing excessive sweating. For longer runs, or if you’re a particularly salty sweater, incorporating an electrolyte replacement strategy becomes more important.

It’s always wise to personalize your electrolyte intake based on past experiences and consult a sports dietitian for more detailed recommendations.

Food Sources of Electrolytes

Coconut water stands out among the following food options for electrolytes. It has great portability, high potassium and magnesium that is well balanced with limited sodium. Here’s a button to order it on Amazon:

Food ItemServing SizePotassium (mg)Magnesium (mg)Sodium (mg)
Spinach (cooked)1/2 cup4207863
Swiss Chard (cooked)1/2 cup4807535
Avocado1 medium9755810
Sweet Potato (cooked)1 medium5423172
Banana1 medium422321
Yogurt (plain, low-fat)1 cup57342189
Almonds1 ounce (28g)200761
Pumpkin Seeds1 ounce (28g)2261505
Salmon (wild, cooked)3 ounces5342650
Chicken Breast (cooked)3 ounces3323264
Black Beans (cooked)1/2 cup305601
Tomato Sauce1/2 cup40517642
Orange Juice1 cup496272
Coconut water1 cup600 – 69060 – 75252
Tomato juice1 cup500 – 60030 – 40654
Edamame (shelled, cooked)1/2 cup485506
Quinoa (cooked)1 cup31811813
Pickle juice1/4 cup75 (varies widely)5 (varies widely)800 (variable)
Amounts will vary, check the label.

Are Electrolyte Supplements Safe?

Electrolyte supplements are widely considered safe when used as directed and can be an effective way to maintain the body’s mineral balance, especially for those who lose a lot of fluids through intense exercise or illness. They are formulated to help replenish essential minerals that the body needs to perform critical functions, such as muscle contraction and nerve signaling. As with any supplement, it’s important to stick to the recommended dosage and be aware of the contents, particularly if you have dietary restrictions or health conditions that affect mineral balance.

Medication Interactions with Electrolytes

Check with your physician if you are taking any of these medications:

  • Diuretics (e.g., loop diuretics, thiazides): May lead to increased loss of electrolytes, especially potassium, magnesium, and sodium, through urine.
  • ACE inhibitors (e.g., ramipril, captopril): Can increase potassium levels, which might result in hyperkalemia if combined with potassium supplements.
  • ARBs (e.g., losartan, valsartan): Similar to ACE inhibitors, may cause higher potassium levels, increasing the risk of hyperkalemia when taken with potassium supplements.
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics (e.g., spironolactone, amiloride): Can cause an excessive buildup of potassium when taken with potassium supplements.
  • Calcium channel blockers (e.g., amlodipine, diltiazem): May cause small changes in electrolyte levels, and supplementation might require adjustments.
  • Beta-blockers (e.g., atenolol, propranolol): Can increase potassium levels, thus combined with potassium supplements could raise the risk of hyperkalemia.
  • Laxatives and enemas (especially those containing phosphate): Can lead to significant shifts in electrolytes, including low potassium and high phosphate.
  • Corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone): Increase the excretion of electrolytes like potassium, possibly necessitating supplementation.
  • Digoxin: Its effects can be potentiated by low potassium levels, so monitoring is required when taking potassium supplements.
  • Bisphosphonates (e.g., alendronate): Should be taken separately from calcium supplements due to potential interference with absorption.
  • Antibiotics (certain aminoglycosides): Their toxicity can be enhanced by low levels of calcium, potassium, or magnesium.
  • Insulin: It can lower blood potassium levels by shifting potassium into cells, potentially interacting with potassium supplements.
  • Antacids and laxatives containing magnesium: Can cause high levels of magnesium, particularly in patients with kidney issues.

Supplement Interactions with Electrolytes

  • Potassium supplements: Can cause high potassium levels if taken with electrolyte supplements that also contain potassium, particularly in people with kidney function impairment.
  • Magnesium supplements: When taken with electrolyte supplements that contain magnesium, they can increase the risk of high magnesium levels, especially in individuals with kidney issues.
  • Calcium supplements: Can interact with electrolyte supplements, potentially leading to high calcium levels if intake is not monitored.
  • Vitamin D supplements: Increase calcium absorption which can affect overall calcium levels and thus interact with calcium-containing electrolyte supplements.
  • Herbal diuretics (e.g., dandelion, horsetail): May increase the excretion of electrolytes like potassium and magnesium, which can deplete their levels in the body.
  • Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids): High doses of fish oil may reduce blood clotting and affect electrolyte levels, potentially interacting with supplements that have an impact on sodium and potassium balance.
  • Licorice root: Contains glycyrrhizin, which can deplete potassium levels and lead to high blood pressure, interacting with potassium in electrolyte supplements.
  • Chromium supplements: Can alter electrolyte balance and potentially interact with electrolyte supplements by affecting insulin and glucose levels.
  • B-complex vitamins: Certain B vitamins can impact how the body uses and excretes electrolytes, especially vitamin B6 with its diuretic effect on sodium and potassium.

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40,000 Volts! by Trace Minerals Research

40, 000 VOLTS! Electrolyte Concentrate can turn any beverage into an electrolyte sports replacement drink. 40, 000 VOLTS! is created by blending ConcenTrace® Trace Mineral Drops and Utah Sea Minerals in a base of liquid potassium citrate. Aids vitality and overall health nutritionally with natural, soluble, ionic minerals and trace minerals. ConcenTrace® is a trade name for concentrated sea minerals from the Great Salt Lake.

Shake well. Add 1 teaspoon (approximately 80 drops) to a large glass of juice, sports drink, or other beverage before, during, and after strenuous activity to help maintain healthy electrolyte levels in the body for improved performance and fewer muscle cramps.* Can also be used to help prevent night muscle cramps.* 

Serving Size: 1 teaspoon

Amount Per Serving
Magnesium … 200mg
Chloride … 500mg
Sodium … 120mg
Potassium … 150mg
(as Potassium Chloride)
Sulfate … 50mg
Boron … 950mcg


Optimal Electrolyte Seltzer by Seeking Health

Optimal Electrolyte by Seeking Health provides key nutrients in an easy-to-use powder form to support peak physical performance. With no artificial flavors or colors, Optimal Electrolyte offers a healthy alternative to high-sugar sports drinks. Available in two natural delicious flavors: berry or orange, or seltzer (no added flavor).* 

  • Diets containing foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
  • May help support healthy hydration and fluid balance*
  • May help support mitochondrial health*
  • May help support healthy muscle function*
  • May help support healthy energy levels*

Suggested Use: Add 1 scoop to 8 ounces of purified water. Do not take within 5 hours of bedtime. Do not store this product in direct sunlight or at high temperatures as these conditions may cause the powder to react. For those on-the-go, consider our Optimal Electrolyte Stick Packs, which are less reactive in these conditions.

Amount Per 1 Scoop (7.00g) Serving
Niacin … 25mg (as inositol hexanicotinate)
Magnesium … 150mg (as DiMagnesium Malate and magnesium creatine chelate)
Sodium … 140mg (as sodium bicarbonate)
Potassium … 510mg (as potassium bicarbonate)
D-Ribose … 2g
Taurine … 250mg
Creatine … 225mg (as magnesium creatine chelate)[Creatine MagnaPower®]


Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.


This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.


“To Sum It Up”

Electrolyte supplements offer a range of health benefits. They support muscle function, making workouts more effective and less painful. They keep your nerves firing correctly, so every thought and movement is as sharp as it should be. They help regulate your blood pressure and support cognitive functions, so your mind stays clear and focused. They also maintain the delicate acid-base balance that keeps your metabolism ticking over smoothly. For those who live an active lifestyle, deal with high stress, or want to ensure their body’s systems are in harmony, electrolyte supplements could be a valuable addition to a balanced diet. Remember, the right balance is key to reaping these benefits and maintaining optimal health.

About the Author

Stephanie Figon, MS, RDN, LD

Creator of Supplement Sciences and NutriScape.NET. As a dietitian since 1992, Steph has had experiences in consulting, 15 years in clinical, and has operated a private practice nutrition counseling office for since 2011. Log in to comment and save this article on your board or send your comments to reviews@supplement-sciences.com

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