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Why You Need Electrolytes

Posted 7/4/2017 by UHBlog

Make sure you’re properly hydrating for your sport events. We can help.

Why You Need Electrolytes

In the summer heat, you can expect to sweat a lot during your workout. Hydration is key, but water alone isn’t enough to help you perform your best.

“Electrolytes are minerals that, when dissolved in water, break into small, electrically charged particles called ions,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Jamieson-Petonic. “Electrolytes regulate body fluids, helping to maintain a healthy pH balance and create electrical impulses to all areas of physical activity, including athletic performance.”

Electrolytes impact your body’s muscle contractions and can make a big difference in your athletic performance. They are also a major component of sweat, which is why your sweat tastes salty.

“When you sweat, you lose quite a bit of sodium, potassium and other electrolytes,” says Jamieson-Petonic. “That can increase dehydration quickly. When the body is dehydrated, it negatively impacts performance.”

Some signs that you may be dehydrated include:

  • Not being able to run as fast
  • Having a hard time regulating body temperature
  • Cloudy, slow thought
  • Increase in perceived exertion
  • Muscle cramping
  • Irritability and change in attitude
  • Slower post-workout recovery time

Your body needs electrolytes to rehydrate and reinvigorate itself. Drinking a lot of water without actively replacing electrolytes will throw off your body’s pH balance and actually slow down your rehydration process.

Electrolytes should be consumed before, during and post-workout. To make sure you’re replenishing electrolytes, Jamieson-Petonic recommends eating salty foods such as:

  • Pretzels
  • Pickles
  • Pickle juice
  • Crackers

You can also take in electrolytes through sports beverages, but be wary of the ingredient list and sugar content.

“I would suggest making sure it has sodium and potassium, as well as the proper percentage of carbohydrates,” she says. “The recommendation is no more than 6 to 8 percent carbs. Anything higher can lead to digestive issues like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.”

Jamieson-Petonic recommends a homemade sports drink recipe that you can alter to your tastes:

Homemade Sports Drink


  • One quart liquid (water or herbal tea)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon calcium-magnesium powder
  • ¼ cup juice (lemon, lime, apple, pineapple, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon stevia

Mix together.

For more ideas on how to incorporate sources of electrolytes into your diet, a registered dietitian can help. To make an appointment, call 216-844-1499.

Amy Jamieson-Petonic, MEd, RDN, CSSD, LD, is a registered dietitian nutritionist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Jamieson-Petonic or any other health care professional online.

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