Ah, electrolytes—we know they’re good, and we know we need them…but what exactly are they? And, more importantly, what’s the deal with the importance of electrolytes for hydration and healing? If you find yourself wondering why in the world you hear so much talk about the power of electrolytes for hydration and unsure of what, exactly, that means (or what electrolytes even are in the first place)—not to fear: you’re not alone. Today on the blog we’re answering all of your electrolyte-related questions, starting with the most pressing: What are they, anyway?
Ok, so what are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are simply minerals that are electric. This includes minerals like calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium. (Are we taking you back to your high-school chemistry class yet?) When in a fluid environment (i.e. water), these minerals carry an electric charge. Looking for another explanation? Scientific American puts it this way: “In the world of nutrition, we use the word ‘electrolyte’ more specifically to refer to minerals dissolved in the body’s fluids, creating electrically charged ions. The electrolytes that are the most important in nutrition are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate.”
What role do electrolytes play in our bodies?
Electrolytes are like the little engines that can in our bodies. They serve a number of roles, which, together, help to ensure our cells, tissues, and fluids can “communicate,” allowing our bodies to function properly. These roles include:
- Sparking nerve impulses (nerve impulses allow muscles to contract, which, for example keeps your heart beating)
- Balancing the amount of water in our bodies
- Balancing blood acidity and blood pressure
- Aiding in rebuilding damaged tissues
How do you lose electrolytes, and who is susceptible to electrolyte depletion?
You don’t just lose water when you sweat—you also lose electrolytes. So, athletes who train regularly, those who workout in heated fitness classes (like hot yoga, hot barre, hot bootcamp, etc.) regularly, and even those who live in humid clients are all susceptible to electrolyte depletion. The elderly can also be susceptible—along with those with heart failure, kidney disease, or women who are breastfeeding. People who take laxatives or diuretics are also susceptible to major electrolyte loss. Another group susceptible to dehydration and electrolyte depletion is people undergoing surgery. When patients are directed to fast from midnight (an old-school instruction that’s not science-based), they often end up vastly dehydrated and malnourished prior to undergoing anesthesia. A great way to stay safe for surgery by ensuring your stomach is empty while still maintaining a proper electrolyte balance (which is so important for a healthy and fast recovery) is to ask your doctor about consuming a presurgery drink like ClearFast prior to your procedure in place of traditional fasting from midnight. (Read more about talking to your doctor about using a presurgery drink here!)
Why do you need electrolytes for hydration and healing?
So what, exactly, makes electrolytes for hydration so important? Electrolytes are essential to a properly functioning body—and they’re even more so essential to a properly hydrated body. They are the minerals responsible for directing water to those areas in your body that need it most. They also help maintain optimal fluid balance within cells themselves. When we sweat, it is electrolytes that do the important job of keeping proper water balances both inside and outside of our cells. This helps us stay properly hydrated and ensures our body can function well overall, which is essential for healing after something like surgery or a medical procedure. Put simply: without electrolytes, your heart wouldn’t beat and you wouldn’t be able to function. (Say what?)
Do sports drinks provide proper electrolytes for hydration?
In a word—no! According to Elete Co., “Despite their popularity amongst certain groups, sports drinks are a poor choice to stay hydrated.” Sports drinks are essentially simple-sugar-laden water with a little sodium thrown in, touted as “electrolyte replenishment.” Also according to Elete Co., the simple sugar in Gatorade® is equivalent to 13 Tootsie Rolls. And the simple sugar in Powerade®? Well, that’s equivalent to 16 Tootsie rolls. (16 Tootsie Rolls—think about that!)
When you’re using electrolytes for hydration and healing, it’s important to look for balance. You want to choose a drink that offers a proper balance of electrolytes and healthy carbohydrates—and one that isn’t chock-full of simple sugars (which can further dehydrate you by reducing the amount of fluid your body is able to retain). Specially formulated for use in luminary hospitals across the U.S., the ClearFast preop drink contains electrolytes for hydration (as properly balanced sodium and potassium), 50 grams of complex carbohydrates (rather than simple sugars), is clear and colorless (kiss harmful colored dyes goodbye), is free of preservatives, and is gluten-free and full of all-natural ingredients—so it’s a perfect choice for those looking for electrolytes for hydration and healing.
Overall, when it comes to electrolytes for hydration, it all comes down to choosing a drink that’s well balanced…rather than one that’s chock-full of as much sugar as you’d find in Halloween candy. Ready to have ClearFast on-hand for the next time you need medical-grade hydration at your fingertips after an electrolyte-depleting workout or procedure? You can order ClearFast here or reach out to the ClearFast team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions at all. We’re always here and happy to help!