You’ve probably heard of electrolytes before if you’ve ever been sick, hungover, or played a sport (or even worked out). You can lose electrolytes fairly quickly after certain activities, even if you sweat too much from extreme heat or exercise and your muscles begin to cramp up or spasm. Electrolytes contain minerals found in your blood cells and act to balance out and regulate blood pressure, fluids, and muscle function. This is why you are instructed to replenish your electrolytes whenever you’re sick or injured.
Where can you find electrolytes? You can find electrolytes in certain foods— avocados, bananas, broccoli, beans, oranges, spinach, kale, potatoes, peanuts, soybeans, strawberries, tofu, tomatoes, and watermelon—but they are also popular to consume in liquid form.
You might’ve heard of an herbal tonic before. An herbal tonic is a different type of plant-based tonic, which means it can deliver nutritionally dense benefits directly to you. It comprises superfoods and herbs, which can be packed with electrolytes. There are specific flavor options, such as:
- Mint, which helps with digestion and anti-inflammatory properties
- Ginger is known to fight inflammation
- Hibiscus, which has vitamin C and other antioxidants
- Ashwagandha is popular because it can reduce stress
Herbal tonics date back centuries to Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine in India. Beyond just the electrolyte benefits, each herbal mixture has various other benefits for your body. There are traditional benefits through herbs like adaptogens, alternatives, aromatics, astringents, bitters, and nutritive.
If plant-based drinks aren’t your thing, other beverages are also high in electrolytes. You can find them in coconut water; milk (yes, regular cow’s milk); fruit juices such as watermelon, cherry, and orange (think about whenever you give blood at a hospital or blood bank donation, they provide you with juice to replenish your strength and electrolytes); smoothies due to their blend of electrolyte-rich foods from fruits to vegetables; infused waters and sports drinks (there are likely at least a dozen of brands you can think of off-hand that you see at the grocery store); and Pedialyte (not just for adults or to cure hangovers, although that is one use).
But what are the benefits of these drinks with electrolytes?
Here are four benefits of drinks that have electrolytes:
1. Electrolytes give you important minerals
Electrolytes contain essential minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, chloride, and bicarbonate. Each of these is essential to proper blood flow, and that blood flow includes delivering oxygen and fluid to your muscles. Without these minerals, you will likely feel tired, develop an irregular heart rhythm, feel tingling in your limbs, experience bouts of weakness, and even develop headaches.
2. Electrolytes keep you hydrated
Dehydration can cause several symptoms you don’t want to experience—headaches, muscle spasms, cramps, dizziness, and fainting. While reaching for regular water can alleviate these symptoms and keep your H20 levels up, if you’ve just finished rigorous exercise or have been vomiting, water just isn’t enough. The primary electrolyte you’ll need to replenish is sodium because it helps you retain the necessary fluids in your body that your blood needs (on the opposite end, you’ve heard that too much sodium locks in too much water retention). It’s a balance, and drinks with electrolytes can significantly benefit you when you need them most to help regulate your hydration levels.
3. Electrolytes can rebuild damaged tissue and muscles
The essential minerals in electrolytes replenish what was lost during a big workout. And that goes beyond just being dehydrated. The potassium levels in drinks with electrolytes can rebuild damaged tissue and muscles that may get exhausted or torn during a fitness activity.
4. Electrolytes assist in brain function
When you are dehydrated, and your electrolyte levels are low, your body slows down. Cue the headaches and dizziness, and all the other symptoms previously mentioned. So while you may be thinking about these symptoms physically, you also need to consider how it impacts your brain and overall reactions to things. If your body runs slower, so makes your mind, which means that your brain can’t send the right signals to your nervous system at the speed it usually would.
Your body is a complex system that requires constant energy and fuel to keep it moving. Electrolytes are part of that fuel to keep you going. As essential minerals become drained from your body during illness, workouts, blood loss, vomiting, or dehydration, it’s critical to proper health maintenance to replenish these lost minerals in a time-efficient manner to function correctly. Through drinks like an herbal tonic, coconut water, mineral water, sports drink, smoothie, and others, you can get all of the benefits of electrolytes in a single serving without missing a beat.