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the Naturopath's perspective So what's all this fuss about ELECTROLYTES??

So what's all this fuss about ELECTROLYTES??


  • What are ELECTROLYTES?
  • Why do we need them?
  • Where do we find them?
  • Sports drinks – good or bad?
  • When to take supplemental electrolytes



I’m confident that you know electrolytes are the vital minerals our body needs to conduct any electrical type activity in the body?

If not, here’s a very brief intro to these wonderful nutrients:

  • it’s a substance that contains ions (you know, those things we learnt about in science class that have a +ve or -ve charge!)
  • they are ESSENTIAL minerals
  • These minerals are: Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Chlorine (& to a lesser extent for the purposes of this explanation Iron, Zinc, Hydrochloric acid)
  • think of them as mineral salts
  • they are water soluble (water is NOT an electrolyte, it is the solution they are dissolved in)

WHY do we need them?

  • Fluid balance (think of puffiness dues to water retention being reduced by taking salt aka Sodium )
  • Blood Pressure Maintenance (Sodium in particular)
  • Move waste & nutrients in or out of cells
  • Muscle & Nerve function (probably what we supplement for the most)
  • Maintain a steady Heart Rate
  • Balances our pH level (you may be familiar with the term “acids & bases”?)

WHERE do we find them?

Most diets (even crappy ones) contain a decent amount of these mineral salts. Where there is a deficiency, it’s because there is a situation where a LOSS of these nutrients has occurred. Any such deficiency is probably not able to be corrected by diet (food) alone.
Examples include:
            Diarrhoea, Vomiting, Sweating, Intense &/or Prolonged exercise, poor water intake

We can also SUPPLEMENT with powders, tablets, sports drinks, salt tabs etc.

SPORTS DRINKS – good or bad?

OMG – the number of times I have this conversation in clinic is beyond my ability to count.

My first questions around this are: Are You A Sports Person? Are You Playing Sport? How Often Do You Play Sport? I’m sure you get the idea.

The majority of sports drinks/energy drinks available contain a number of ingredients that really are NOT needed by most of us, most of the time.

The key to consuming ANY sports hydration is to understand exactly what you need it for.

I recommend reading the ingredients (& additives/flavourings etc) before you decide. See if you can try it first. Has it go the key nutrients you need for the type of activity you are doing?

For example – going on an 8-hour hike will need different types of nutrients than a high intensity bike race. Other factors such as the weather, food you can eat during the event, did you get a good nights sleep the night before, can impact your body’s needs.

My best advice is to try different brands until you have a couple that work for you.

Trial them in training, NOT on event day! Remember that as you get fitter & stronger, your needs will change.

The level of intensity you are working at will also change what you need to sustain that level.

Feel free to get in touch if you need some help in this area - it can be a complex thing to navigate.


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the Naturopath's perspective

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