Why Should I Take Electrolytes? | Electrolyte Benefits & Imbalances

by Dr. Nick Zyrowski March 18, 2022

There’s a lot of information circulating about diet and making changes to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Everyone talks about balance, but what does that mean? Some people think that means to be strict all week long so they can binge eat unhealthy foods on the weekends. That isn’t the way to get optimal health benefits.

When it comes to lifestyle changes, one of the critical factors is to keep your electrolytes balanced. You have most likely heard about “keto flu.” If not, it is what happens when people attempt to lower their carbohydrate intake and start having symptoms that mimic actual flu. That causes some people to give up and go back to eating bad foods. The truth is, you can switch to a healthier way of eating and not go through all the unpleasant symptoms that make you want to give up on it. Let’s answer the question, "Why should I take electrolytes?", look at how electrolytes work, and learn how crucial it is to incorporate them into your healthy lifestyle.

What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals in our blood, tissues, and throughout our bodies. They get their name because of their electric charge.

These minerals are critical for our bodies because they do so many things. They can balance water levels, move nutrients into cells, help with nerve functions, and maintain heart and brain function. Electrolytes also remove waste and enable muscles to flex and relax.

We get electrolytes from foods and drinks. Our kidneys and liver help keep electrolytes balanced and at their proper levels. Some of the most crucial electrolytes are sodium, magnesium, and potassium.

Electrolyte Deficiency Diet Causes

If you want to restore your electrolytes, you need to know what causes a deficiency. For so many people, they don’t consume enough salt. For years, medical doctors and nutritionists told us that salt was bad. As humans, we need a certain amount of sodium in our diets to conduct nerve impulses and contract muscles. We cannot live without sodium!

You may have found that you crave salty foods. That could be a sign that your body needs more sodium. One of the things people may notice is muscle cramps. Some people get them so extreme they cannot walk when it happens.

Other times, it could be as simple as not getting enough vitamins and minerals into your body. For some people, taking a quality multivitamin may help to correct the issue.

Electrolytes while on the Ketogenic Diet

We mentioned people complaining about the “keto flu” when consuming fewer carbs. When you lower the number of carbs you consume, your body releases retained fluid. When people first try keto, they get excited because many may lose five pounds the first week. What they may not realize is that it could be water retention. When your body lets go of that water, you also lose minerals. If you don’t replenish those minerals, you could feel weak, fatigued, dizzy, and sick. Many people get severe headaches as their bodies detox from processed foods. Therefore, it gets compared to having the flu.

You can also lose electrolytes if you are fasting. People have begun to recognize the many benefits of fasting. It can help you in multiple ways, and so many see tremendous health benefits right away. When you fast, you also cut off your supply of electrolytes. Fasting lowers your insulin levels, which forces the kidneys to flush out potassium, sodium, and water. If you are not careful, you could get dehydrated fast.

Fasting and Electrolytes

If you only drink water during a fast, you could end up having hyponatremia. That is a condition where your sodium gets dangerously low. It can be fatal if left untreated. Many people guzzle down tons of water during a fast to avoid getting dehydrated. That may not be a good thing because you are also flushing out all those minerals your body needs. You could dilute blood sodium levels depending on how much water you drink. A simple remedy for this could be to consume some electrolytes during a fast. If you are concerned that taking in too many electrolytes could interfere with your fasted state, try to consume some real salt during your fasting window. You can add it to your water and sip on it throughout the day. That will keep your sodium levels up and help with some of the unpleasant symptoms you may get.

Exercise and Keto

When people switch to a ketogenic way of eating, they consume much fewer carbohydrates. Many want an edge when it comes to exercise, but the sugary pre-workout drinks often contain stimulants and lots of added sugar. If you are on keto, part of the diet is avoiding sugar.

When you exercise, you sweat out a lot of vitamins and minerals. Some people find they have problems working out as hard as before the diet changes. A way to avoid that problem is to make sure you load your body with electrolytes before you exercise. Using a natural energy drink can supply your body with the fuel it needs to get through those tough workout sessions. You can also get healthy energy without the crash from using artificial stimulants. You can use a healthy electrolyte drink as a pre-workout, energy drink, or daily addition to your healthy dietary routine.

Problem Electrolyte Drinks

Electrolyte + Orange | Compare Electrolyte + with Gatorade and Powerade

When some people start the keto diet, they get sports drinks from the grocery store, trusting these will give them what they need. The problem is many of these drinks contain loads of sugar and artificial ingredients that you don’t want to put in your body.

Some of these drinks can make you feel good now but send you crashing down soon after. Some of the drinks we see advertised as having zero sugar have artificial sweeteners in them.

Many people on a ketogenic diet think if they drink enough of these beverages, they will adapt to the diet fast. You could be doing more harm than good when you consume these.

If you want to maintain those crucial mineral levels, you can use exogenous ketones along with a healthy diet. These will help promote ketosis and minimize those keto flu symptoms.

Electrolyte Imbalance Symptoms

We mentioned some of the symptoms people have when experiencing an electrolyte imbalance. There are others you need to look for so you can meet them head-on if they arise.

One of the symptoms that can be a little scary is having an irregular heartbeat. Some describe these as feeling like their heart is running away or beating too hard. These can also get diagnosed as heart palpitations and can feel frightening to experience.

One of the most missed symptoms would be headache. Before reaching for an OTC med, you could try using electrolytes. Many people who suffer from low magnesium get frequent headaches. Proper magnesium levels will also help muscle cramping.

Shallow breathing can be a symptom of an electrolyte imbalance. Some people describe this as not being able to get a good, deep breath in their lungs.

Another indicator that you need electrolytes could be having bowel irregularity. Some people get diagnosed with IBS and may even have prescriptions to help with the symptoms. Sometimes the solution is to get more electrolytes, and you may not need medicine at all.

A True Game Changer

Many of us do not understand the importance of having proper electrolyte balance. We may get symptoms of an imbalance and don’t know how to recognize them.

If you have made some healthy diet changes or started any fasting regimen, you need to make sure you get the correct number of electrolytes. When you get into ketosis, your body lets go of systemic inflammation. That water has electrolytes in it, so you lose those, too.

The great thing is, getting electrolytes is not hard. It doesn’t have to feel overwhelming or complicated. You can refuel your body with what it needs and feel your best. Pay attention to what your body tells you. Keeping your electrolytes balanced is a true game-changer in how your body performs and how you function.

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Dr. Nick Zyrowski
Dr. Nick Zyrowski

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