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The heat is on — replenish your electrolytes

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Posted: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 10:49 am

Let’s say you just finished an intense workout, or you have a child that plays an outdoor sport. Maybe you’re a construction worker with a physically demanding job or a salesperson in and out of your vehicle during the hot, summer months.

Any time you sweat, spend time in the sun and intense heat, you’ll experience a loss of electrolytes, specifically sodium and potassium. Essential minerals that are considered the main electrolytes found in body fluids are sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and chloride.

Your kidneys control the amount of electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes are used in the maintenance and repair of all tissue, the utilization of amino acids, and as the basis of every physical and neurological function.

Signs you’re low in electrolytes may include muscle cramps and spasms (charley horses), muscle twitching, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, circulation problems, fatigue, tooth deterioration, bone problems and thinning hair. The key is to replenish your electrolytes and stay hydrated.

Those that experience leg cramps are usually dehydrated, have electrolyte imbalances, and mineral deficiencies, specifically magnesium. Magnesium takes part in the transmission of hormones (such as insulin, thyroid, estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, etc.), neurotransmitters (such as dopamine, catecholamines, serotonin, GABA, etc.), and mineral electrolytes. A magnesium sleep deficiency can cause people to wake up frequently during the night.

And, if you urinate too often, you may not be absorbing your fluids, or it’s possible you’re deficient in minerals. A person with low aldosterone can urinate 15-20 times a day, Aldosterone is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that regulates the amount of fluid and electrolytes in your body.

Adults can lose up to 2 1/2 quarts of fluid per hour through perspiration which includes a loss of fluid, sodium chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

According to a 2008 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, dehydrated exercisers produced more stress hormones, while reducing the release of testosterone.

Make your own healthy electrolyte beverage:

• 48 ounces of spring water

• 8 ounces of coconut water

• 8 ounces of either Triple Berry Juice or Tart Cherry Juice (found at Trader Joe’s)

• 1-2 teaspoons of unprocessed sea salt or Himalayan salt

The unprocessed sea salt adds minerals, creates an alkaline environment, is very nourishing for your adrenals, and will not elevate blood pressure.

Himalayan sea salt contains over 84 trace minerals. The amount of salt used will be different for each person. How do you determine the amount of salt to use? Your beverage should not taste salty.

• Coconut water and coconut juice are two of the highest sources of electrolytes known to man. Coconut water and juice help to prevent dehydration, balance body pH, improve digestion and boost metabolism. Eight ounces of coconut water has more potassium than a banana. Read the list of ingredients as all coconut water is not equal.

• Tart cherry juice is high in potassium and beneficial for recovery following strenuous exercise. It increases total antioxidant capacity and recovery of muscle function, lowers inflammation and lipid peroxidation.

Consumption of tart cherry juice decreases oxidative stress in older individuals. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that drinking tart cherry juice for seven days before and during a strenuous running event minimizes post-run muscle pain.

• Food sources of magnesium include spinach, mustard greens, arugula and other leafy green vegetables, halibut, raw pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, almonds, quinoa, artichoke, dark chocolate.

• Potassium food sources include watermelon, avocado, Swiss chard, cucumber, broccoli, pomegranate seeds, wild salmon, halibut, bananas.

• Chloride food sources include celery, seaweed, tomatoes, olives, lettuce.

• Calcium food sources include dark leafy greens (kale, arugula, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, collard greens, etc.), raw milk, sardines with the bones, blackstrap molasses, bok choy, hazelnuts.

• Sodium food sources include eggs, raw milk, sea vegetables.

• Epsom salts contain magnesium sulfate. Soaking in a tub with 3-4 cups of Epsom salts allows the minerals to soak directly into the body’s pores, instantly replenishing needed electrolytes and providing relaxation for tired or sore muscles.

Caution: There are many commercial electrolyte sport drinks available on the market, most of which are bad. Most popular sports drinks contain approximately 2 cups worth of sugar calories in 1 gallon of beverage.

Become an avid label reader and read the list of ingredients as the majority of commercial sports drinks contain caffeine, excessive amounts of processed sugar, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, chemicals, and artificial colorings.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens, M.S., is the author of two books, “The Power of 4” and “Fat Loss Revolution.” She is a nutritionist and fitness expert with more than 25 years of experience, and creator of “21 Days to a Leaner, Healthier You,” an online exercise and fat-loss program. Visit Paula at

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