Electrolytes are essential minerals that are vital for many key functions of the human body. We depend on electrolytes — including potassium, sodium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate — to keep water levels balanced, move nutrients & waste, send nerve signals, relax & contract muscles, and maintain brain & heart function.
Electrolytes are depleted by vomiting, diarrhea, not drinking enough fluids, not eating enough, and excessive sweating. In the hot summer months, especially, it’s important for those who are exercising or working outdoors to replenish fluids & minerals lost through sweat.
Proper rehydration after exercise or strenuous activity only happens when the water and the electrolytes lost through sweating are replaced. When drinking a lot of water —as is recommended after working hard & sweating profusely — sodium (salt) is essential to help restore fluid balance. A proper concentration of glucose (sugar) enhances fluid absorption and helps restore internal energy reserves that are depleted by intense exercise (Rehrer).
A 2003 study posted in the Malaysian Journal of Nutrition states, “Drinks with low sodium content are ineffective at rehydration and they will only reduce the stimulus to drink. Addition of small amounts of carbohydrate to the rehydrating drinks may improve the rate of intestinal uptake of sodium and water and will improve palatability” (Singh).
As mentioned in the findings above, salt and sugar are two important components of a rehydrating drink.
While there are many sports beverages available for sale, it’s easy to make your own electrolyte rich drink at home. As many conventional sports drinks contain artificial colorants and flavors, this homemade version is a healthier option too.
Brown sugar, is a better option, as white sugar is highly refined — a process that removes all the nutrients naturally found in sugar cane. Sugar cane juice actually has a high concentration of important minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and manganese (Chinnadurai).
Another addition to this tasty recovery drink is tart cherry juice, which is rich in vitamins A&C and is also a source of potassium. Tart cherry juice is also quite beneficial for those engaging in strenuous exercise. A 2010 study found that drinking tart cherry juice prior to a difficult run helped reduce muscle pain after the fact (Kuehl et al.). Another study found that tart cherry juice “can accelerate recovery after intermittent exercise” (Quinlan et al.).
Limes are a tasty and healthy addition too. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, including vitamin C, magnesium, phosphorus, & potassium. They boost metabolism, support the immune system, and help to reduce inflammation.
To make Cherry Limeade Electrolyte Drink, you will need:
- 1 liter water
- 1/2 cup tart cherry juice
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
Combine ingredients in a big bottle or jug and shake well. Keep in the refrigerator for a cooling, electrolyte boosting drink after a sweltering summer day or intense work out.
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Kuehl, Kerry S et al. “Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 7 17. May 7 2010.
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Rehrer, N J. “Fluid and electrolyte balance in ultra-endurance sport.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 31,10 (2001): 701-15.
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