This summer has been a hot one folks! You know I'm a fan of real-food, whole-food nutrition, so here's a spin on real-food hydration!
First, let's take a moment to identify and explain what electrolytes are!
Electrolytes are substances that, when dissolved in water, form ions, which carry a charge - either positive or negative - and thus conduct electricity. Our entire body operates on these little guys, depending on them for everything from muscle movement to thinking! You might say electrolytes are very important.
There six commonly identified electrolytes (though most sources will tell you that there are five). The six electrolytes are:
Phosphorous (often left out :/)
When we exert our bodies for multiple hours on end, whether in the hot hot heat or not, we begin to use up our electrolytes. (Even if we're not doing arduous exercise - i.e. mountain running or biking or swimming - we are still using electrolytes, just at a slower rate.) Thus, it is super important that we continually supply our bodies with new sources of these six electrolytes so that we can continue to do...everything. And yes, it is true, we utilize each of these electrolytes at different rates.
Fun fact about mother nature: she tends to supply our foods with all the micronutrients we need, in the ratios that we need them :)
Before endeavoring to make your own electrolyte drink at home, do a little market research, just for fun! :) Next time you're out at your favorite run shoppe or bike shoppe or mountain shoppe, take a look at the electrolyte products on the market (look at the ingredients and the Nutrition Facts). What do you find? Do you find all six electrolytes listed? I...bet...not... Do you find added sugar? I...bet...so...
The only problem with this is that in certain cases, when our bodies are low in one particular electrolyte, we may excrete (i.e. get rid of) another electrolyte in an effort to hold on to the one that we have a low supply of...those darn kidneys!! So, taking a product that only gives you some of the electrolytes could be problematic.
If you search the internet for recipes to make your own electrolyte mix at home, you'll find one major thing in common: lemons and limes! The reason is that these awesome little citrus balls contain magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, and phosphorous (lemons and limes contain negligible amounts of chloride).
In my version, I added a few other superstars: celery, cucumber, beets, ginger, and turmeric. These other three veggies are also powerhouses in terms of electrolyte supply; the ginger and turmeric provide anti-inflammatory properties that help quell the activity of reactive oxygen species (ROS; in brief, these are pro-inflammatory molecules) that are inevitably produced during moderate-intense physical exertion. (yes, sorry, ROS: topic for another day :) !) And ginger, as many of you may know, can also help quell an angry stomach (which seems to be a far-too-often occurrence in the endurance sports world these days...)
Natalie's Homemade Electrolyte Bevy (pun intended...)
2 stalks celery
1/2 medium cucumber
1/2 small-medium beet
1"-long piece of ginger
1"-long piece of turmeric
Juice all ingredients in a juice. Pour into glass. Savor. Share, if you're into that sort of thing...
Options: add 1/8 tsp sea salt (for that missing chloride), and minuscule amounts of local, raw honey or Grade B maple syrup.
For those us who don't own a juice, an alternative option is to use a hand-juicer to juice 1 whole lemon and 1 whole lime. You can then mix this juice with 10-12 ounces of water, and add 1/8 tsp sea salt and/or 1/8 tsp honey or syrup as desired.
Please don't forget to also drink water!
Lastly, on days like these when it is pushing 90 degrees F and super humid, prepare yourself by drinking water, small amounts of electrolytes, and eating! all day long...do this well in advance of, and well after, your exercise. Do not wait until the hour or two hours prior to your exercise to start taking care of your body.
Take care of your body the whole day long!!!