When dissolved into water, electrolytes are minerals that have an electrical charge. They are essential for a nervous system to function, maintaining a healthy body, and helping muscles work well (because who likes waking up with a cramp in their muscle). Most people have enough electrolytes from their diet, but when a person goes on a low carb diet or exercises non-stop (or both), they’re at risk for dehydration. Dehydration can also take place from excessive heat or illness. For dieters who are learning about the keto diet, which is a high fat, low carb diet, it’s vital to realize that it’s easy to get dehydrated. More salt gets excreted while on the keto diet, which means you have to work twice as hard at making sure you have enough electrolytes. Below we list various food and liquid sources for replenishing your fluids. We also divulge everything new dieters need to know about the keto diet in the Body Reboot book,
As we just mentioned, on a standard diet people typically have enough electrolytes, and Healthline discusses this below. However, remember on the keto diet you need to work extra hard to stay hydrated and supplement for the salt and nutrients lost.
Some people drink electrolyte water or supplement with electrolytes like sodium and calcium to ensure they get enough.
However, a balanced diet that includes sources of electrolytes should suffice for most.
Your body can typically regulate electrolytes efficiently and keep them at the right levels.
But in some circumstances, such as during bouts of vomiting and diarrhea where electrolyte losses are excessive, supplementing with a rehydration solution that contains electrolytes could be useful.
The amount you’ll need to consume will depend on your losses. Always read the instructions on over-the-counter replacement solutions.
Also note that unless you have low levels of electrolytes due to excessive losses, then supplementing can cause abnormal levels and possibly illness.
It’s best to first consult your doctor or pharmacist before supplementing with electrolytes.
Men’s Health provides a few excellent examples of what you can eat to improve your electrolytes. A few examples are making a big salad and snacking on pumpkin seeds. Although, you might want to avoid high-carb foods like black beans, beets, and sweet potatoes on a low carb diet.
A Big Salad
Common salad ingredients including sweet potatoes, leafy greens, black beans, and beets are high in potassium, says Maciel. Olives, tomatoes, and lettuce are also packed with chloride, an electrolyte that works with sodium to maintain fluid balance. Add some rice and nuts to make it a bowl: nuts and whole grains (as well as green salad bases) are high in magnesium, says Maciel, which your body needs for muscle contractions and to make protein and energy.
Seeds don’t exactly sound like a power food. But choose wisely, and they can be. “Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium with 74 milligrams in two tablespoons — 25 percent of your daily recommend dietary allowance,” says Schwabenbauer. Add them to a salad or eat a handful before you lace up to load up on electrolytes and have a little more staying power.
If you’re thirsty drink up because Food Network names off quite a few ways you can get electrolytes through liquids. If you choose sports drinks to make sure you drink a sugar-free version or find electrolytes that have zero carbs. Also, check to see what type of artificial sugars they use because some are better than others.
You can find electrolytes in a wide variety of foods and beverages. If these foods are regular fixtures in your diet, you can rest assured you’re getting enough.
A good choice after a sweaty workout, sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade have fluid and carbs along with sodium and potassium.
Fruits & Veggies
Potatoes, raisins, bananas, spinach and sweet potatoes are just a few potassium-rich fruits and veggies. Get calcium from leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard and arugula.
Salty (Healthy) Foods
Canned tuna, canned salmon, soup, beans, pickles, olives and whole-grain bread are higher-sodium foods that are actually good for you. Since most of these foods are seasoned with table salt (a.k.a. sodium-chloride) you’ll find both electrolytes.
Food Network just commented on various food sources you can replenish your fluids, and Natural Calm adds to that by reminding us to eat plenty of green veggies! Eating greens such as spinach and kale should be top on your list.
No list is complete without a reminder to eat more green vegetables—and electrolyte replenishment is no exception! Leafy greens such as kale, swiss chard, beet greens, bok choy and spinach are packed with electrolytes. They are especially rich in magnesium, calcium and potassium. Celery, broccoli and avocado are good sources as well. You can add an electrolyte punch to any meal by tossing in something green.
Sodium is one of the electrolytes that we’re quickest to lose through sweat. Luckily, ingesting salt is a quick and easy way to replace what we lose. Salt also contains the electrolytes magnesium, calcium and potassium; so it’s good for more than just sodium replenishment. Go for sea salt over table salt because it’s less processed. Himalayan and Celtic sea salts are widely available in most grocery stores. Just put a pinch in your water and drink. It’s that easy.
If you need more calcium, Spud.ca recommends eating more dairy, beans, nuts, and meat. Remember — some of these foods have a lot of carbs so if you’re going to go on keto, you will need to modify your diet.
Phosphorus has a similar role as calcium in that it assists with maintaining healthy bones and teeth. But it also helps prevent and repair any cell damage and converts carbohydrates and fats into energy. Most vegetables and fruits are very low in phosphorus, so if you’re a plant-based kind of eater, make sure you’re getting adequate phosphorus!
Good sources: meat, dairy, beans, nuts
Potassium and magnesium are two additional nutrients that your body needs. Livestrong breaks down which foods you can eat to improve your potassium and magnesium below:
Potassium helps your body break down carbohydrates, maintain proper growth and regulate electrical activity of the heart. Potassium is found in a variety of foods. Good sources include red meat, chicken and fish. Vegetables such as broccoli, winter squash, tomatoes, lima beans and peas are also rich in potassium. Fruits high in calcium include bananas, kiwis, cantaloupe, apricots and citrus fruits.
Every organ in your body relies on magnesium. It helps your body maintain the proper calcium, potassium, zinc, copper and vitamin D levels. It also helps your body produce energy. Good sources include nuts, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, blackstrap molasses and pumpkin and squash seeds
Even though flavored water and sports drinks encourage people to drink more, WebMD says to weigh whether you need water or sports drinks carefully. Plus — remember our advice earlier on what to consider while deciding on keto-friendly beverages.
For less-intensive exercisers, water will do, says Zeisel. Don't even bother with bottled water — good old tap water works just fine. “When it comes to exercise and water loss, tap water and bottled water are all the same.”
However, a new “fitness water” called “Propel” has a light flavoring and a few antioxidant vitamins — not intended to help performance, just to add to a healthy diet, says Mary Horn, MS, a research scientist at the Gatorade Sports Institute.
Flavorings in beverages “encourage the exerciser or athlete to drink more and stay hydrated better,” she tells WebMD. “Our research shows that both the taste and sodium content of Gatorade naturally make people drink more of it, so they get the hydration they need.”
It's totally true — that little bit of flavoring does make people hydrate themselves better, says Bonci. “Water doesn't have any flavor, it's flat. Water alone can cause people to stop drinking before their fluid needs are met.”
Carmichael's not convinced. “I don't think [fitness water] does a great job of anything. It's a marketing ploy,” he tells WebMD.
WebMD goes onto explain how drinking a sport’s drink is better than nothing, but if you’re on a low carb diet, you should be aware of the many sugars sports drinks have (which we mentioned earlier). Once more, we recommend finding a sport’s drink that doesn’t have sugar and carbs (they sell electrolyte packets without zero carbs). Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time sticking to your diet.
If you're exercising intensively in the morning, “A sports drink is better than being on empty,” says Bonci. “Most people find they do better if they have something, but it can be solid or liquid form.”
While you're exercising: “Thirst is not a good indicator at all,” says Bonci. “If you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated.”
Drink something every 15 to 20 minutes, if possible: Since that's not possible in all sports, you may have to drink more before you exercise, so you have enough in your body.
Don't try something new before competition: “That's a recipe for disaster,” Bonci tells WebMD. The body needs to get used to new fluids, so do it really, really gradually.”
Now that you know about which food sources you can eat and drink to get electrolytes, you have an excellent place to start. To find out what type of foods have the nutrients you need and how the keto diet has helped many people get healthy check out the Body Reboot book. For a free copy of the book all you have to do is help us cover shipping and visit this page to get your free copy today!
Sources: Healthline, Food Network, Natural Calm, Spud.ca, Men’s Health, Livestrong, WebMD
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