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What are electrolytes and how essential are electrolyte drinks?

If you go to any big superstore, chances are you will see an electrolyte drink perched on a shelf. Of late, the consumption of electrolyte drinks has shot up. Is it the new fad among the ever-increasing list of supplements? Or is it something that your body wants? Let's find out the answers to these questions and more on this topic.

What are electrolytes?

Any nerdy student of Chemistry would tell you that it is a chemical substance or compound which releases ions when it comes into contact with a soluble liquid like water. These ions possess negative or positive electrical charge – hence the name electrolytes. In simple words, these are essential minerals that we need in our body to perform various functions. They are present in our urine, sweat, and blood. The positive or negative ions produced by them are used in the metabolic process.

Common examples of them found in our body include;

  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Bicarbonate
  • Sodium
  • Chloride
  • Phosphate

Salts, bases, or acids are different forms of them.

Functions of these substances:

  • They manage and control the hydration levels in our body.
  • They keep the blood plasma fluids in check.
  • They maintain the pH level (acidic/alkaline) in your blood.
  • They send nerve signals from nerve cells, the heart, to other parts of the body.
  • They make the blood clot.
  • They also help in creating new tissues.
  • They help the muscles function better by enabling muscle contraction, and that includes heart beating.

Imbalance in their quantity:

Following conditions can cause disruptions in the normal levels of these substances in the body.

  • Profuse and prolonged sweating
  • Excessive urination
  • Higher level of blood pH
  • Not consuming enough water
  • Poor dietary habits
  • Persistent respiratory issues
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Unsupervised and arbitrary use of diuretics, steroids, and laxatives.

Signs of imbalance:

An imbalance can manifest in one or more of the following ways;

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Seizure
  • Muscle spasm
  • Erratic heartbeat
  • Numbness
  • Twitching
  • Nausea
  • Intense thirst
  • Dry throat
  • Coma
  • Mental disorientation
  • Nervous system issues
  • Uneven blood pressure
  • Loss of diet
  • Convulsions

What is an electrolyte drink?

 It contains all the vital, electrically charged minerals that we have talked about above in optimum levels to help our bodies function at their best. It is sometimes also called an alkaline drink or even mineral water. Instead of getting their daily dose from various sources, you get all of them in a bottle in drinking form. It is a hit with athletes, sportspersons, exercise enthusiasts, people with a hectic lifestyle, homemakers, etc. It is better than rehydration tablets because they are easier to consume and have a higher mineral value.

Please note that it is no elixir. An organic and wholesome diet is still your best bet for keeping their levels in check. However, it can be a viable substitute when exercising, traveling, feeling sick, or needing a quick energy boast. Sometimes the physicians recommend its consumption too. But in any circumstance moderation should be the key.