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Making Electrolytes Make Sense

Updated on May 5, 2011

Electrolytes... We've all head of them but what are they?

Technically speaking, electrolytes are substances that become ions and conduct electricity (Cool huh?). Every time you move, your brain sends an electrical signal to the muscle you are wanting to move, and in turn your muscle reacts accordingly. Just like the electricity in your house, the electrical signal in your body must travel through a conductor to get where it is being sent. The conductors that the human body uses are electrolytes.

So when you pick up a pen... Your brain sends an electrical signal. This electrical impulse travels through your electrolytes until they get to the muscles in your hand. Your hand picks up the pen. Even as I am typing this now, my brain is sending electrical signals through my electrolytes that makes my fingers type each letter (Even cooler huh?). Because of this function electrolytes help keep our cells and organs functioning normally.

To further blow you away electrolytes are really just salts. The major electrolytes in your body are sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, bicarbonate, phosphate, and sulphate.

Electrolytes and Physical Activity

When a person takes part in physical activity it causes that person's body temperature to rise. Our bodies have a built in coolant system that keeps our temperature balanced by sweating. However sweating causes us to lose water and electrolytes.

When the lost water and electrolytes are not replaced, it can lead to dehydration, hyponatremia, hypokalemia, and a few other big words I wouldn't expect you to remember (I know I won't). The more common of the ailments listed is Dehydration which most of us understand as when we lose more water than we take in. The other ailments are basically sister ailments that mean you are losing more electrolytes than you are taking in. The symptoms of dehydration and low electrolyte ailments are basically the same and go hand in hand. They include but are not limited too lethargy, headaches, fatigue, muscle weakness, and can lead to much worse problems including death.

Our kidneys work to maintain a balance of electrolytes but they can only do so much when we do not provide our body the replacement electrolytes it needs.

Sodium + Chloride = Table Salt. And this is a picture of table salt... taken by me... pretty good aye?
Sodium + Chloride = Table Salt. And this is a picture of table salt... taken by me... pretty good aye?

So how do I keep my electrolytes balanced?

Sports drinks are known as the common source of electrolytes but those aren't the only sources. Its actually much easier than what some companies probably care for us to know. Some of the electrolytes I named above I'm sure you've heard of. That in mind some of the more common sources for these electrolytes are not only sports drinks, but certain bottled waters, fruit juices, and milk.

Electrolytes not only come from liquids but solid foods as well. Fruit, vegetables, and even bread all contain electrolytes. To put it simply a large portion of the foods we eat provide electrolytes.

I named sodium and chloride as electrolytes. Well if you add sodium to chloride you get table salt. Yes its really that simple and electrolytes are that common.

If you look on the back of a water bottle in the ingredients of some you might see magnesium sulfate, potassium bicarbonate, and potassium chloride. These are electrolytes that are compounded together. They are still electrolytes.

Most of the items in your fridge probably have electrolytes.
Most of the items in your fridge probably have electrolytes.


There are also ailments involved with consuming too many electrolytes. So don't attempt to over consume. Simply keep in mind during rigorous activities that you should replace what you lose through sweat to maintain an electrolyte balance. If you believe you may not be handling your electrolytes appropriately or intend to start a rigorous exercise routine speak to your doctor or health care provider. They can not only advise you on how to properly keep your electrolytes balanced but they can perform tests to measure your electrolytes.


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    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      7 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thank you both for the comments! I greatly appreciate it!

    • Felixedet2000 profile image


      7 years ago from The Universe

      thanks for the insight, i really appreciate this article. Voted up.

    • A.A. Zavala profile image

      Augustine A Zavala 

      7 years ago from Texas

      An easy and informative hub regarding a complex subject. Thank you for sharing.

    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      7 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thank you for the comment! Thats very intereseting!

    • sweetie2 profile image


      7 years ago from Delhi

      Nice informative hub phillbert. In india govt hospitals usually give ORS or they simply say mix a portion of salt and sugar in water and give it to the person whos is dehydrated or is suffering from electrolyte loss like in diahorrea.

    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      7 years ago from The Ozarks

      Hahaha thanks Jy3502!!!

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Hmmm, finally some decent competition. LOL. Great story Phil.

    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      7 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thank you vocalcoach! I'm glad you found it useful! I appreciate the comment!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Wow! Exactly what I needed. Spent 3 different times in emergency last month for dehydration. I have an infection called "C-diff". Have had it since March 3. So, I have been drinking Gatorade to replace electrolytes. Can't thank you enough for this informative hub. I don't care if you can't sing - I'm a fan now that I've read this. Rated up and awesome and useful. :) vocalcoach

    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      7 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thank you! I appreciate the comment!

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 

      7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      This is a really cool hub. I've really never understood electrolytes before, so thanks for explaining!


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