One Major Effect of Drinking Electrolytes, Say Experts

·3 min read

With all of the severe heat waves we've experienced this summer, it's vital that you're staying cool and hydrated to avoid heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. However, water by itself isn't enough to sustain your body amid extreme temperatures—your body requires a little something extra, especially if you're active.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration reported that the U.S. experienced its hottest June on record this year. People living in states along the West coast have especially suffered this summer, having experienced three punishing heat waves that lead to hundreds of deaths. However, temperatures have been brutally hot from coast to coast all summer long. Just last week, portions of New York and New Jersey were hit with heat index values reaching up to 103 degrees Fahrenheit.

RELATED: 3 Ways to Stay Cool and Prevent Heat Stroke This Summer

There are several things you can do to stay safe during a heat advisory, such as staying in an air-conditioned place during the majority of the day as well as taking cool baths and showers to keep your core body temperature regulated. The CDC also advises cutting back on physical activity. If you must exercise outside, it's important to schedule your workout during the coolest parts of the day, such as early in the morning or later in the evening.

A man and a woman stretching in the park.
A man and a woman stretching in the park.

Of course, staying hydrated is of utmost importance when it comes to staying healthy during the hot summer months. As the CDC states, drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day is key, irrespective of physical activity, because if you wait until you're thirsty, you're likely already dehydrated. And if you are active, it's even more vital that you replenish with essential minerals known as electrolytes, which include sodium, chloride, calcium, and potassium, as they are excreted through sweat and urine.

"Dehydration occurs when you expel more fluids than ingested, which affects the body's ability to function normally," James Mayo, founder of SOS Hydration—an electrolyte hydration drink formulated by a doctor and two former professional athletes—says to Eat This, Not That! "Especially during this heat, electrolytes are the key to staying hydrated and healthy. They are the quickest and the best way to ensure you replace the lost fluids and salts in the body."

As Sakiko Minagawa, MS, RD, LD tells us, electrolytes play a key role in nerve and muscle function, blood pressure, and fluid balance. Despite the fact that sweating can cause a deficit of electrolytes, primarily sodium and chloride, it's essential for decreasing core body temperature.

african american woman in sportswear with energy drink in gym
african american woman in sportswear with energy drink in gym

"It's important to replenish the body with fluid that is lost through sweat," she adds. "For athletes, water loss of as little as 2-3% of body weight can decrease sports performance."

Keep in mind that drinking too much water, and not enough electrolyte-enhanced beverages, can actually cause you to flush out more electrolytes.

Mayo says that electrolytes, "balance the water inside and outside of our cells by enabling osmosis, the process where water moves through the cell membrane, and if your electrolyte levels dip too low, drinking gallons of water is actually more likely to exacerbate your problems than provide rehydration."

Bottom line: make an effort to routinely replace electrolytes during the summer months—and especially during dramatic fluctuations in temperature. As Minagawa points out, there are so many sports drinks and tablets available, it largely comes down to finding ones you like. Aside from popular choices like Gatorade and NOOMA, you could opt for a tablet such as Nuun Sport tablets, a zero-calorie, liquid sweetener like Motive Pure, or even a powder drink mix such as SOS Hydration Electrolyte Powder.

Mayo recommends starting the day with an electrolyte replacement drink so that you're ahead of the game. "Also, be sure to include electrolyte-rich foods such as leafy greens, nuts, and fruit in your diet," he says.

For more, be sure to check out the 9 Best No-Cook Recipes to Help Keep You Cool This Summer.