BY LISA SHERMAN, Nutritionist can be reached through her website www.wholelifenutrition.net.au or phone 0413 580 608.
Electrolytes are important minerals in our body as they affect how our body functions in a number of ways. They are involved in balancing the amount of water and our acid-base (pH) balance; they help move nutrients into and wastes out of our cells; and are required for optimal functioning of our nerves, muscle, heart and brain function.
Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and chloride and we lose electrolytes when the balance of water in our body changes, such as when we sweat, common during exercise, especially high intensity or endurance training and events. Whilst it is important that we rehydrate well and replenish these electrolytes after training, all too often we replace the electrolytes with sports drinks which can be very high in calories and/or added sugars and this is not ideal.
There are many delicious, natural, wholefood sources of all of these electrolytes. Why not try adding a few more of these foods to your post-training meals to aid recovery and replenish the fluids and electrolytes lost during training.
Sodium – this is an essential electrolyte required for water and acid-base balance as well as renal function, and also helps with nerve and muscle function. Occurs naturally in most foods including vegetables, salmon, melons, but be careful of high levels of added salt in processed foods.
Potassium – works in partnership with sodium and is important for nerve and muscle cell function and can help improve blood pressure control. Good sources include chicken, fish (such as salmon and sardines), broccoli, peas, tomatoes, potatoes (especially their skins), sweet potato, bananas, nuts and dried apricots.
Magnesium – this is an essential mineral for maintaining optimal nerve and muscle function, helps support a healthy immune system, building strong bones and energy metabolism. Green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and wholegrains are all excellent sources. Magnesium may also be found in tap, bottled or mineral water – another reason to ensure we rehydrate post-training.
Calcium – the fifth most abundant element in our body and required for heart and skeletal muscle contraction and relaxation, protecting and building bones and teeth, maintaining a healthy blood pressure and nervous system function. Whilst dairy products (yoghurt, milk, cheeses) are often considered the main sources of calcium, other good sources include almonds, brazil nuts, broccoli, sunflower seeds, tahini and tinned salmon and sardines (with soft bones).
Chloride – along with sodium, this element helps maintain water and acid-base balance, and is important for optimal body function. Good sources include tomatoes, lettuce, celery and olives but also found naturally in many vegetables.