Electrolytes – the unsung heroes of hydration! So, let’s break them down. We often associate electrolytes with intense physical activity, like running a marathon or performing a sweaty workout in the scorching sun. That’s because when we sweat, we’re not only losing water, but we’re also losing valuable electrolytes. These essential electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium) play a vital role in keeping our bodies hydrated and balanced. Without them, our cells can’t function properly, and we may experience a range of symptoms (such as muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, and even dehydration).
And while the aforementioned cases certainly call for electrolyte replenishment, it’s not just extreme situations where electrolytes matter! Even everyday activities like walking and breathing require the right balance of electrolytes. This makes sense, considering electrolytes help regulate blood pressure, support heart function, and even aid in digestion.
So, how do we know when it’s time to replenish our electrolyte stores? Well, anytime we’ve lost a considerable amount of fluids — like sweating in the sauna, and after an intense workout. Or, when we’re sick with vomiting or fever!
The truth is, these tiny, charged particles play a crucial role in keeping our bodies functioning properly — especially when we’re active or sweating. Electrolytes are responsible for conducting nerve impulses, regulating muscle contractions, and maintaining proper fluid balance — essential functions that matter when we move! And while we often look to sports drinks (typically loaded with sugar and artificial additives), we’re here to show you how to replenish electrolytes in a healthier way!
The Best Natural Sources of Electrolytes
Think of this as your electrolyte cheat sheet!
The Best Foods to Replenish Sodium:
- Canned beans
- Pickled cucumbers
The Best Foods to Replenish Potassium:
- Winter squash
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Dark leafy greens
- Medjool dates
- Beans and legumes
The Best Foods to Replenish Calcium:
- Dairy milk or soy milk
- Yogurt or kefir
- Dark leafy green veggies such as bok choy, collard greens, and kale
The Best Foods to Replenish Magnesium:
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Cacao and pure dark chocolate
- Almonds, cashews, and peanuts
- Brown rice
The 10 Healthiest Ways to Replenish Electrolytes After a Workout
Forget the sugary sports drinks — these 10 electrolyte alternatives are much healthier (and tastier).
Sip On Pure Coconut Water
Rich in potassium, sodium, and magnesium, coconut water is filled with electrolytes and makes a perfect natural alternative to sugary sports drinks. It’s low in calories and sugar but naturally rich in potassium. Plus, it’s affordable, easy to find, and super tasty!
That said, not all brands are created equal. To get the maximum benefits, you’ll want to reach for coconut water that’s unsweetened (trust us, it’s sweet enough in its pure state) with just one ingredient — coconut water.
Sip on it plain, or use it as the base for your post-workout smoothie or shake!
Make a Post-Workout Smoothie
After a sweaty workout, there’s nothing better than a cold, refreshing post-workout smoothie. And aside from being delicious and convenient, they’re a tasty way to replenish electrolytes! By filling your blender with electrolyte-rich foods like leafy greens, fruits, nut butters, and avocado, you can create a satisfying and hydrating post-workout snack.
P.S. To make the most of your smoothie, try blending it with a coconut water base, or adding a pinch of sea salt for an extra boost of hydration and electrolytes!
Snack on Bananas
Thanks to their high concentration of electrolytes (particularly potassium), bananas have rightfully earned their place as a go-to post-workout snack. One medium-sized banana contains approximately 422 mg of potassium, which accounts for 16% of the daily recommended value. As a vital nutrient in controlling muscle and blood pressure, potassium helps carry out optimal muscle function.
Aside from being nutritious, they’re quick and convenient — toss them in your gym bag for a grab-and-go post-workout snack! And, for an added dose of protein, you can dip them in almond or peanut butter. Or, for something more satiating, you can blend them in your smoothie or mash them into a warm or chilled oatmeal bowl.
Add Avocado to Your Post-Workout Meal
While most people associate avocados with healthy fats, they are also an excellent source of several important electrolytes, including potassium, magnesium, and sodium. Try adding some frozen avocado cubes to your post-workout shake!
RELATED: 7 Reasons to Add Avocado to Your Diet
Hydrate with Watermelon
We know watermelon as a refreshing summer fruit, but it’s also a great source of natural electrolytes! It contains a high amount of potassium, as well as other important electrolytes like magnesium and calcium. These minerals are important for maintaining healthy blood pressure and nerve function.
Plus, it’s rich in water (approximately 92% water!), which makes it a perfect choice for staying hydrated and replenishing lost fluids after a workout. In fact, some studies have shown that drinking watermelon juice can help reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time after exercise!
Make it into a homemade juice or slice it and enjoy a cup or two as a healthy post-workout snack.
Sprinkle Some Sea Salt on Your Snack
Sodium gets a bad rap, but it actually plays a vital role in maintaining proper electrolyte balance in the body — especially during and after exercise. And, when we sweat, sodium is one of the primary electrolytes that we lose from our bodies. If we’re not mindful to replenish our sodium levels after a workout, we may experience symptoms like fatigue, muscle cramps, and dizziness. So, a little sprinkle — remember, moderation is key — of (high-quality) salt post-workout can do our body some good!
That said, when it comes to post-workout electrolyte replenishment, it’s important to choose a type of salt that contains a balance of important minerals and is minimally processed (aka, skip the table salt). Instead, reach for sea salt (like Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt). Unlike table salt, they’re minimally processed and full of important minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Enjoy Some Sour Citrus
Jam-packed with essential minerals like potassium and sodium, citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits are a great source of electrolytes. And to no surprise, potassium, and sodium are particularly important when it comes to working out, as they help regulate fluid levels and support nerve and muscle function. But, during exercise or sweating, these minerals easily become depleted. As a result, we may experience things such as muscle cramps, weakness, and fatigue — no fun! The good news is that by consuming foods rich in potassium and sodium (such as citrus fruits), we can replenish these minerals and support muscle recovery.
Squeeze lemon or lime juice into your water bottle, blend up a citrus smoothie, or combine your favorite citrus fruits with other hydrating fruits like watermelon, cucumber, and strawberries for a refreshing and replenishing post-workout snack.
Go Green With Veggies
If you want to give your body a natural electrolyte boost, load up your plate with leafy greens! Kale, spinach, collard greens, and other green veggies are all great sources of electrolytes, particularly, potassium and magnesium. These minerals are important for maintaining proper fluid balance in the body (which is especially important when you’re sweating and losing fluids) while also helping to reduce muscle cramps and soreness after exercise.
Plus, they’re rich in water, and packed with other essential vitamins and minerals (such as fiber, iron, and antioxidants like vitamin C) that your body needs to function at its best.
Toss some kale in your smoothie, whip up a post-workout omelet with some sautéed veggies, or fill a wrap with grilled vegetables, hummus, and a handful of greens.
Hydrate With Chia Water
We know the small but mighty chia seeds are a great source of many nutrients, including fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. But, did you know that they’re also a good source of electrolytes?
For starters, chia seeds are a good source of potassium, an important electrolyte that helps regulate blood pressure, support heart function, and aid in muscle contractions.
They’re also rich in calcium and magnesium, and contain a small amount of sodium. And if you’re looking to boost hydration, look no further — chia seeds are a master hydrator! When combined with water or another liquid, they can absorb up to 12 times their weight in water, creating a gel-like substance that can help keep you hydrated.
Make a DIY Electrolyte Drink
Forget the sugary sports drinks. Make your own instead!
You can tailor the drink to your individual taste preferences and dietary needs, adding the exact amount of electrolytes you need, and skipping any unnecessary additives or ingredients like artificial colors or sugars. Plus, it’s simple to make and yummy to enjoy!
RELATED: How to Make an Electrolyte Drink to Boost Hydration
And Don’t Forget to Hydrate With Plain Old Water
If you’re looking for the healthiest ways to replenish your electrolyte stores after a workout, you’ll want to make sure your diet is filled with healthy whole foods that contain electrolytes (such as bananas, watermelon, oranges, spinach, kale, and avocados). While sports drinks and electrolyte supplements can be quick and easy, they’re often full of added sugars and artificial ingredients. Instead, drink electrolyte-rich fluids like coconut water and chia water, and don’t forget to rehydrate with plain old water!