Electrolytes are extremely important for the human body and cellular activity in general. Have you ever had a cramp? Ever done exercise until muscle failure? Ran a triathlon or marathon? Then chances are that you have needed electrolytes before and felt a lack of them in your body.
Really, electrolytes are what your body uses to carry electricity from your nervous system to your muscles. The human body is mostly water (blood), so there are certain chemicals that the body uses to spread electrical charge using ions. The major electrolytes are:
- Sodium – In animals, sodium ions counter potassium ions to build up charges on cell membranes, allowing transmission of nerve impulses when the charge is dissipated.
- Potassium – the most common radioactive chemical in the human body, this is completely necessary for all cell functionality. Key for nerve transmission, K is also a part of the pump mechanism that each neuron in your body uses (the brain alone has over 20 billion nerves) and is used to close cell membranes
- Calcium – the most common metal in animals, used for bones and shells and an important signal mechanism for cell cytoplasms
- Magnesium – This is an extremely important reactant, used by the body for DNA, RNA, and ATP synthesis. Is used to calm excited nerves
- Chloride – salt, helps regulate firing of nerves by controlling the fluid into and out of cells, found in all bodily fluids
As you can see, all of these chemicals are extremely important conductors and regulators of electricity, which is how the body sends signals. These chemicals are found in almost all life, including plants and animal nervous systems and could be considered basic building blocks of life.
Yoga is something that cultivates life-force, that grows and strengthens nervous connection. Supplementing electrolytes and ensuring that the body has enough fuel is extremely important, especially for yogis that sweat often and heavily with their practice. A proper amount of electrolytes in the bloodstream can really make the difference between a great asana practice and a mediocre one.
This is how drinking too much water can dehydrate you, water is not the only thing your muscles need to function. You need these salt-like chemicals to conduct the electric currents flowing from your brain, through your spinal cord, and down into your muscles through your nerves.
Here are the electrolyte sources that I use to replenish:
- coconut water
- sliced mangos
- sea salt
- dark chocolate
- almond milk
Magnesium is found mostly in leafy greens and I put sea salt on meals often. Far and away, coconut water and bananas are the most effective foods for me. What do you use to replenish after yoga, or a tough sweat intensive workout?