Electrolytes regulate muscle function and blood pressure, among many other roles. This guide reviews how electrolytes work and how to identify and prevent electrolyte imbalances.
Electrolytes are minerals that play a crucial role in your health by helping regulate fluid balance, muscle contraction, and blood pressure.
In this guide, you’ll learn what electrolytes are, how they work, signs of an electrolyte imbalance, and how to make sure you’re getting enough.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals that help regulate muscle contractions (including the heart), fluid balance, and blood pressure. They function in these ways because they carry an electrical charge. Every cell in your body utilizes electrolytes, so it’s vital that you have adequate levels in your body.
The key electrolytes are sodium, magnesium, and potassium, although some other minerals are considered electrolytes as well.
Because of their extremely important roles, your body tightly regulates electrolyte levels along with fluid levels. When your fluid levels change, you may experience some side effects due to both dehydration and electrolyte shifts.
Signs of electrolyte imbalance
Some of the signs and symptoms of an electrolyte balance include:
- Cramping, particularly leg cramps, nighttime cramps, and charlie horses (sudden, severely painful muscle cramps)
With some exceptions, electrolyte imbalances are relatively uncommon. Athletes, people who live in hot climates, and individuals who work outdoors are at an increased risk because they lose electrolytes and fluid through their sweat.
Additionally, beginners to the keto diet may experience something called the “keto flu,” a cluster of symptoms that’s mostly related to electrolyte imbalance. When your body shifts into ketosis, where it burns fat instead of carbs for energy, you burn through all of the stored carbs (glycogen) in your muscles and liver. These carbs are not replenished; instead, they are stored with water and electrolytes, so you will have large water losses early on in the keto diet. You may find yourself urinating more frequently.
Unfortunately, these fluid losses can cause electrolyte imbalances, which then lead to the keto flu symptoms. Luckily, these symptoms are mostly avoidable if you supplement with electrolytes.
How to make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes
If you work out heavily or work outside, you need to replenish your fluids to prevent dehydration from sweat losses—but you should also replenish your electrolytes. Sports drinks can help accomplish this because they contain added electrolytes. However, you may require even more than sports drinks
provide. This is why many athletes favor pickle juice—it’s a concentrated source of electrolytes (particularly sodium).
Additionally, if you’re new to keto, you may need to supplement with electrolytes to make sure you’re getting enough. Keto diet experts recommend the following daily intake of electrolytes while you’re on the diet:
- Sodium: 3,000-7,000 mg
- Potassium: 3,000-4,700 mg
- Magnesium: 400 mg
While you can meet these needs through food, supplementing in addition to choosing electrolyte-rich foods is the easiest way to get enough electrolytes on the keto diet. Once your body is properly adjusted to keto, you may be able to discontinue or cut back on electrolyte supplements.
Need a good electrolyte supplement to help you meet those needs? Medlixr’s ACV + Keto supplement is uniquely formulated for keto dieters, containing ketones with electrolyte salts. Additionally, Medlixr’s chocolate and vanilla collagen powders contain sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride, and calcium.