Electrolytes Light Us Up
These are electrically charged minerals throughout our blood and bodily fluids, but we lose them when we sweat. So when we exercises we deplete ourselves of fluids and electrolytes—two of the things that may help reduce cramping. Also, if cramps are caused by a missing connection between our muscles and nerves, electrolytes help both fire. Electrolytes conduct electricity. If you take a beaker of water and place it on electrodes attached to a light bulb nothing will happen. Add just a little bit of table salt to that same beaker and the light will come on. This works for all electrolytes. Think of electrolytes as the spark that allows for all our movement. They conduct electric impulses throughout our body. Instead of lighting us up, they enable us to move. (Pretty awesome.) There is a study that showed electrolytes didn’t play a role in athletes cramping. But athletes are different than most people and the study predominately looked at sodium. A proper balance of electrolytes probably matters. So what electrolytes do we need to consider replacing? Sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride and magnesium.
Here are some of the foods that have a good amount of each electrolyte in them:
Sodium—Salt (We tend to view salt like it’s evil, but we need it to thrive.)
Potassium: winter squash, sweet potato, potato, white beans, yogurt, halibut, broccoli, cantaloupe, banana
Calcium: yogurt, collard greens, milk, black-eyes peas, salmon, cheese, trail mix
Magnesium: pumpkin seeds, spinach, swiss chard, soy beans, sesame seeds, quinoa, black beans, cashews
Chloride: salt, seaweed, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, olives
When you read about what makes us cramp, it all overlaps. Our electrolytes, hydration, hormones and nerve function all influence each other and each other’s effectiveness. It comes down to balance of a variety of systems in the body. But some you can easily try to adjust with diet and regular movement. Have a trick that always helps you release a cramp? Share in the comments.