When you hear the word "electrolyte," you probably think about Gatorade bottles or other neon-colored sports drinks. In reality, many foods and beverages contain natural electrolytes — long before the beverage industry decided to capitalize on them.
Electrolytes are minerals with an electrical charge, found in everything from table salt, to coconut water, to bananas. You need electrolytes to survive through daily life and thrive throughout your workouts (more on this below).
You should always aim to maintain a balanced diet (that's why it's a key pillar within 4 Legs Fitness), and consume foods with electrolytes. However, sometimes food alone isn't enough to keep your electrolyte levels in a healthy balance. Below, I share foods with electrolytes, and supplements to help restore your electrolyte balance.
Please note: This article is meant for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice. Before beginning any diet, please speak with your dietitian or healthcare provider.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals that conduct electricity when mixed with water. Your body needs electrolytes in order to survive and the right balance of electrolytes to reach your fitness goals.
Electrolytes help regulate the balance of fluids within your body, helping you stay hydrated. They also regulate muscle contractions (if you've ever experienced a cramp or charley horse while exercising, it may be due to a lack of electrolytes), blood pressure, and the overall health of your cells.
If you're worried about getting enough electrolytes, here's a piece of good news: These minerals are found in many foods you already consume. The most common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, and phosphorus, each coming with certain health benefits.
What Happens When Your Body Is Low on Electrolytes?
Most people get enough electrolytes through their diet. However, if you're crushing workouts at home, you may need more electrolytes than the average person.
Electrolytes leave your body in one of two ways: through urine or through sweat. Meaning, if you're busting out a HIIT workout in your living room or jogging around your neighborhood, you'll need to replenish more electrolytes than if you were lounging on the sofa.
If you start experiencing low levels of electrolytes, you'll probably notice it. I recommend making sure to replenish your electrolyte levels before it’s too late (i.e. you experience a muscle cramp or injure yourself). Warning signs of low electrolyte levels include headaches, nausea, lightheadedness, muscle cramping, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. In these instances, coconut water sprinkled with sea salt or the Performance Re-hydration may help you replenish your electrolyte levels faster than food or water.
12 of the Best Foods With Electrolytes
As someone who exercises regularly, your goal should be to consume a diet high in electrolytes. Luckily, many electrolyte food sources can probably already be found in your fridge.
Leafy greens, like kale, spinach, and swiss chard, are packed with electrolytes. In just a 100 gram serving, kale contains 135 mg of calcium (14% of your daily value), 34 mg of magnesium, 56 mg of phosphorus, and 447 of potassium. Try chopping a half bunch of kale and tossing it in salads, sandwiches, or smoothies.
Avocado, seemingly every person's favorite fruit, also happens to be abundant in potassium. With 975 mg of potassium, 24 mg of calcium, and 58 mg of magnesium, it's packed with electrolytes. Try adding half an avocado to your morning omelet or pre-workout smoothie.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes happen to be loaded with valuable electrolytes (and contain 65% of your daily vitamin C in one medium sweet potato). You'll find 950 mg of potassium and 54 mg of magnesium in a medium-sized sweet potato. Try adding cooked, mashed sweet potatoes in your morning overnight oats for extra electrolytes.
Apricots are a good source of potassium, containing 90.6 mg per small apricot. To get more potassium in your diet, try adding dried apricots to your salads, or enjoying them as snacks between meals.
5. Pumpkin Seeds
Looking to get more phosphorus in your diet? Dried pumpkin seeds contain an incredible 1.2 g of phosphorus (117% of your daily value) in a 100-gram serving. You'll also find 535 mg of magnesium, or 134% of your daily value.
Watermelon is known for being packed with vitamin A and vitamin C, but you'll also find it contains beneficial electrolytes. In a single wedge of watermelon, you'll find calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Enjoy a slice after a workout to help replenish your electrolyte levels.
If you ever experienced a muscle cramp mid-workout, you may have been told to drink prune juice. That's because prunes are a good source of potassium, which acts as a natural remedy for muscle cramps. If you do consume prunes or prune juice, look for options without added sugar.
8. Collard Greens
Dairy products aren't the only foods that serve as a good source of calcium. Leafy green veggies, like collard greens, contain 145 mg of calcium (14% of your daily value) per 100 grams. Add them to salads or steam them to serve as a healthy side dish.
9. Soy Milk
Soy milk contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium, making it an excellent way to replenish your electrolyte levels. Add it to your overnight oats, morning smoothie, or cup of coffee for added electrolytes.
10. Orange Juice
Orange juice is packed with vitamins and minerals, which makes it a wonderful way to restore your electrolytes post workout. Orange juice contains potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium, which can help with recovery. Try drinking a small glass of orange juice after a workout to help keep your electrolytes at a healthy level.
11. Dill Pickles
Like prune juice, pickles and pickle juice are often recommended as a natural remedy for muscle cramps. That's because pickle spears contain calcium and potassium, which can help regulate your muscles. Add them to sandwiches or enjoy them as a side dish to help restore your electrolyte levels.
12. Performance Re-hydration
When you experience an electrolyte imbalance, or you're severely dehydrated, food and water alone may not be enough. During these times, I love Performance Re-hydration. Packed with electrolytes, creatine, and vitamin C, it makes the perfect post-workout electrolyte drink (and it's far healthier than Powerade or Gatorade).
Eat Foods With Electrolytes as Part of a Healthy Diet
Electrolytes are electronically charged minerals essential to daily life. Electrolytes help regulate blood pressure, muscle function, and the health of your cells.
If you work out regularly, or are beginning a new fitness routine, you may need more electrolytes than your friends or family. Since you lose electrolytes through sweat, you'll need to be careful to replenish your electrolyte levels after you exercise.
To keep your electrolytes at a healthy level, consume leafy greens, prunes, apricots, watermelon, and other whole foods that come high in electrolytes. For times where you feel dizzy or lightheaded (such as after a tough workout) you may want to increase your dosage of electrolytes.
When you need to restore your electrolyte levels quickly, I recommend Performance Re-hydration. Made with electrolytes, creatine, and vitamin C, it's one of the easiest ways to restore your electrolyte levels post-workout.