5 Foods That Help Replenish Electrolytes
Skip sugary sports drinks and opt for nutrient-rich fruits, veggies, dairy, and whole grains to replace lost minerals.
Replenish the Right Way
Most exercisers can get away with gulping water after a workout, but endurance athletes—anyone training for a marathon or playing hours of tennis in the hot sun—need to put extra effort into replenishing the minerals flushed out via sweat. Sure, electrolytes come standard in sports drinks and energy bars, but they’re usually accompanied by a hearty helping of calories and added sugar.
A better way to replenish the electrically charged particles needed to maintain fluid balance in the body and aid the muscle and nerve functions necessary for athletic performance: Pick up a spoon and fork.
“Foods contain so many more electrolytes, as well as vitamins and other health-protective compounds,” says author and sports dietitian Nancy Clark, RD. Here, how to replace five key electrolytes with healthy, whole foods.
We’re told to just say no to sodium, but it’s the electrolyte we lose in the highest concentration when we sweat. Salt helps the body hold on to water, keeping you hydrated for a longer period of time. Still, there’s no need to down an entire bag of pretzels postworkout.
“You can easily replace the 800 mg of sodium lost in two pounds of sweat during a hard hour-long workout by enjoying a recovery snack of chocolate milk and a bagel with peanut butter,” says Clark. Athletes can also consume a salty meal, like soup, before a strenuous sweat session, so their bodies are better equipped to retain fluid and maintain hydration throughout exercise, she adds.
Along with calcium, magnesium aids muscle contraction, nerve function, enzyme activation, and bone development. To replenish stores of the mineral after exercise, Clark suggests chowing down on leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, peanut butter, dried beans, and lentils as often as possible. The added benefit: Magnesium helps fight fatigue. When you’re low on the mineral, your body demands more oxygen–and energy–during physical activity, and therefore you tire more quickly, according to researchers at the U.S. Agricultural Research Service.