A Grade Ahead Explores Food for Fuel: Electrolytes!

At A Grade Ahead, we are gearing up for summer and summer camps. You might be doing the same, or wondering whether an enrichment camp might be great for your child. But are you prepared to beat the summer heat? One way you can do this is to make sure you are getting plenty of electrolytes!

Imagine this: You just finished a two-mile run. You are sweaty, tired, and extremely thirsty. Luckily, you open the refrigerator, and there is a cold Propel water sitting like a gift directly in front of you. You open the bottle, take a drink, and immediately feel relief. Could a cup of water from your sink satisfy your thirst? Probably, but let’s dig in and see why that bottle of Propel might be doing more to help your body recover.

Upon further examination, it’s determined that there are vitamins and minerals included in Propel and other beverages like it. Some of those minerals have a special name: “electrolytes.”

Electrolytes in the Human Body

The body already contains electrolytes in such fluids as blood and sweat, among others. According to Healthline, to be considered an electrolyte, minerals need to create ions when they dissolve in water. Ions are particles with electrical charges. As seen in The National Library of Medicine, these minerals include the following:

  • Calcium
  • Chloride
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphate
  • Potassium
  • Sodium

Electrolytes and The Nervous System

The nervous system is the network that allows all parts of the body to communicate with one another. It begins in the brain where messages are sent out, telling your body what to do and when to do it. Waving a hand, clapping, and even walking are all functions that originate in your brain, but that’s not all. The heartbeat, senses, and digestion are all controlled by the nervous system, too. Week& explains that in order for your brain to talk to the rest of your body, the messages must have messengers, and that’s were electrolytes come into play. The electrolyte sodium, also known as salt, gives nerve cells electrical charges. Without charges, the nerve cells cannot work, and the brain can’t send out its messages. Similar to a television without power, the brain cannot function without electrical charges.

Electrolytes and the Muscular System

The muscles in our bodies have certain needs in order to work correctly, and electrolytes are one of them. They help regulate how our muscles contract and relax. When the electrolytes in our bodies become unbalanced, our muscles start doing strange things. Have you ever heard of a “charley horse” before? Maybe you’ve even experienced one yourself. A charley horse is a very uncomfortable cramp that often develops in your thigh. Something that can cause this painful spasm is – you guessed it – a lack of electrolytes. In this case, the mineral magnesium might play an important role. Healthline explains that scientists are still studying how magnesium affects muscle function, but there are some studies that link cramps to magnesium deficiency.

Electrolytes and Hydration

Keeping the body hydrated is critically important to remain healthy. Drinking water is often enough to stay hydrated, but there are special instances where electrolytes should be included. After a workout, illness, or even an extended day without much to drink, adding electrolytes to your diet can help your body recover much faster. Potassium and sodium work closely together in terms of hydration. Potassium helps to maintain the body’s water balance while sodium reminds you of when you are thirsty and helps potassium do its job. Additionally, the electrolyte chloride prevents dehydration.

Where to Find Electrolytes

As seen in Healthline, electrolytes can be found in almost everything we eat, but there are a few star-players worth mentioning:

  • Sports drinks (With caution! Some sports drinks contain excessive amounts of sugar and other additives that are not helpful for hydration)
  • Coconut water
  • Milk
  • Banana
  • Avocado
  • Watermelon

Incorporating Electrolytes

Find your favorite source of electrolytes and see if you can fit it into your diet. You will be providing your body with minerals it vitally needs to function at its best! Electrical charges will give your brain and nervous system a boost, your muscles will thank you for protecting them from spasms, and your balanced water levels will keep you hydrated and healthy. Bring a cup to class and share what source your electrolytes are coming from. I will see you there!

What do you think? Do you actively attempt to add electrolytes to your diet? What are your favorite sources of electrolytes? Did this post get you interested in science? Call or visit your nearest A Grade Ahead Academy, and ask about our science program!


Author: Kyrsten O’Donnell, teacher at A Grade Ahead


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