This morning my son wasn’t feeling too great. He was a little lethargic and then started to complain that his eyes were hurting. My first thought was that it was a migraine so we immediately got out the ice pack to put on his head. Then I remembered how drenched in sweat he was last night after his football practice. I asked him how much water he drank and he said all of it. All of it is a 40 ounce Camelbak bottle, plus he filled it up and drank even more when he got home. My health coach radar went off: HE NEEDS ELECTROLYTES. I had him take 1/8 teaspoon of our Redmond sea salt directly on his tongue and wash it down with water and within minutes, he started to perk up and feel better.
What Are Electrolytes
Electrolytes are actually minerals—sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, bicarbonate—that dissolve in the body’s fluids, creating electrically charged ions. “Some are positive, some are negative,” says Robin Foroutan, RD, a nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “They are essential because they help the body with nerve and muscle function as well as body fluid balance, blood pressure, and blood pH.”
Electrolyte depletion is a real, serious issue and it can quickly get real serious if we aren’t taking precautions to replace the sodium and other minerals we lose through sweat. That goes for our kids too! Especially those who are out practicing for a couple hours in the 90+ degree heat, and those who have to wear sweat-inducing pads or uniforms. Just being hydrated isn’t enough. In fact, being too hydrated and low on minerals is dangerous. Overhydration, also known as hyponatremia, happens when the level of sodium in the blood becomes abnormally low. “Hyponatremia is not common, but it can happen if you drink too much water,” explains Foroutan. Symptoms of hyponatremia range from mild to life-threatening and can include nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, fatigue, restlessness, muscle weakness, seizures, and coma. When it comes to sodium, Foroutan says it’s important to get this mineral from whole foods such as olives, naturally fermented pickles, and sauerkraut rather than processed foods. “Sodium gets a bad rap.”
Gatorade Isn’t The Answer
So let’s make sure our kiddos are properly hydrated but also have sufficient minerals. But please, for the love of everything that is good for our kids, do not use sports drinks for this. Those drinks are nothing but sugar bombs and artificial food colors/flavors with a little bit of sodium and potassium mixed in. The goal after physical exertion is to replenish lost minerals, not cause a gigantic insulin response, followed by an even bigger crash. Gatorade, Powerade, and vitamin waters are nothing but glorified juice drinks. Also, if you’re going old school and using pickle juice to get your electrolytes, pay attention to the labels. Fillers and food dyes, and sometimes corn syrup, are extremely common in commercial pickles.
There are plenty of other suitable electrolyte supplements or drinks that will do a much better job and are better for your child’s body. Heck, just using a quality sea salt directly on the tongue is benefitting them more than an artificially flavored drink.
Instead of sports drinks, try these:
Sole water- A concentrate made when sea salt is completely dissolved in water. You can find instructions on how to do this online.
Lemon water with a pinch of salt
Coconut water- watch out for unnecessary ingredients
Electrolyte powders sweetened with stevia
Electrolyte drops to add to their water
Electrolyte supplements if they can swallow pills.