by Sophia Pollalis ATC, LAT, CSCS
It’s officially summer! Bring on the iced coffee, pool days, sweat, and sunscreen. I LOVE the heat. I would take hot over cold any day of the week (as long as you throw a sweater day in there somewhere). In summer, whether we are working hard outside or not, we sweat. Walk the dogs; sweat. Get the mail; sweat. Some of us just look outside and start sweating. Fun fact, men do not sweat more than women, it has more to do with body size and composition!
Our sweat is mostly water. Water retains its heat very well, so when our body brings it to the surface of our skin, it’s trying to get rid of excess heat. Sweat is not all water though, and if you’ve ever gotten sweat in your eye or in your mouth, you know it burns and it’s salty tasting. What is in sweat that makes it that way? The answer is electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals dissolved in water that create charged ions. These ions, or charged particles, are important to the function of our bodies. They provide proper pH levels in the blood and transmit electrical signals to make our muscles contract. If you’re out walking the dog around the block and you start sweating, you probably don’t have to worry too much about replacing electrolytes or even water for that matter. But, if you’ve spent the whole afternoon out weeding the garden, it probably wouldn’t hurt to consciously replenish what you’ve lost. The minerals most lost in sweat are sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Sodium and chloride come together to form table salt. This is why your sweat tastes so salty. It’s also why, after a hard workout, we get salty crusties on our body. These are all lost in extremely small amounts in comparison to water. You can read about how to achieve your optimal hydration in my previous article, Let Water Be Your Friend.
These minerals lost to sweat can be found in lots of whole foods as well as specially formulated sports drink. For general summer fun, here are some of my favorite foods and drinks to replenish what you’ve lost in light sweat.
A Word on Sodium and Chloride (Salt)
In America, salt is added to our diets in the foods we eat. Unless we exclusively make our food from scratch at home and add little to no salt, there isn’t a great need to replenish this. If your diet is already very low sodium, you can add salty snacks like pretzels or sprinkle some salt on your cucumber and tomato salad to specifically address this issue.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Ice cream is the quintessential summer treat. Ice cream itself has some benefit to replacing minerals. It’s got a little bit of sodium, potassium, magnesium, and of course calcium. Topped with bananas and strawberries, it’s got to be healthy, right? They add in a good amount more of potassium and magnesium. Other fruits you can top your ice cream with (that I personally highly recommend) are cherries, apricots, peaches, blueberries, and/or raspberries. Nuts are also a great option, like sliced almonds and walnuts. These all have potassium and magnesium in addition to other nutritional benefits beyond electrolyte replacement. Bonus: if you’re on the go, make it a milkshake! Making your own ice cream can also be a fun activity to do with kids or friends. You can use these containers to put it in (or if you’re like me and eat half a container in a sitting, use them for portion control or meal prepping your ice cream for the beach).
As I mentioned with ice cream, fruits are a great source of electrolytes. One of my favorite combinations is strawberry, blueberry, banana. You can use fresh fruit or frozen fruit so no ice has to be added Smoothies can be a great non-dairy alternative to ice cream, plus no one looks at you weird for putting green stuff in it. Spinach is a great addition to smoothies, unlike ice cream. It adds very little taste but lots of nutrients, including potassium and calcium. Orange
juice is a great liquid to make your smoothie with. It also adds potassium and calcium. One of the easiest ways to make different smoothies for you and your family is to use the NutriBullet. Each person can put their own combination of goodies in their container and blend for themselves without having to wash out the blender between each one. You can also use this technique to experiment with different blends and decide which mix you like best without a bunch of waste.
In the summer, I crave salads. Sometimes spinach salads, sometimes just a bowl of cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers. This cool meal packs a nutritional punch of electrolytes, as well as being high in water content. You can eat these veggies as they are, sprinkle salt and pepper, add some feta cheese, vinegar, and oil, or a creamy ranch. I am also a fan of snacking on cucumbers with a bit of salt or ranch. In fact, I often take cucumber slices or bell pepper strips to work with a dipping side of ranch. It fills me up, hydrates me, and I feel healthy and refreshed. I like using these for dipping. I’ve tried using larger sizes, but then I end up putting more dip in than I intend and waste it.
Again, a traditional summer snack. Watermelon is very versatile and has a lot of water in it (crazy, right?) It’s got potassium, magnesium, and even a little bit of calcium in it. You can eat it as it is in pieces or slices or get some cookie cutters out and make some special watermelon cookies with fruit dip as frosting. Even dogs love watermelon. Mine enjoyed watermelon popsicles that I made last year by blending watermelon and coconut milk. I ate a couple and thought they were fantastic too! But, one of my favorite ways to eat watermelon is in a salad. Cut small chunks of watermelon and mix in a bowl with freshly chopped mint leaves and crumbled feta. Toss with olive oil, lime juice, and a little salt and pepper and you are getting all the primary electrolytes in one delicious snack. This can also be made into skewers for a backyard barbeque!
What are some of your favorite summer snacks that are high in electrolytes? Comment below or on Facebook to share our ideas!
If you are particularly concerned about your electrolyte balance after sweating, call your doctor or contact Positively Balanced so we can point you to the correct healthcare professional to address your concerns!
Nutrition guidance provided by USDA information