The depletion of electrolytes is a significant cause of many uncomfortable symptoms that include muscle cramping, aching, spasms, and increased painful trigger point activity. Furthermore, a lack of these basic chemical elements have been associated with contributing to several other bodily malfunctions to include, but not limited to, lack of sleep, restless leg syndrome, irregular heartbeats, excessive fatigue, mental confusion, dizziness, and chronically to osteoporosis.1, 2
Electrolytes regarding muscle function are the basic elements of sodium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, and potassium and are needed in significant quantities to maintain the body’s homeostasis. When these particular elements are insufficient in supply, muscle failure on some level begins to occur. This failure can be anything from aching after yard work to severe spasm or the experience of a muscle “locking up” with even the simplest of athletic activities.
A normal balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and dairy products usually takes care of a body’s need for electrolyte balance. A more complete list of foods that a body can derive electrolytes can be found here:
Muscles usually are very efficient with the electrolytes that are normally present to operate functional action smoothly. In fact, these electrolytes are used more than once and are recycled to be used again as long as their electrical charges continue. These electrically charged electrolytes cause the contractile elements in the muscle to contract and then relax back to a normal resting tone as the brain stem directs. When these electrolytes lose their charge and, therefore, their binding ability, they are eventually flushed out of the body and filtered through the kidneys.
However, loss of electrolytes can occur from simply increased occurrences of sweating with yard work or athletic activity to more serious experiences of vomiting, diarrhea, and chemotherapy treatments. Use of diuretics may also deplete necessary electrolyte stores. As the summer season warms up and we start to perspire more frequently, we need to be aware of new bodily symptoms that can be adjusted by ingesting more sources of electrolytes.
Supplement electrolytes can be found in most sport drinks to replace these necessary “salts” to help the muscle recover their functionality.3,4 This may be necessary to use supplementary sources as the summer warms up in Texas and the normal stores of electrolytes are used more quickly.
Cautionary Note: One needs to consult one’s physician regarding using supplements because an increase in any of these electrolytes may interfere with medication use. For example, an increase in sodium may interfere with medications that are used to aid cardio-pulmonary function. Again electrolyte balance is the key. Having too little is a problem and having too much can be a problem. If one is using medications, then his/her physician should be consulted regarding this balance.
3. Coso J,Estevez E,Baquero E,Mora-Rodriguez R (2008). “Anaerobic performance when rehydrating with water or commercially available sports drinks during prolonged exercise in the heat”. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism 33 (2): 290–298. doi:10.1139/H07-188. PMID 18347684.