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Home > Learn > Nutrition > >Do Electrolytes Give You Energy?

Do Electrolytes Give You Energy?

Apr 27, 23 6 min
Hydrating electrolyte drink that boosts energy

By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton, OBGYN

Electrolyte levels do play a role in chemical energy production, but can increasing electrolytes give you energy? Let’s find out. 

What are electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals that have been dissolved in water and are found in nearly every fluid and cell in the body. [1] Electrolytes are dissolved potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and other substances that have a natural positive or negative electrical charge. [1] We take in electrolytes through food and drink and lose electrolytes through sweating and urinating. Without electrolytes, the body would have a difficult time functioning properly.

The role of electrolytes in the body

The different electrical charges of electrolytes contribute to their role in the body. In order for our body to carry out various functions (contracting muscles, managing the rhythm of your heart, breaking down food), we need electrolytes. [1-2] One of the most well known roles of electrolytes is related to hydration. Electrolytes aid in chemical reactions, which includes fluid balance and helping move nutrients and water where they’re needed in the body. So to keep it simple, electrolytes do a lot for the body from keeping us hydrated to ensuring our heart is beating normally.

The importance of electrolyte balance

Having balanced electrolytes is important for many different bodily functions. 

Magnesium

Magnesium helps convert nutrients into energy and helps the brain and muscles work properly. Having too much magnesium may lead to changes in heart rhythm, weakened reflexes, decreased ability to breathe, and more. [1-2] Having too little magnesium can lead to muscle weakness, heart arrhythmias, muscle twitching, and more. [1-2]

Potassium

Potassium and sodium work inversely to maintain balance in our cells, and potassium specifically is critical for proper heart function. Having too much potassium can lead to weakness, confusion, arrhythmias, and muscle breakdown. [1-2] Having too little potassium can also lead to muscle weakness or cramps, feeling thirsty, urinating frequently, dizziness, and heart problems. [1-2]

Sodium

Sodium is one of the most abundant and important electrolytes for hydration and fluid balance. It’s also helpful for nutrient absorption. Having abnormal sodium levels may lead to neurological effects, including confusion, headaches, dizziness, etc. Abnormal levels can also cause difficult sleeping, restlessness, seizures, and more. [1-2] 

Calcium

Calcium is well known for its effects on bones and teeth, but it’s also necessary for transmitting signals to the nerves, controlling muscles, and more. Having too much calcium in the body can lead to headache, fatigue, constipation, kidney stones, arrhythmias, and pain. Too little calcium may result in confusion, loss of muscle control, spasms, and more. [1-2] 

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Maintaining healthy electrolyte levels

Luckily for most people, it’s fairly easy to maintain balanced electrolytes. The best way to support hydration and electrolyte balance is by adhering to the recommended amount of water (anywhere from six to 12 cups a day), and eating a nutritious diet. [2-3] The body is good at flushing out what it doesn’t need and will work to find a healthy balance. You can also supplement with electrolyte drinks and multivitamins to support adequate vitamin and mineral intake. Some people are at a higher risk of imbalanced electrolytes, including those with kidney dysfunction, endocrine disorders, malnutrition, and more. [2] If you’re concerned about any symptoms or would like more information on electrolyte levels, reach out to your healthcare provider.

Energy production

Whether you need ways to stay energized during pregnancy, while trying to conceive, or just to get through a busy day, most of us can benefit from an energy boost. Let’s talk about the production of energy and how the body uses it. You may know that energy comes from the food we eat, but it’s not as simple as that. In order to produce energy from food, the body has to break down different molecules using digestive enzymes. [4] The main building blocks of food are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These nutrients are then broken down even further into amino acids, sugars, and glycerol. Once this happens, oxidation occurs (another chemical reaction) and the body is able to produce usable energy. [4] 

If biology isn’t your thing, the simple way to explain energy production is this: digesting the nutrients that make up our food is done through chemical reactions that release usable energy. 

Electrolytes, hydration, and energy

Energy is dependent on the intake of food, but how does hydration play a role? Water, hydration, electrolytes, and energy all go hand in hand. To be adequately hydrated means there is a healthy fluid balance in the cells, which is possible because of a healthy electrolyte balance. [5] Water and electrolytes alone aren’t necessarily going to give you more energy, but they are responsible for helping the body with chemical reactions, including digestion. [2,5] Water is also vital for carrying nutrients around the body and properly using the energy that’s been created by breaking down food. [5] 

It’s common to experience fatigue if dehydrated or experiencing an electrolyte imbalance. So, the two do play an important role in energy production and the use of energy, but they aren’t going to increase energy. [2,5] Want to learn more about hydration? Read The Importance of Hydration When Trying to Conceive and What Hydrates Better Than Water?

What does increase energy levels?

Although electrolytes can’t increase your energy levels, there are other ways to increase or support energy. Research shows that vitamin B12 and other B vitamins may be helpful for supporting energy levels through their role in oxygen and nutrient delivery. [6] Caffeine can also be found naturally occurring in tea leaves, guarana berry, cacao beans, coffee beans, and more. [7] Eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated are also vital for the production and use of energy in the body. 

In conclusion

Electrolytes are vital for keeping the body hydrated, our muscles working properly, the heart beating regularly, and for maintaining fluid balance. Electrolytes themselves are not going to increase energy levels, but they do help the body produce and use energy. Lacking proper hydration or electrolyte balance can lead to some fatigue, confusion, and other health effects, so be sure to drink an adequate amount of water every day and take in the recommended vitamins and minerals. 

 

References:

  1. Electrolytes. Cleveland Clinic. Last reviewed 09/2021. URL
  2. Shrimanker I, Bhattarai S. Electrolytes. [Updated 2022 Jul 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541123/
  3. Good hydration linked to healthy aging. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. January 2 2023. URL
  4. Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2002. How Cells Obtain Energy from Food. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26882/
  5. Popkin BM, D'Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutr Rev. 2010;68(8):439-458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
  6. Tardy AL, Pouteau E, Marquez D, Yilmaz C, Scholey A. Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):228. Published 2020 Jan 16. doi:10.3390/nu12010228
  7. Evans J, Richards JR, Battisti AS. Caffeine. [Updated 2022 Nov 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519490/
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