Electrolytes for Energy and More: A Beginner’s Guide


In the same way that chemistry students create reactions using a variety of compounds, our bodies rely on a special roster of positively and negatively charged minerals to execute a wide variety of internal “reactions,” or functions.

Yet another term that gets plastered all over sports drink labels without so much as a half-sentence of substantiation, electrolytes are about as clearly understood by the public as exploding head syndrome.

Understood or not, this small handful of minerals has been behind an alarming proportion of ER visits across the country and the globe, so what say we close the knowledge gap for posterity’s sake?

First things first: introductions.

What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes maintain the pH levels of blood and other fluids in your body, enable muscle contractions, and facilitate other helpful functions across multiple organ systems.

In the same way that chemistry students create reactions using a variety of compounds, our bodies rely on a special roster of positively and negatively charged minerals to execute a wide variety of internal “reactions,” or functions.

These minerals are electrolytes, and they include:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Bicarbonate
  • Magnesium
  • Chloride
  • Phosphorous

Electrolytes are found in food, fluids, and supplements, and their functions vary broadly, from maintaining the pH levels of blood and other fluids in your body to facilitating communication between nerves and much, much more.

What Do Electrolytes Do?

The far-reaching and sometimes elusive effects of electrolyte imbalances have been tied to problems in every major system in the body.

By studying what happens in cases of deficiency, scientists have been able to accurately pinpoint the function of each electrolyte.

The following data were reported by a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center article, a comprehensive introduction to electrolytes that we highly recommend to anyone looking to dive deeper.


Sodium has an important role in maintaining a healthy volume of extracellular fluid, or the fluid that is separated from a neighboring fluid or tissue while remaining within a larger barrier.

For example, blood plasma is separated from blood, but still remains within our blood vessels, making it an extracellular fluid.

Sodium also helps our nerves to fire properly by using its positive charge to regulate membrane potentials.

A membrane potential is the electric charge of a cell membrane caused by a difference in charge inside (net negative at rest) and outside (net positive at rest) of the nerve cell.

When a nerve sends an impulse, it needs to start at a certain charge (resting membrane potential), which is why maintaining this potential at the optimal level is so important to communication between nerves.

According to this 996-participant study of electrolyte imbalances by Uludag University of Bursa, Turkey, the most common form of electrolyte imbalance in emergency room patients was hyponatremia (600 participants), which refers to a deficiency in sodium.

**Here’s a tip to help you remember this term: it’s hypo-NA-tremia because sodium is denoted as “Na” on the periodic table.


Bone health isn’t the only benefit of the myopically marketed mineral that is calcium.

Calcium is a key component of the multi-step process involved in a muscle contraction, and it can also assist with hormone release, neural communication, and the all-important ability of blood to clot.

According to this meta-analysis by the Medical University of Vienna, multiple randomized clinical trials support the claim that calcium supplementation can reduce high blood pressure in multiple populations—especially pregnant women at greater risk for this problem.

This hard-working nutrient comes with at least one condition, however; without a sufficient intake of vitamin D, intestinal calcium uptake will likely be curtailed to the point of insufficiency.


Harkening back to chemistry class for what we promise will be the last time, do you remember learning about and experimenting with pH levels?

Just like water, lemon juice, or whatever else you may have analyzed, human blood needs to maintain a specific pH for it to carry out its several functions safely and efficiently (in this case, a slightly basic pH of about 7.4).

With the help of your lungs, your kidneys use bicarbonate to increase the acidity (lower pH) or alkalinity (higher pH) of your blood so that it stays as close to a pH level of 7.4 as possible.

There are many diseases and disorders that can affect blood pH, but even otherwise healthy individuals can throw the number off in the following instances of fluid loss:

  • Excessive perspiration
  • Excessive urination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea


Remember how we said that sodium helps nerves fire by creating a difference in charge inside and outside of the cell?

Potassium is the other piece of that two-part mechanism, often referred to as the sodium-potassium pump.

This is highly simplified, but basically, the pump uses microscopic sherpas called carrier proteins to ferry three sodium ions out of the cell and two potassium ions into the cell (over and over again).

This is the process required to maintain the proper electrical potential across the cell membrane (-70 millivolts at rest).

No potassium, no pump, and no pump means nerves will have a much, much harder time sending impulses.


Fittingly, the power source that the body uses to fuel the sodium-potassium pump and many other cellular processes requires our next electrolyte, magnesium.

This power source is adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and just like the food we eat, it needs to be metabolized before use, which magnesium assists with.

Magnesium is also instrumental in the secretion of the chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters, making it even more important in the healthy function of nerve cells throughout the body.

Just how much magnesium influences neurological function in the body is evident in this study by the OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Illinois, which observed “neuromuscular and neuropsychiatric alterations” like tremors, headaches, seizures, and muscle twitches in the early stages of magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesemia).


Functionally, chloride is a bit like a mix between sodium and bicarbonate; it helps regulate blood pH as well as extracellular fluid.

Other than table salt, chloride is found in seaweed, celery, olives, and a few other foods.

When deficiencies occur (hypochloremia), common symptoms include fatigue, breathing difficulty, extreme thirst, digestive issues, diarrhea, and more.


As the “P” in ATP, phosphorus is a highly important contributor to energy production on a cellular level.

This electrolyte is also found in bones and teeth, and even has structural roles in DNA and RNA.

Since phosphorus uptake is regulated by vitamin D, medical professionals will commonly emphasize increased consumption of fatty fish, mushrooms, and other foods/supplements rich in vitamin D in the case of deficiency.

How to Up Your Electrolyte Intake

Because rapid fluid loss can quickly plunge a person into one or multiple electrolyte deficiencies, it’s always important to stay adequately hydrated.

Electrolytes abound in food as well, and in most cases, you don’t have to diverge too far from your current dieting habits to rope in a few more.

Your Electrolyte-Conscious Diet

Electrolytes are generally obtainable through everyday food items, such as:

  • Sodium: salt, bread, soups, cured meats, cheese.
  • Calcium: sesame seeds, legumes, milk, almonds, leafy greens.
  • Potassium: bananas, potatoes, cucumbers, spinach, mushrooms.
  • Magnesium: dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, spinach, bananas.
  • Phosphorus: veal, salmon, beef, pork, and other meats.

Granted, there is such a thing as too much sodium, magnesium, and so on, which is another reason why a balanced diet of naturally derived foods is important.

Trace Minerals Research 40,000 Volts Electrolyte Concentrate

Trace Minerals 40,000 Volts
Trace Minerals 40,000 Volts
  • Description

    At Trace Minerals Research (TMR), we envision a world where people are empowered and in charge of their own health; a time when all consumers are committed to living a healthier lifestyle; a day when ionic trace minerals are a part of every consumer’s daily supplement intake.

  • Ingredients

    ConcenTrace, Purified water, Utah Sea Minerals, Citric acid

Finally, electrolyte supplements are an excellent way to replenish these versatile substances, but beware of sugary sports drinks that pack 30 or even 40 grams of sugar per bottle.

On the other hand, a single teaspoon of the 40,000 Volts Electrolyte Concentrate from Trace Minerals provides hefty portions of magnesium, chloride, sodium, potassium, and more with zero added sugar.

This supplement is third-party tested for quality and safety, and it’s completely free of gluten, allergens, and BPA.

Even if you’re not in a “vulnerable” population, i.e., athletes, pregnant women, the elderly, etc., nobody is above the need for a steady fuel supply.

The best news is, by already hydrating and dieting for general health, you’ve gone about three quarters of the way—make it official with a supplement and move on with life.

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