Sweating away your hydration and more? Here's how to balance electrolytes naturally

  • 2 Minutes Read

As you sweat in hot weather, it is vital to hydrate not only for sufficient fluids but also to know how to balance such electrolytes as sodium. Read on to learn ways to replace electrolytes naturally when exercising in the heat.

How to balance electrolytes

How to balance electrolytes lost through sweat

Anytime you're active outside in the heat of the day, chances are you’re sweating. But that's a good thing because it's the human body's built-in evaporative cooler. Sweat contains water, salt or sodium chloride, and some potassium. If you sweat heavily in extreme heat, you could lose significant amounts of sodium, putting you at risk for low blood sodium. Usually, sufficient electrolytes come from our food and beverages, but you may need to consider a sodium replacement in some situations.

When to consider a sodium replacement

Everyday activities, such as mowing, walking, or leisurely biking, aren't likely to cause excessive dehydration through sweat. However, if you are doing intensive outdoor activities for extended times during hot weather, you must replace sodium and potassium for optimal electrolyte balance.

Intensive activities requiring electrolyte replacement

What to consume for a sodium replacement

Small amounts of salty foods are good choices

Healthier rehydration tip: Eating a mere half ounce of pretzels and drinking 16 ounces (480 ml) of water provides about the same amount of sodium as a 16-ounce sports drink.

What about a potassium replacement?

Unlike sodium, potassium is not lost significantly in sweat, so you are unlikely to develop low potassium. Risk factors for developing low potassium levels include prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, alcoholism, eating disorders, and heart failure. A poor diet can aggravate the risk of low potassium levels. To replace such electrolytes as potassium naturally, eat potassium-rich foods, such as dried apricots and leafy greens, among other fruits and vegetables.

Learn how to measure the fluid you lose through exercise

To understand how much fluid is lost during exercise, you can weigh yourself before and after a session. The weight loss from exercise in hot weather will be fluid loss. One pound is roughly two cups (16 ounces) of fluid. After your workout, hydrate with 16 ounces (480 ml) of fluids for every pound of weight lost. If weighing yourself isn’t feasible, then rehydrate with plain water and eat a salty snack like pretzels or salted nuts.

Special considerations for how to balance electrolytes for active, older adults

As we age, we lose our thirst mechanism, making it more challenging to stay hydrated. So, older adults have an increased risk of dehydration without even exercising in the heat. Even slightly lower than normal sodium levels can cause adverse health effects.

Stay on top of your hydration with phone or smartwatch alarms to remind yourself to drink fluids. In extreme heat, make a concerted effort to consistently sip water while outdoors. If you don’t care for plain water, check out these other healthy drinks to help you stay hydrated.

Sodium levels may drop as we age, and certain medications and medical conditions can adversely affect those levels. When hydrating in hotter weather, make a conscious effort to boost sodium with a salty snack.

Keep track of when you hydrate with MyNetDiary

MyNetDiary makes it easy to set a hydration goal and track your water intake. Simply tap the water glass icons as you drink throughout the day.

Curious to learn about your daily water needs? This helpful resource walks you through setting a daily hydration target.

Eating a balanced diet and drinking water throughout the day will help you maintain your hydration and electrolytes. But be prepared anytime you are more active in hot weather with plenty of water and a salty snack or sports drink.

Still new to MyNetDiary? Learn more today by downloading the app for FREE.

This blog was reviewed and updated by: Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDCES on May 29, 2024 - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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