Sweating out there in the heat? Here's how to balance electrolytes naturally

  • 2 Minutes Read
Donna P Feldman MS RDN is author of Food Wisdom for Women and "Feed Your Vegetarian Teen". She writes about food and nutrition at Radio Nutrition.

Sweating in hot weather is a fact of life. Most people just need to drink a bit more water to replace the lost fluid. But in some more extreme situations, you'll need to replace electrolytes such as sodium. Read on to learn how to balance electrolytes 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. The more active you are, the more you sweat. As the sweat evaporates off your skin, it helps cool you down. But sweat is not just water. It contains 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. Most people get enough electrolytes such as sodium and potassium from the foods and beverages they eat and drink. However, you may need to consider a sodium replacement in some situations.

When you may need a sodium replacement

Everyday activities, such as mowing the yard or going for a walk or a recreational bike ride, aren't likely to cause excessive dehydration through sweat. However, if you are doing extreme activities during hot weather, you will need to replace sodium and potassium for optimal electrolyte balance.

Outdoor situations where you may need to replace electrolytes

What should I consume for a sodium replacement?

Try a small amount of salty foods such as

Rehydration tip: Eating a mere 1/2 oz of pretzels and drinking 2 cups (16 oz) of water provides about the same amount of sodium as a 16-oz sports drink.

What about a potassium replacement?

Unlike sodium, potassium is not lost significantly in sweat, so you are unlikely to develop low potassium in that case. 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 electrolytes naturally, like potassium, eat potassium-rich foods, such as dried apricots and leafy greens among other fruits and vegetables.

How to balance electrolytes when you're sweating in hot, humid weather starts with knowing how much fluid you lose through exercise

To get a sense of how much fluid was 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 2 cups (16 oz) of fluid. After your workout, hydrate with 16 ounces of fluids for every pound of weight lost. If weighing yourself isn't practical at the moment, 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

Older adults are at increased risk for dehydration without even exercising in the heat. As we age, we lose our thirst mechanism, making it more challenging to stay on top of hydration. It is also possible to experience adverse health effects from only slightly lower than normal sodium levels.

Stay on top of your hydration by setting alarms on your phone to remind yourself to drink fluids. In extreme heat situations, pay attention to fluid intake and make a concerted effort to consistently sip water while outdoors. If you don't like plain water, here are some other healthy drinks that will help you stay hydrated.

Sodium levels may drop for several reasons as we age. For example, certain medications and certain medical conditions can put us at risk for low sodium levels. As you hydrate in hotter weather, make a conscious effort to take in some sodium by eating a salty snack.

Keep track of when you drink with MyNetDiary

The MyNetDiary app 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? Check out this helpful resource: https://www.mynetdiary.com/water-needs.html
Eating a balanced diet and drinking water throughout the day will help you stay on top of your hydration and electrolytes. If you are very active and exercise, sweating a lot in the heat, you may need a sodium replacement. Start by drinking water and eating a small, salty snack, or replace electrolytes with a 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 - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

Alcohol & Other Beverages->Water Exercise->Tips
Aug 3, 2020

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