Why You Need Electrolytes When You're Fasting + How To Get Them
During all your fasts, but especially during your longer fasts, it's important to make sure you're staying properly hydrated, not just with water but also with electrolytes. Typically, water and fresh, hydrating fruits and veggies provide all the electrolytes you need. But when you're fasting, eating low-carb, and especially if you're exercising or live in a hot, humid climate, you may need to supplement with additional electrolytes.
This is because you lose electrolytes through your sweat (in every liter of sweat, you lose 900 mg of sodium, 15 mg of potassium, and 13 mg of magnesium). Also, a low-carb diet cuts out inflammatory carbohydrates, which can result in water loss, throwing off your electrolyte balance.
What exactly are electrolytes?
Electrolytes is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but many of us aren't entirely clear about what, exactly, they are.
Electrolytes are compounds that produce positive or negative ions when they're dissolved in water. They just so happen to also play an important role in our health, regulating anything from nerve function to the fluid balance in our cells to blood pressure and the pH balance in our bodies.
The major electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate, but there are also other trace minerals and elements that play a role in optimal hydration.
And before you pick up a bright blue bottle of who-knows-what's-in-it electrolyte drink, you should know that most electrolyte drinks are chock-full of artificial or regular sugar, preservatives, and artificial colors and preservatives—ingredients we're most definitely avoiding during the 4-Week Flexible Fasting Plan and hopefully beyond.
3 electrolytes to hydrate you during a fast.
Rest assured, there are easy, cheap, and simple ways to replenish your electrolytes without sports drinks:
Himalayan pink sea salt
One easy way to replenish your electrolytes is simply by adding Himalayan pink sea salt to your water because it is so mineral-rich. I often ask my patients with brain-adrenal-axis issues, which can also deplete the body's electrolytes, to add 1 teaspoon of Himalayan sea salt to a glass of water in the morning or add it to their meals.
You can also dissolve 1 to 2 vegetable or chicken bone broth bouillon cubes in a cup of water. Then, adding some of my favorite electrolyte-rich foods like mushrooms and spinach will provide you with potassium and magnesium, important minerals for hydration.
There are some great electrolyte supplements on the market. Just make sure you take a look at the ingredient list and check for sugar or anything artificial.
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He has holds a level 2 Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM) certification. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Cole specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is also the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and bestselling author of Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum, and the New York Times bestseller Intuitive Fasting.