In extreme heat, and, especially, if you have engaged in vigorous physical activity that leaves you sweating heavily, it may not be enough to drink plain water for hydration.

This was something that I learned the hard way as a macho, hard-core endurance runner, who thought nothing of running 7 to 10 miles in extreme heat (90s and above)— even as I ended up with debilitating fatigue, severe headaches, painful Charley horses and a racing heart. At the time, I did not understand the importance of replacing electrolytes.

Electrolytes play an important role in regulating fluid balance—including your ability to absorb fluid and maintain a state of hydration. Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electrical charge, such as sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Electrolytes are found in your blood, sweat, tears and urine. They are vital to keeping bodily functions running smoothly, including your nervous system, muscle function, internal blood pH (“normal” and healthy blood pH ranges between 7.3 and 7.4, which is on the slightly alkaline side), and they are vital for cell hydration.

Electrolytes can become depleted by dehydration caused by vomiting or diarrhea (e.g., illness or food poisoning); by endurance exercise—and sweating heavily—in extreme heat; by heat exhaustion (e.g., spending hours at the beach); or, by injuries, like a severe burn.

Symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance can range from fatigue, lethargy, headaches, dizziness, numbness and tingling, to fast heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, nausea, muscle weakness, muscle cramping, seizures or convulsions and confusion.

Commercial electrolyte drinks, like Gatorade, are, typically, very high in sugar and questionable ingredients, like preservatives, emulsifiers and artificial colors (think neon blue and electric yellow). The “zero sugar” versions contain sucralose, an artificial sweetener that, in studies of mice, have been linked with an increased risk of certain cancers, as well as an altered gut microbiome (and not in a good wayt).

Why not make your own whole foods version of an electrolyte drink instead?  The ingredients are easily accessible, and all you need is a 32 ounce glass mason jar in which to put all the ingredients…and shake!

kathryn matthews | The Nourished EpicureanDIY Electrolyte Cocktail

3 cups Pellegrino sparkling mineral water
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed organic lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
2 tablespoons raw honey
Optional: 1 teaspoon calcium-magnesium powder

Place all ingredients in 32 oz. mason jar and shake vigorously. Or, combine in blender.