The importance of hydration has been common knowledge for a long time, and for good reason. All cells within the body use water to carry electrical signals that facilitate many vital functions such as muscle contraction, energy production, and the transportation of nutrients. Without water we would be toast; dried up and crusty.
However, there is more to hydration than just hydrogen and oxygen. Water by itself does not conduct electricity efficiently. This is where the humble electrolyte enters the scene. Electrolytes are substances that are naturally charged when dissolved in water. For example, magnesium holds a positive charge, whereas phosphate is negatively charged. These charged particles, or ions, become evenly dispersed when dissolved and can more efficiently transmit the electrical signals the body relies on.
This combination of water and ions can be compared to the telephone lines that supply power to a home. If the lines were made of yarn, they would not be effective at all. Additionally, if instead of connecting wires, the lines were spaced out clumps of copper, they too would not be able to transmit electricity. Similarly, ions are excellent conductors, and water spaces them out evenly so that they can do their job efficiently.
It is easy to see the importance of adequate hydration, and luckily, it is quite simple. One just needs to drink enough water. How, though, does a person get electrolytes? And how do they know if they are getting enough? As you may have noticed in the first example, electrolytes are simply essential minerals, such as sodium, calcium, and potassium. We take in electrolytes not only through what we drink, but also what we eat. If you eat a balanced diet, chances are your electrolytes are doing just fine. If you are particularly active or sweat a lot, you may benefit from supplementation. Just be careful that the electrolyte beverage you choose is not one loaded with sugar. As is usual, balanced nutrition and regular exercise are two of the most profound steps you can take to improve your health!