Proper hydration is the key to maintaining overall heath, especially if you are physically active or are recovering from an illness. However, sometimes drinking water alone is not enough. Rehydration is not the same as electrolyte or mineral replacement. The water you drink should contain beneficial minerals and electrolytes to replenish those that your body loses every day. Minerals and electrolytes both play important roles in regulating the vital functions of your body. If you don't have enough minerals and electrolytes in your body, it can lead to a variety of health issues.
There is a slight overlap between minerals and electrolytes. Minerals are naturally occurring nutrients that your body needs in order to function properly. Some examples of these include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, and selenium. Electrolytes are certain minerals that can carry an electric charge when dissolved in water. Examples of electrolytes are sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, and calcium. Electrolytes are crucial to maintaining your body's water balance and supporting the healthy functions of your muscles and your nervous system. They can help to prevent muscle cramps and encourage the body to properly transport oxygen to your cells. (Related: Why are electrolytes so important?)
Health benefits of minerals and electrolytes
To keep your energy levels up, you need to regularly consume adequate amounts of electrolytes and minerals. Here are a few of the most important ones and how they can benefit your body:
Potassium – This mineral is essential for the normal function of your heart cells and blood vessels. Aside from maintaining your body's water balance, potassium also stimulates your body's metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, boosts healthy sensory functions, and helps prevent cramps.
Magnesium – As a mineral that is responsible for the body's enzyme-catalyzed reactions, magnesium is generally important for normal body functions, including healthy muscle function and deep, restorative sleep. As an electrolyte, it helps your muscles relax after contraction.
Sodium – Sodium is essential for healthy brain and digestive functions, and management of the body's hydration. This electrolyte maintains your body's water balance and activates your thirst response so that your brain gets the signal when you need more water. It also enables normal muscle contraction, which can help in post-workout recovery and training.
Chloride – Chloride is another important electrolyte for maintaining your body's water balance. It does this by working with sodium, potassium, and water to regulate the balance of fluids in your body. It also enables healthy muscle contraction and relaxation, and prevents dehydration.
Calcium – Calcium supports the growth and development of healthy bones and teeth. While magnesium plays a role in muscle relaxation, then calcium is needed for muscle contraction.
Iron – Iron is necessary for normal blood circulation. This mineral also works to support a healthy immune system and healthy overall body function.
Phosphorus – This potent inorganic chemical supports healthy bone and joint health. Phosphorous can also support healthy metabolism and brain function.