Electrolytes are essential elements found in the foods we eat. When you work out or get sick, you lose electrolytes faster than you replace them. Essential elements like potassium and sodium, and to a lesser degree magnesium and calcium, are needed for the body to function properly. In most cases you can replace these elements by consuming the right foods and drinks.
Add a pinch of salt to 8 oz. of water and drink it slowly. If you're sick or you've worked out for more than 40 minutes, this is a quick way to get sodium to absorb into your system.
Eat a banana to replace lost potassium electrolytes. Pack one and take it with you to the gym. Drink a glass of water with it to help with absorption and digestion. You can also slice up some watermelon and eat it when your energy level starts to dip. Watermelon combats dehydration and is also high in potassium.
Pick up a sports drink if you want to replace lost electrolytes quickly. Look for an isotonic sports drink with a higher carbohydrate count, like PowerBar drink or Lucozade Sport for long workouts. Try a hypotonic, low-carb sports drink like AriZona Hypotonic Performance Sports Drink if you're feeling especially dehydrated, nauseous or tired, as it absorbs even faster than an isotonic drink. If you're working out for more than a couple of hours or exercising in excessive heat, choose a hypertonic sports drink (contains more carbohydrates than the others) like Ultra or Original Lucozade.
Save money and make your own sports drink to replace lost electrolytes. Add 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 cup orange juice, 2 tbsp. sugar and mix with 1 liter of water. Don't skip any of the ingredients--the orange juice may seem like too much sugar but it actually replaces lost potassium.
Hit your local sporting goods store and pick up a sports gel or an electrolyte strip that dissolves under your tongue. Gatorade, Enlyten and Innozen are examples of popular brands. Check the ingredients to make sure you're getting plenty of potassium and a small does of sodium.
Find natural coconut water at a health foods store and drink it. Coconut water is refreshing, hydrating and it provides you with a hearty dose of potassium.
Replace magnesium by eating broccoli, tofu, halibut or spinach. Get a quick calcium boost by eating a cup of yogurt, 2 oz. of low-fat cheese or a glass of milk.
If you experience extreme symptoms of electrolyte imbalance such as confusion or a prolonged irregular heartbeat, see your doctor immediately.