Electrolytes are salts and minerals in your body which carry an electrical charge. Their role is to conduct electricity and thus to facilitate the movement of electrical signals between body cells – absolutely essential for all bodily systems. Potassium, chloride, sodium and calcium are electrolytes, as are phosphate and magnesium.
During intense exercise, some electrolytes are lost in high concentration through sweat. For this reason, electrolyte supplements are popular in the fitness industry, as they aid the body in maintaining a proper fluid balance and proper electrical activity.
A correct electrolyte balance is essential in order to avoid tiredness and fatigue, which is another reason why athletes will often consume electrolyte supplements.
Vomiting, diarrhoea and some illnesses can also cause an electrolyte imbalance within the body, which can lead to lethargy, nausea and fluid retention. Severe electrolyte imbalance is a medical emergency, and can lead to extreme confusion, seizures and an irregular heartbeat.
Straw coloured urine is generally a sign that your electrolyte balance is healthy, but if you regularly exercise intensely for more than 30 minutes at a time, you may find an electrolyte supplement or sports drink useful.