How electrolytes support our health during midlife and beyond
If you haven’t heard of using electrolytes in midlife, then it’s time to get these hydration heroes on your radar. Electrolytes help to replenish our mineral levels after intensive exercise, however, they’re also crucial for maintaining our body’s pH balance and supporting cognitive function. They can also help to keep our muscles flexible, functioning and recovering well during and after exercise.
For women in midlife, hormonal shifts during the menopause can cause fluctuations in fluid levels and impact the body’s essential micronutrient stores. Electrolytes can be a great tool to help restore some balance during this period, and can also support energy levels and combat fatigue.
What are electrolytes?
“Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that help our body to function,” explains Andy.
“They play a crucial role in maintaining balance and carrying out various functions, such as regulating our heartbeat, balancing the amount of water in our body, and helping our muscles work properly.”
Our bodies use electrolytes in a number of different ways, and an imbalance can occasionally lead to other health conditions, such as dehydration, muscle issues and even bone and joint problems.
It’s also worth noting that, as we age, our muscle mass decreases. This can be exacerbated by menopause, too. Making sure we have sufficient levels of micronutrients and minerals is essential for keeping our muscles strong.
The four main electrolytes that midlife women need
“The main electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium,” explains Andy. “Sodium helps to maintain the right amount of water in our body and plays a role in nerve and muscle function.
“Potassium is important for proper muscle and heart function. Calcium helps to build strong bones and teeth, and is also involved in muscle contractions and nerve signalling. Magnesium helps with energy production and muscle function.”
This nutrient plays a huge role in the body, impacting everything from nerve function, to post-exercise recovery and even blood pressure. We can top up levels by eating magnesium-rich foods, such as nuts, seeds, wholegrains and leafy green veg.
“Electrolytes, particularly magnesium, and potassium, play a crucial role in muscle contraction, relaxation, and overall muscle function,” explains Andy. “Adequate electrolyte levels are important for maintaining muscle strength, flexibility, and joint health. Ensuring proper electrolyte balance can help to mitigate muscle cramps, spasms, and joint stiffness that may be more prevalent during midlife.”
A magnesium deficiency can be hard to spot, so do check out our guide here for the signs and symptoms.
Potassium also plays a huge role in muscle contractions and skeletal muscle strength – this can be particularly relevant for women in midlife, who may experience changes in muscle mass and strength.
“Electrolyte balance supports muscle strength, coordination, and overall physical performance, which is particularly important as women age and may face muscle loss or changes in muscle tone,” says Andy.
For women in midlife, sodium, along with potassium, helps regulate fluid balance in the body. In fact, according to Harvard University, sufficient levels of sodium can help to maintain the balance of water levels in the body.
“Electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium, are involved in fluid balance and can influence hydration levels,” explains Andy. “Adequate electrolyte intake can help manage fluid shifts and potentially alleviate some symptoms associated with hormonal changes.”
As Andy explains, adequate calcium intake, in combination with other bone-supporting nutrients like vitamin D and magnesium, is essential for women in midlife to help support overall bone density.
“Women in midlife are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis,” he says. “Calcium and other electrolytes are essential for maintaining strong and healthy bones. Sufficient intake and proper balance of these electrolytes is important for reducing the risk of osteoporosis.”
You should be able to get all the calcium that you need from eating a balanced diet. If you take calcium supplements, be careful not to take too much as this could be harmful. The NHS says that taking 1,500mg or less a day is unlikely to cause any harm.
How to incorporate electrolytes into your day
Make sure you drink sufficient fluids throughout the day to help restore any lost electrolytes, especially during physical activity or in hot weather. While water doesn’t contain electrolytes, consuming drinks that do, such as sports drinks, coconut water, or electrolyte-enhanced water, can help to replenish them.
Consume a balanced diet
There are plenty of ways to ensure an electrolyte-rich diet. For example, be sure to include sodium-rich foods in your meals (like pickles, olives and cheese), along with potassium-rich fruit and vegetables, and calcium products and wholefoods (like milk, cheese, yoghurt, broccoli, kale, almonds, and sardines). For magnesium-rich food, legumes, dark chocolate, spinach, and bananas are all great sources.
Top up on supplements
In certain situations, such as intense exercise or after a period of dehydration or illness, electrolyte supplements may be a good option. These supplements are available in various forms, including tablets, powders, and oral rehydration solutions. Use our LIZLOVES23 code to save 15% off BodyBio’s Balanced Electrolyte Concentrate Supplement.