You don’t have to tell a Bikram yoga student how good sweating is for the body. Many practitioners relish the sweat, savoring the temperature regulation it offers in the hot room. But while water is the primary ingredient, our sweat also contains crucial electrolytes that must be replenished after practice to maintain energy and stability for the rest of the day.
The primary electrolytes our sweat contains are:
Sodium and Chloride
Together, sodium and chloride comprise table salt and work together for proper cell function by maintaining fluid balance. Foods high in sodium and chloride include beef, pork, sardines, cheese, olives, sauerkraut and peanut butter. Eating something like a salty soup before practice can retain fluid and prevent feeling dehydrated during your practice. Seaweed, tomatoes, lettuce and celery are also high in chloride.
Potassium also supports cell function, in addition to regulating blood pressure and preventing bone loss and kidney stones. Bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados, spinach, kale, peas and beans are all solid sources of potassium. One cup of orange juice has 12 % of the daily recommendation for potassium plus a nice vitamin C boost for your muscles and mind.
Calcium is crucial for strong bones and proper muscle contraction. Researchers at McMaster University in the UK found that milk does a better job of re-hydrating the body after working out than water or a sports drink. For non-dairy calcium options, look to white beans, salmon, sardines, dried figs, bok choy and kale.
Similar to calcium, magnesium aids muscle contraction and bone development, as well as supporting nerve function and helping to fight fatigue. Whole grains, leafy greens, nuts and lentils.
The amount of these electrolytes lost can vary greatly from person to person, based on body composition and degree of activity intensity. This is especially important for Bikram students, as increasing temperature and humidity can increase the rate of sweating by up to one liter per hour.
Keep in mind that the main component of sweat is indeed water. Keeping a reusable bottle nearby at all times practically insures that you’ll drink more than if you had to get up and get something to drink, and it makes you more likely to turn to good ol’ H2O instead of a less pure and beneficial option. If plain water all day is too boring, try infusing yours with herbs and vegetables, or add some coconut water, which is also rich in potassium and contains a small amount of sodium.
Next time you’re looking to replenish after a hard workout, or are preparing for your next Bikram yoga class, avoid sugary sports drinks. Most of these drinks are packed with artificial flavors, corn syrup and other additives. Instead consider looking to water, natural electrolyte supplements and real foods.