Want to improve your energy and focus? Boosting electrolyte levels with a pinch of salt is the is the easiest health hack to try
“I travel with a pink Himalayan salt grinder,” says Liz Earle, beauty entrepreneur and founder of Liz Earle Wellbeing. This surprising suitcase essential allows Earle, like a host of health optimisers and biohackers, to add a sprinkle of salt to her morning glass of water, before she drinks anything else. This pinch of the electrolyte mineral sodium helps improve her “brain focus”, she says.
It's the same for supermodel and GTG wellness columnist Elle Macpherson. She tells us that she starts her day with a salt water flush, a mix of “filtered water, lime, with a little Celtic sea salt”. She puts a glass on her bedside the night before so it’s the first thing that passes her lips. “This flush has so many wellness benefits including trace minerals and clearing fluid retention while helping establish an optimal PH level in the body,” she enthuses.
Biohacker-in-chief- Dave Asprey, who came up with Bulletproof coffee and is now author of several books including Smarter Not Harder, The Biohackers Guide to Getting the Body and Mind You Want has been pimping his water for years. We’ve trained ourselves to avoid salt, he says, but this can make us tired all the time. “Any time you have more minerals in your liquids, your body will work better,” he says. “It part of how we hydrate.” Turns out the French were on to something – mineral water isn’t just expensive tap water.
More recently beauty entrepreneur siblings Mona and Huda Kattan have invested in the Humantra electrolytes brand.
It seems that drinking water is no longer virtuous enough. It can be made even more hydrating with the addition of electrolytes such as sodium (salt) or dedicated electrolyte supplements.
“Electrolytes are essential minerals the body requires to function on a cellular level,” says Jaspreet Randhawa, the Whole Body Pharmacist. “Some of the commonly known ones are sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. They have a huge part to play in the regulation of chemical reactions in the body and the movement of fluid in and out of cells, plus the contraction and relaxation of each muscle in the body, including the heart.”
What are electrolyte supplements for?
Electrolyte supplements used to be something you’d only deploy when you were ill – a Dioralyte sachet to quickly rehydrate after a stomach bug or hangover (a self-inflicted illness of sorts), or a Lucozade or energy gel gulped down by an athlete doing an endurance sport (electrolytes are easily lost with sweat - no wonder it tastes salty!).
But now people are using them daily – be it a homespun sprinkle of salt or a carefully calibrated supplement or drink - to optimize their health. Rather than being used to tackle a specific problem, the new way to take electrolytes is to boost cellular hydration – ie to ensure that every cell in your body is sufficiently hydrated. This will help everything work to its best ability, including gains in concentration, focus and energy.
Conversely, when you are dehydrated, water is drawn out of cells into other locations such as blood vessels. This leaves the cells sad, shriveled and unable to function properly. You know that sluggish feeling when you’re sitting at your desk and haven’t touched your water bottle all morning? Those brain cells need a drink.
“Electrolytes help the body produce and use energy,” says nutritional therapist Pippa Campbell, who often recommends them in her clinic, particularly to people who have been chronically stressed and whose cortisol is on a permanently exhausted low. “Proper hydration in brain cells is important or it will leave us foggy-headed and unable to focus.”
Campbell saw the benefits herself when she began taking the electrolyte supplement Body Bio E-Lyte, which contains sodium, potassium and magnesium, years ago to help with sciatica-related muscle spasms in her leg. She soon clocked that her energy levels were boosted too. (Liz Earle is another Body Bio fan.)
What kind of salt should I put in my water?
Not all salts are created equal. Sea salt or salt from other water sources – such as Himalayan pink salt - is best for an electrolyte boost because it contains not just sodium but typically other minerals, such as magnesium, potassium and calcium. Normal table salt, which tends to come from rocks, doesn’t have those.
Can electrolytes help you hydrate more quickly than water?
Why is simple tap water not enough? "It’s not just about how much water we drink, but how much of that water reaches our cells and how or body uses it," says Campbell. "A lot of our cells run on electricity, so we want electrolytes dissolved in water so that our cells can carry an electrical charge. Water on its own doesn’t conduct electricity. It’s only when you add electrolytes to water that it can hold a charge."
So yes, electrolytes can help you hydrate faster because electrolytes help balance the fluid levels in your body. If you are dehydrated, both fluid and electrolytes have been lost from your body and need replenishing. But if you drink too much water to rehydrate, you may flush even more electrolytes out of your system.
Is it OK to take electrolytes every day?
Yes, within reason. “I put a sprinkle of electrolytes in every glass of water I have,” says Campbell. She places a glass of pimped-up water by her bedside at night and drinks it before getting out of bed in the morning.
That said, don’t feel it’s something you must add into your daily routine. “Most of us get enough electrolytes from our diets, so it’s not necessary to supplement unless you’re planning a big workout where you’ll sweat a lot or you’re ill,” says Dr Gemma Newman, author of Get Well, Stay Well. “And if you overconsume electrolyte drinks, there is a danger of consuming too much salt, which can raise your blood pressure.”
Four electrolyte supplements to try
Tried a sprinkle of sea salt and are now ready to move on to the next level of electrolyte supplementation? Here are four options for your perusal.
Body Bio E-Lyte £10.99
This liquid supplement contains sodium, potassium and magnesium and you mix a capful with a glass of water. “I find it useful to have a supplement like this because you know you’re taking the correct ratio of the electrolytes,” says Pippa Campbell.
Hux Hydration £19.20
Dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting is a fan of these dissolvable electrolyte tablets (that give you the three bananas’ worth of potassium in in one dose), especially after a night out. “On the odd occasion that I'm hungover, I find this helps me no end,” she says. “It’s full of electrolytes and minerals to help rectify the dehydration.”
One and a half teaspoons of this electrolyte powder blend (magnesium, potassium and sodium) added to water is designed to support you during exercise or boost energy through the day. It’s the creation of Rhian Stephenson, a fan of biohacking for women, nutritionist and naturopath.
Beauty entrepreneurs Huda and Mona Kattan have invested in supplement start-up Humantra. These sachets, which you mix with 500ml of water, contain the full deck of electrolytes – sodium, chloride, magnesium, potassium and calcium. They come in Himalayan lime, berry pomegranate and elderberry flavours.