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You know you’re supposed to replenish your electrolytes after a killer sweat session, with sips like coconut water and sports drinks. But what are�electrolytes,�exactly? And why do our bodies need them?

This�new�video from�the American Chemical Society breaks down the science behind the�crucial salts (yep, they’re salts). In a nutshell: Once electrolytes (think calcium, potassium, magnesium, and plain old table salt) are in our bodies, they dissolve into�positive and negative charges. These charges have two main functions: Regulating the flow of water in and out of cells, and sparking�nerve impulses.

RELATED: What to Eat After a Workout

Without electrolytes, “our cells would�shrivel up�and die, or burst from being too full,” the clip’s narrator explains. And those nerve impulses electrolytes control? They keep our bodies functioning properly�you know, “our hearts beating, our lungs breathing, and our brains learning.”�So there’s that.

When you work out, electrolytes get deposited�into sweat glands. Water follows the electrolytes (thanks, osmosis), and as the glands fill�up, they release the salty mix onto your skin.

The water then evaporates,�which makes you feel cooler�and you’re left with that salty taste on your skin (don’t act like you don’t know what we mean).

As for why fitness instructors are always reminding�you to drink up after class, it’s because losing too many electrolytes can mess with your blood pressure, breathing, and more.

RELATED: Hydration and Exercise: How to Get It Right

All this talk about the mega-importance of electrolytes�might having you craving a Gatorade. But here’s the thing: Unless you’re a pro athlete, you’re probably getting a sufficient amount of electrolytes through your regular diet�no neon-colored beverages�necessary.

And who needs the sugar in most sports drinks? As the narrator points out, “if you�re doing a half-hour of cardio, a single bottle of the stuff will give you all the calories you just worked off.”

The flick’s take-away advice: Stick with water to hydrate, and save the sports drinks for your next marathon.

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The information herein on "What Are Electrolytes and Why Do We Need Them?" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*


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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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