A couple of years ago, shortly after I had started on my Primal journey, I ended up in the hospital. I thought I was having a heart attack or a stroke. Here were my symptoms: heart palpitations, numbness in my arms and legs, convulsions/seizures, pain in my left shoulder running down my arm, slurred speech, general confusion. It started after a particularly grueling workout with a new GlobalGym trainer that didn’t realize how out-of-shape I was at the time. I started to “black out” while I was still at the gym – the symptoms I usually get when a migraine is coming on: impaired vision, black spots everywhere and extreme sensitivity to light. Somehow I made it home, where things got worse. My dad rushed me to the ER.
I spent about 5 hours in the hospital, pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it (I’m a complete drama queen, I know.). After ensuring I wasn’t having a drug overdose or a heart attack, the doctors took some blood, gave me fluids and left me to recover.
When the results of the blood tests came back, I seriously couldn’t believe them. My potassium was slightly low? Really? That was all it was? Slightly lowered levels of electrolytes in my body were causing me to think I was DYING? WTF. The doctors suggested I drink Gatorade before and during workouts in the future and to “take it easy.”
Well, that wasn’t going to happen. I knew that sports drinks contained more sugar than soda, and since I was living Primally, I knew there was a better, more natural solution than high fructose corn syrup, yellow 6 and brominated vegetable oil. Being the proactive type of person I am, I started researching electrolytes.
Here’s what I found: there are four basic electrolytes your body needs: potassium, sodium, chloride and bicarbonate. Plus I needed water. Potassium was easy – it’s found in lemon and lime juice. Sodium and chloride were even easier – sea salt is sodium chloride. Done and done. Bicarbonate was a little harder, until I discovered that your body actually produces this for you – from potassium rich foods. The beauty of adding lemon or lime to your water is that it is tasty, refreshing and best of all, alkalising. The juice raises the alkalinity of the water so even with standard tap water you can make your drink pH neutral. The sea salt seems to “soften” the water. It doesn’t make the drink taste salty; if it does, then you’ve added too much. You shouldn’t be able to taste it.
(Practically) Free Sports Drink Recipe:
32 oz (750 ml) water, preferably filtered
several squeezes of organic lemon or lime juice
1 pinch of sea salt
(optional) small amount of 100% pure, organic stevia, to taste
I buy organic lemon juice in the little plastic yellow lemon bottles, but be careful which brand you buy. The popular (cheap) ones are full of preservatives and chemicals. The one I buy has only lemon juice and lemon oil in it. I buy fresh lemons and limes sometimes, but I get tired of picking the seeds out. The juice is easier for me, and travels better. I also picked up some packets of salt from a restaurant, which I keep in my purse along with my lemon juice. I can then make my “drink” wherever I am. In a pinch, ask a restaurant for a glass of water, no ice and a slice of lemon on the side. Add the salt yourself, and squeeze the lemon in. Even bars and clubs have sliced lemons and limes. Make sure you use room temperature water. If the water is too hot or too cold, your body will have to use energy in order to process it. And that’s not the point here.
Since I was only drinking water during my workouts, electrolytes were being flushed out of my system when I sweated. I had had a banana (high in potassium) before I went to the hospital – but it didn’t make any difference. I have also been plagued with chronic dehydration during my life – resulting in leg cramps at 4 a.m., cramping during and after workouts, dry skin and chapped lips. Chapped lips were always the first symptom for me.
My mom had gone to the doctor repeatedly complaining of leg cramps waking her up in the middle of the night. We thought maybe it was something hereditary. The doctor told her to increase her calcium and magnesium intake, which she did. It didn’t make a lick of difference. The day she started making my “sports drink,” the leg cramps stopped and she hasn’t had any since. I’ve also spoken to other women who have brought this same symptom up with their doctors and have been given the same prescription: increase your calcium. (But don’t drink milk or eat cheese. That contains fat. Take supplements. Great advice, medical community, pat on the back to you.)
I drink a bottle of this stuff every day. I don’t get chapped lips anymore. I don’t have leg cramps. My muscle soreness after workouts has significantly decreased. It gives me more energy than coffee. Plus my skin is softer. It’s completely natural and it doesn’t have any sugar in it. It costs pennies to make, and can be made anywhere.
My mom and I have been experimenting – eating lemon with our food, or eating something with salt in it, and drinking plain water. It just doesn’t have the same effect. I think adding the lemon juice and the salt to the water helps your body absorb the water, where as taking it separately would only help you absorb the water from the food you’re eating. And if you’re dehydrated, which most of us are, that’s just not enough.
Note: I’m not advocating large amounts of citrus; it can be rough on your teeth. However, a couple squirts of lemon juice in a liter of water are not going to hurt you in any way. Here are some benefits of lemons:
- Lemons are antiseptic
- Lemon water has excellent digestive properties and can ease heartburn, bloating and other digestion problems
- Lemon water cleanses and stimulates the liver and kidneys
- Lemon juice contains calcium, magnesium and potassium
- Lemon juice has been known to relieve asthma
- Lemon water (hot) offers relief from cold and flu symptoms while providing some much needed Vitamin C
- Lemon juice is a great skin cleanser
Try this for a week or two and let me know how it works for you. At the very least, it tastes great and is a refreshing drink.