If you’ve ever felt depleted on a long run, there’s a chance you didn’t have enough electrolytes in your system. That’s because electrolytes are essential for regulating your hydration levels and nerve and muscle function, according to sports dietitian Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., founder of Nutrition à la Natalie.
Among the most important for us runners? Sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, she says, since you lose them through sweat. And while energy gels and sports drinks are among the more popular ways to replenish lost electrolytes fast, they’re not the only options out there. Electrolytes can be found in lots of whole foods that often go under the radar.
“[Whole foods] are part of a healthy balanced diet, so you’re going to get other necessary nutrients from them, too, like vitamin C and fiber,” Rizzo says.
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Below are the foods that Rizzo says offer the most sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, so you can be sure you’re getting the most out of your runs. While all of them are great options to eat immediately after a run (to make up for what you’ve lost), Rizzo advises paying attention to which foods you eat beforehand, as options with more fiber might mess with your GI system during a run.
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Salt: 1 teaspoon (tsp) of table salt contains 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium*.
Pickles: 1 cup of pickles contains 1,872 mg of sodium.
Pretzels: 1 ounce (oz) of hard, salted pretzels contains 486 mg of sodium.
Potassium helps maintain both muscle mass and blood pressure, and also regulates your body’s fluid balance and your muscles’ contractions. The recommended intake is no more than 4,700 mg of potassium per day.
Apricots: 1 cup of dried apricots (halves) contains 1,511 mg of potassium.
Prunes: 1 cup of prunes contains 1,397 mg of potassium.
Bananas: 1 medium banana contains 422 mg of potassium.
Tomatoes: 1 medium tomato contains 292 mg of potassium.
Broccoli: 1 cup of raw, chopped broccoli contains 288 mg of potassium.
Oranges: 1 medium orange contains 245 mg of potassium.
Spinach: 1 cup of raw spinach contains 167 mg of potassium.
Potatoes: 1 medium potato contains 135 mg of potassium.
Magnesium increases bone density, helps with muscle function, and transmits nerve signals throughout your body. The recommended intake is no more than 420 mg of magnesium per day for men and 320 mg for women.
Pumpkin seeds: 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds contains 168 mg of magnesium.
Spinach: 1 cup of cooked spinach contains 157 mg of magnesium.
Swiss chard: 1 cup of cooked Swiss chard contains 150 mg of magnesium.
Lima beans: 1 cup of cooked lima beans contains 126 mg of magnesium.
Calcium helps build and maintain strong, healthy bones, helps your muscles contract, and aids in the clotting of your blood. The recommended intake is no more than 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium per day.
Almonds: 1 ounce of almonds contains 76 mg of calcium.
Milk: 1 cup of whole milk contains 300 mg of calcium.
Collard greens: 1 cup of chopped, cooked collard greens contains 268 mg of calcium.
Spinach: 1 cup of cooked spinach contains 245 mg of calcium.
Yogurt: 6 oz of plain, full fat yogurt contains 206 mg of calcium.
Tofu: 1 serving (150 g) of firm tofu contains 190 mg of calcium.
Kale: 1 cup of cooked kale contains 177 mg of calcium.
Parmesan cheese: 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese contains 43 mg of calcium.
*All data comes from the USDA Food Composition Database.