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If you’ve ever gotten a stitch in your side while running or a leg cramp on a bike ride, an electrolyte imbalance may be to blame. Electrolytes are minerals that, when combined with fluids like water, spark electrical impulses in your body. These impulses help fuel your body’s cells to keep you functioning. They’re a normal part of a healthy diet—the major electrolytes are sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. A good balance of each supports healthy muscles, brain function, hydration, blood flow, and more.1
But you can develop an imbalance of electrolytes—particularly sodium—when you sweat during exercise. You can also deplete these minerals from losing body fluids while you’re sick. And you’ll feel it: An electrolyte imbalance can cause muscle cramps, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, or a pounding heartbeat, say nutritionists Julie Burns, MS, RDN, LDN, CCN, and Alexandria Cotie, RD, LDN.