Hydration Guide for Athletes: What Electrolytes Do You Need?
As an athlete, you know firsthand that achieving peak performance, meeting personal goals, and maintaining success are a result of the specific program you have developed to take care of your body: proper nutrition, hydration, exercise, and Recreation. But did you know how important hydration is to athlete performance? Water balance can have a DRAMATIC impact on performance. In fact, studies suggest that even losing as little as 2% water can adversely affect athletic performance. However, hydration is much more than just taking in fluids.
Why do we need electrolytes to stay hydrated?
Hydration also involves replenishing electrolytes that are lost through sweating. Electrolytes and hydration are necessary to perform at your best, whether you're training for a marathon, being a cross-fitter, or taking a spin class. They are minerals that carry tiny electrical charges throughout the body that help:
- transmit impulses through our nerves
- our muscles to contract
- regulate pH, metabolism and blood pressure in our body.
Think of the electrolytes like the oil in a car engine. They don't drive the engine, but they are absolutely necessary for everything to work properly. Electrolytes help optimize physiology and ensure we are and remain alert, responsive and healthy.
As athletes, we know our bodies well. We know when we've had a hard workout - often we experience fatigue, cramps, profuse sweating, palpitations, headaches or even mental fatigue. All of these can be signs that we are lacking important minerals. Take cramps, for example: Cramps are your body's natural, and often painful, way of letting you know it's on the back burner. Your body is alerting you to immediately replenish your electrolytes before other body systems are affected.
Think about it: Our heart, nervous, digestive, and muscular systems ALL depend on proper electrolyte balance. When it doesn't, our body goes down FAST.
How does sweating affect the water balance of athletes?
Athletes usually sweat a lot more than untrained people. When the body starts to overheat, the nervous system stimulates the sweat glands, causing the body to sweat to cool the body down.
Recent studies indicate that athletes sweat more because of their higher performance: the body is able to exert more effort with the same aerobic performance, which leads to greater heat generation and more sweating.
Have you ever noticed that your sweat tastes a little salty? Every time the body produces sweat, it uses up sodium and chloride and, to a lesser extent, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Magnesium deficiency is widespread in the western world. It is important for muscle relaxation and cardiovascular health. Calcium helps muscles contract properly and maintain bone health. Potassium needs to be consumed in the right ratio with sodium to regulate fluid balance, muscle contraction and nerve signals, while chloride also contributes to fluid regulation.
Frequent training can quickly increase the need for these nutrients and hydration for athletes. Unfortunately, many products miss the electrolyte balance...they omit or contain only small amounts of potassium and magnesium.
What is the recommended amount of electrolytes for athletes?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to hydration. The recommended amount of electrolytes for athletes who support an active lifestyle cannot be calculated in general. The required amount of electrolytes for athletes depends on many factors such as age, gender, weight, climate, fitness and activity level. However, if you're training for less than two hours, an electrolyte mix of 120-160 mg sodium and 50-100 mg potassium per 16 ounces should be sufficient.
If you're an extreme athlete, you may need a product with a much higher concentration of electrolytes to replenish your body. Athletes in this group should aim for between 400-500 mg of sodium and 400-500 mg of potassium per 16 oz.
If a strenuous workout is on your daily schedule or you want to exercise in the summer heat, consider taking an electrolyte supplement before you exercise. During exercise, electrolyte products that contain sodium help replace sweat loss and help the body use carbohydrates. After a workout, electrolytes ensure you rehydrate much faster than if you just drink water - it's much easier to retain water as water is attracted to the sodium molecules.
Be VERY careful about your electrolyte choices. Many of today's popular sports drinks contain sugar, artificial flavors, colors, fillers and only maltodextrin (no other carbohydrate chains) - who would want to put those ingredients in a well-oiled machine? As athletes, we strive to use the cleanest, most natural products to ensure our bodies long-term performance! Electrolytes like ours provide your body with the healthy nutrients it needs to perform at its best. You can easily get the electrolytes found in a traditional sports drink in a clean, sea mineral-based supplement to help energize you and charge you up for your next effort.
Replenish your body with fluids and electrolytes to hydrate, increase performance, improve endurance and recover.
If you're an athlete who cares about WHAT you put into your body, you should always choose a quality electrolyte supplement from a company that is committed to using quality and natural ingredients - like le melo. They provide clean, potent electrolytes that ensure your body is consuming the nutrients it needs to exercise at its best!