If you take nothing else away from this article after reading it, know this: Sports drinks are doing more damage than good to your body. Sports drinks are flavored beverages which usually contain large amounts of sugar, as well as sodium and potassium. These two minerals make up what is commonly referred to as “electrolytes”.
The sugar (carbohydrate) content should be warning enough if you pay attention to the labels on sports drinks. In 2012, right before the Olympic Games in London, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a series of articles which revealed the truth about sports drinks. Basically, when you consume sports drinks, you are wasting not only money, but also calories.
You might be wondering, before the rise of sports drinks and the “clever” marketing that comes with them, what did athletes (and the rest of us) drink when thirst struck? Water. And how much did we drink? Until the thirst was quenched.
One fear many athletes have is becoming dehydrated during or after an intense workout. While this is a valid concern, you should know that dehydration has never killed an athlete. However, the marketing behind sports drinks leads many athletes to believe they they must stay fully hydrated and drink before they become thirsty. This has actually resulted in a new problem physicians are treating known as overhydration.
During the 2002 Boston Marathon, a healthy 28-year-old woman collapsed a few miles before the finish line and died a day later. Her cause of death was hyponatremia, which results in too little sodium in the blood. This condition is caused by drinking too much fluid before and during workouts. According to BMJ, 16 marathoners have died and more than 1,600 have become critically ill due to overhydration and hyponatremia.
Sports drinks do not prevent hyponatremia. It is true that you will need to replace the electrolytes lost during long, intense periods of physical activity, but sports drinks are not the answer. Stick with water for hydration, but then add in whole foods which contain high amounts of electrolytes.
Try one of these four electrolyte food options after your next long workout.
Chia seeds contain nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, omega-3s, iron, fiber, protein, and vitamin C. In liquid, they expand around 9 to 12 times their original size, leaving you feeling full and providing you with sustained energy.
To make your own electrolyte drink, add 1 tablespoon of organic chia seeds, 1 teaspoon of raw honey, and a little fresh squeezed organic lemon or lime juice to your reusable water bottle. If you wish, you can also add a heavy dash of Celtic sea salt.
Kale has been called a super food for quite some time, because it is loaded with essential nutrients and minerals that are needed for the body to function. Kale also contains electrolytes. After your training routine, make a kale smoothie–you won’t even taste the kale.
Combine a hearty handful of organic kale, fresh organic fruits, ice, organic coconut water, organic maca powder, and Manitoba Hemp Hearts in a blender. Mix until creamy.
Coconut water is a natural way to replenish the nutrients you lose during your workout. Coconut water is high in potassium, an essential electrolyte. Read the label before consuming to ensure there are no added sugars.
Fruits and Veggies
Celery, apple, beet, banana, oranges, and sweet potatoes all have electrolytes. Eat these natural sources of electrolytes daily. Your body will thank you for giving it essential minerals and vitamins the healthy way.
Most of us can get away with gulping water after a workout, but some—those of us training for fall marathons or just running over an hour in humidity—need to put in extra effort to replenish the minerals flushed out via sweat. Sure, electrolytes come standard in sports drinks and energy bars, but packaged and processed foods may contain added sugars you don’t want at times.
Fortunately, there’s another way to replenish the electrolytes your body needs to maintain fluid balance and aid muscle and nerve functions necessary for athletic performance: Eating healthy, whole foods.
“Foods contain so many electrolytes, as well as vitamins and other health-protective compounds,” says author and sports dietitian Nancy Clark, R.D. Here are five key electrolytes, and the foods you can eat to replace them.
- Electrolytes & sports drinks
- Water alone is adequate
- When food is not available
- 5 Foods to Replenish Electrolytes
- Body Electric
- Most often linked to sports drinks, electrolytes are vital for good health
- The essence of electrolytes
- Out of synch
- When to worry?
- Maintaining electrolytes
- 1. Eat your electrolytes.
- 2. Go easy on the salt.
- 3. Drink enough water.
- Even if you don’t sweat a lot, you lose electrolytes when you breathe rapidly. So sweaty or not, opt for a drink with electrolytes after any vigorous workout.
- 5. Push the electrolytes when you’re sick.
- Electrolyte Replenishment – Why It’s So Important and How to Do It Right
- Electrolytes Explained
- What are electrolytes? Why do I need them?
- Can’t I just use salt tablets?
- The health consequences of high sodium
- Don’t I need to replace what I sweat out?
- Pre-loading sodium prior to a race? Bad idea!
- How the body controls serum sodium
- So what is the answer? How should I replenish electrolytes?
- The Endurolytes Formula
- ORTHOLOGY BLOG
- Myth Debunked: You Need Electrolytes After You Work Out
- Ways to Replenish Electrolytes After a Workout
- Why Are Electrolytes Important?
- What Is the Best Way to Replenish Electrolytes?
- Nutrition and Recovery
- Guide and best practices to replenish electrolytes and fluids after a workout.
- Your Body’s Response to Dehydration
- Heat Advisory
- Pre-Hydration Recommendations
- Fluid Replacement During Exercise
- Fluid Replacement After Exercise
- Rapid Replenishment
- What’s the deal with Sports Drinks?
- To Sports Drink or to Water? That is the question.
- How about coconut water?
- Contact Us
We’re often told to pass on excess sodium, but it’s the electrolyte we lose in the highest concentration when we sweat. Salt helps the body hold on to water, keeping you hydrated for a longer period of time. Still, there’s no need to down an entire bag of pretzels postworkout.
“You can easily replace the 800 mg of sodium lost in two pounds of sweat during a hard, hour-long workout by enjoying a recovery snack of chocolate milk and a bagel with peanut butter,” says Clark. Athletes can also consume a salty meal like soup a few hours before a strenuous sweat session, so their bodies are better equipped to retain fluid and maintain hydration throughout exercise, she adds.
Typically paired with sodium, chloride is found in table salt and processed foods such as deli meats, condiments, canned soup, and potato chips—and like salt, it’s typically not lacking in the American diet. The mineral, which is needed to maintain fluid balance, blood volume, blood pressure, and body fluid pH levels, is also lost in high concentrations via sweat. Skip the snack food aisle and replenish chloride with healthier, whole food sources such as olives, seaweed, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, and celery.
During an hour of hard training, you might lose 200 to 600 mg of potassium, which supports cell and heart function, regulates blood pressure, prevents bone loss and kidney stones, and plays a vital role in muscle contraction. To replenish, Clark suggests snacking on a medium to large banana, which contains 450 to 600 mg of potassium. For other portable, potassium-rich postworkout snacks, pick fresh or dried fruits such as oranges, melons, raisins, or prunes. Or create a salad or grain bowl when you get home with potassium-rich foods such as baked and sweet potatoes and green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, peas, beans, and avocado.
Milk may not seem like the most obvious option to drink postworkout, but the calcium-rich beverage delivers a mix of carbohydrates, calcium, sodium, and potassium, along with high-quality protein, which aids muscle recovery. Aim to include calcium-rich foods like milk (regular or soy) and cereal, yogurt, or a latte each day, Clark advises.
Along with calcium, magnesium aids muscle contraction, nerve function, enzyme activation, and bone development. To replenish stores of the mineral after exercise, Clark suggests chowing down on leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, peanut butter, dried beans, and lentils as often as possible. The added benefit: Magnesium helps fight fatigue. When you’re low on the mineral, your body demands more oxygen—and energy—during physical activity, and therefore you tire more quickly, according to researchers at the U.S. Agricultural Research Service. So loading up on magnesium prerace can be a key to performance success.
It is summer here in the South and that means high humidity with daily temperatures in the 90s. Engaging in almost any outdoor activity will surely bring plenty of sweat.
Sweating is good for us because it is our body’s built-in mechanism to keep us cool, although it does not feel always feel refreshing. For instance, when the surrounding air is damp and stagnant, sweat clings to the skin and clothing gets heavy and uncomfortable. When the sweat finally does evaporate, it leaves behind salts on your skin, which is why your face might feel chalky or lips taste salty.
When we perspire, we do not sweat pure water.
While water is the primary substance, sweat also contains electrolytes, such as sodium, chloride, potassium, and magnesium, small amounts of urea and lactate, as well as trace elements like copper, zinc, and iron.
The loss of excessive amounts of electrolytes and water can quickly dehydrate you.
For obvious reasons, fluid intake should always remain in excess of sweat loss. Water is vital for digestion and metabolic waste. And electrolytes are essential in order for the body to retain water. Replenishing lost electrolytes and fluid allows the cells in our bodies to function properly and maintain our energy and stability. Your performance will greatly diminish if rehydration is not achieved.
Electrolytes & sports drinks
As you near exhaustion and desperately need to quench your thirst, what comes to mind as the perfect beverage? Water, beer, fruity water?
Certain brands of sports drinks have done a miraculous job marketing their product to us. So much in fact, that when we engage in any athletic activity (or are ill from too much fluid loss), we are convinced that we must gulp something sporty and fruity to replenish our electrolytes and feel better. The popular beverage Gatorade likely comes to mind. The idea is that electrolyte drinks are needed to properly rehydrate us and improve our performance. This is not true.
Rehydration after intense exercise can only be achieved if the electrolytes and water lost from sweat are replenished. The amount of electrolytes lost from sweat depends on many factors. It is not the only variable between individuals but varies based on the intensity of activity, environment, and bodily composition. For instance, increasing temperature and humidity can increase the rate of sweating by up to approximately 1 L/h. It is impossible to know whether you have adequately replaced lost electrolytes. Drinking something fruity is almost never going to make up for the loss alone.
Even the sport-themed drinks and those powdered electrolyte mixes, tablets, fruity syrups, and goopy squeeze gels aren’t a good match for electrolyte loss. In fact, you are best to avoid the sporty drinks. In particular, those “ade” brands contain ingredients such as artificial coloring, artificial flavors, and GMO corn syrup. Until recently some U.S. formulations even contain brominated vegetable oil, a controversial food additive banned in many other parts of the world. Regardless, the sugar and additives in these sports drinks are likely to contribute to unwanted side effects. You are better off without them. Stick with drinking water and eating real foods.
Water alone is adequate
Don’t worry about drinking lost electrolytes as long as you are eating solid foods and getting plenty of plain H20. Electrolytes lost from sweat are replaced through food, and plain water is what your body prefers for adequate rehydration.
- Eat foods high in electrolytes. This is not difficult to do when eating a plant-based diet. For instance, high potassium fruits include banana, dates, raisins, coconut, and avocado. Vegetable sources include spinach, beans, lentils, and potato.
- Do not restrict salt in the diet. Adding extra salt to foods after a period of heavy sweating is beneficial for hydration. Salt helps retain fluid in the body to keep us hydrated and is the one most depleted from sweating. The highest concentration of electrolytes lost from sweat is from sodium and chloride (i.e. table salt) followed by potassium.
- Drink enough water. Most people underestimate the amount of water they have lost through sweat and consequently do not drink enough to replace it. When the body is dehydrated it does not function as efficiently. The blood gets thicker and the heart must work harder to pump and transport blood through the body. This also makes it much harder for the muscles to utilize nutrients. How much water should you drink? It depends. The common 8 oz of water 8 times per day is likely not going to suffice when active outdoors. You’ll have to add more fluids depending on the activity, climate, your overall body composition and health status. The litmus test of dehydration is the color of your urine. If it is dark yellow or brown, you are not drinking enough water. If it is clear to light yellow, you are drinking enough. Fluorescent yellow urine means you are probably taking vitamins and are excreting out excess water-soluble vitamins, such as B2 and C.
When food is not available
Sometimes food is not an option. To achieve effective rehydration following activity, you should look for beverages containing moderately high levels of sodium and some potassium. Also look for a small amount of carbohydrate (< 2%) in the form of sugar. A small amount of sugar can improve the rate of intestinal uptake of sodium and water. Just make sure you are drinking more fluid than sweat lost to provide for the additional losses from urine.
Finally, if you are like some people, you need a sweet or pleasant taste in order to drink adequate fluids or to feel satisfied. In other words, you crave sugar. And since the primary ingredient in most sports drinks is sugar, your desire is fulfilled. If that is the only way you will consume enough fluids, then go for it. Just remember, many beverages containing caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which mean they will draw out more water from the body. As usual, nothing beats drinking some old fashioned water and eating foods from whole plant sources.
5 Foods to Replenish Electrolytes
Everybody knows that when you exercise or sweat a lot, you’ve got to drink lots of water to rehydrate. And that’s great. But we can’t forget about replenishing lost electrolytes. Electrolytes are salts and minerals, like sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride, in the body that maintain fluid balance and blood pressure. If you’ve got too much or too little of any one electrolyte, you could experience dehydration, over-hydration, or other imbalances unless replenished quickly. Believe it or not, sports drinks are not the only way to get your fill of electrolytes. Next time you’re in need of an electrolyte boost, try these 5 foods that replenish electrolytes fast.
Milk and yogurt are excellent sources of the electrolyte calcium. Just one cup of milk contains about 300mg of calcium while 1 cup of yogurt contains about 450mg. Both make an excellent post workout snack to replenish electrolytes and boost protein intake!
Bananas are known to be the king of all potassium containing fruits and veggies. With about 422mg of potassium per banana, we can see why! Potassium helps control muscles and blood pressure. Without it you may experience sub-optimal muscle funtion. What’s cool about bananas is that they come in their own portable pouch! They’re the perfect grab-n-go pre- and/or post-workout snack.
For a quick energy and electrolyte boost during or after a workout, try coconut water. Coconut water contains about 600mg of potassium and 252mg of sodium per cup but may vary widely depending on the manufacturer. It’s also got natural sugar that works well to replenish energy stores lost during exercise.
Just because summer is over doesn’t mean you should stop eating watermelon. In fact, watermelon makes the perfect pre- and/or post-workout snack! Watermelon is loaded with good-for-you nutrients like natural sugars, potassium and water. Snack on a cup or two of watermelon after a workout to boost energy and electrolyte stores.
Aka Nature’s Butter, avocados are loaded with Potassium. In fact, just 1 avocado can contain approximately 975mg of potassium, that’s double that of a banana. Opt for ¼ serving avocado on a slice of toast post-workout to refuel and rehydrate!
You’ve probably seen those ads for sports drinks that claim to offer better hydration than water during or after an intense workout. The reason, they say, is that sports drinks replenish electrolytes; water does not.
Are these claims valid, or are sports drink companies just trying to sell you their products? What, exactly, are electrolytes? And is it really so important to replace them?
It turns out, there is some truth in advertising. According to Lynne Braun, PhD, CNP, a nurse practitioner with the Rush Heart Center for Women, electrolytes are a health essential.
The essence of electrolytes
You’re probably familiar with most or all of the electrolytes, even if you didn’t necessarily know they were electrolytes:
These electrically-charged minerals help regulate everything from hydration (the amount of water in your body), to your nervous system to muscle function — including the most important muscle of all: the heart.
Electrolytes enable the electrical impulses to be generated normally within the heart, so your heart can contract and relax at a normal rate.
“The heart can’t pump without electrolytes. If you think of the heart as a lamp, electrolytes are like the electrical circuit, generating the current that keeps the light burning steady and strong,” Braun says. “If the connection is weak or disorganized, the light might flicker rapidly or dim — it won’t work properly. If you unplug the lamp, it won’t work at all.”
Out of synch
Similarly, your body can’t function without electrolytes. And if the level of one or more electrolytes becomes too low or too high, it creates an imbalance that can cause everything from mild, temporary symptoms to serious long-term health problems.
Exactly how the imbalance affects your health — and how quickly symptoms appear — depends on which electrolytes are affected, and how high or low the levels are.
For instance, over time, calcium deficiency will weaken bones and, possibly, cause osteoporosis. Very high calcium, on the other hand, can lead to kidney failure, abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia), mental confusion and even coma.
Arrhythmias can also result from low magnesium, as well as high or low potassium levels, especially in people who already have a heart condition.
When to worry?
The good news: Most of the time, healthy people don’t have to worry about electrolytes. “If you’re getting enough electrolytes through your diet and staying properly hydrated,” Braun says, “your levels should be OK.”
So when should you be concerned? These are some common causes of electrolyte spikes or dips:
- Taking diuretics
- Prolonged vomiting, diarrhea or high fever, such as from a virus
- Congestive heart failure
- Hormonal or endocrine disorders, such as primary hyperparathyroidism
- Certain cancers, including breast cancer, lung cancer and multiple myeloma
- Eating disorders
- Drinking too much water, which can cause overhydration
- Kidney disease
The key to preventing health-threatening imbalances is to be aware of these instances when electrolytes are more likely to become depleted or build up. And, if need be, get advice from your doctor or another health care provider on how to maintain or restore the balance.
While some situations, such as health conditions, are beyond your control, Braun says there are steps you can take to avoid severe electrolyte spikes or dips:
1. Eat your electrolytes.
Make these electrolyte-rich foods part of your daily diet:
2. Go easy on the salt.
Although sodium is a vital electrolyte, your body doesn’t need a lot — just 1 teaspoon daily. Too much salt can contribute to high blood pressure and other health problems. Try these salt-saving tips:
- Use fresh herbs and spices, or citrus juice to season your food.
- Avoid pre-packaged meals, which tend to be very high in sodium.
- Choose “reduced sodium” canned soups and vegetables. Always read the labels!
- Taste your food first. Don’t automatically reach for the salt shaker; you might find your food doesn’t need it.
3. Drink enough water.
You may feel like you hear this too often. But it’s good advice. Don’t wait until you become dehydrated to drink fluids; keep a water bottle with you and drink small amounts throughout the day.
Even if you don’t sweat a lot, you lose electrolytes when you breathe rapidly. So sweaty or not, opt for a drink with electrolytes after any vigorous workout.
If you do a long or heavy workout, it’s important to replace the potassium, magnesium and/or sodium that can be depleted.
That’s why Braun recommends replacing 8 ounces of your daily water with a sugar-free or low-sugar sports drink (e.g., Powerade Zero, 0g sugar, Powerade ION4, 3.9g sugar; Gatorade GSeries Fit 02 Perform, 2g sugar), or oral rehydration product (e.g., CeraSport, Drip Drop Hydration Powder).
“Even if you don’t sweat a lot, you lose electrolytes when you breathe rapidly,” she explains. “So sweaty or not, opt for a drink with electrolytes after any vigorous workout.”
5. Push the electrolytes when you’re sick.
When you’re vomiting, have diarrhea or are feverish, you rapidly lose fluids and electrolytes, Braun cautions. Children and seniors, especially, can get severely dehydrated very fast.
Oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte — which contain the right mix of salt, sugar, potassium and other minerals — are a good way to replenish those vital fluids.
Electrolyte Replenishment – Why It’s So Important and How to Do It Right
By: Steve Born
Steve’s nearly three decades of involvement in the sports nutrition industry, as well as more than 20 years of independent research in nutritional fueling and supplementation, have given him unmatched familiarity with the myriad product choices available to athletes. – Steve’s Full Bio
Electrolytes are chemicals that form ions in body fluids. They help make sure specific bodily functions run at optimal levels. Too few electrolytes will cause the body to cramp. As serious athletes know, cramping can make a big difference on race day. So how do we prevent cramping and keep our body running at its peak performance levels? We keep it supplied with the needed amount of electrolytes.
Proper fueling during exercise requires more than replenishing calories and fluids; it involves consistent and adequate electrolyte support as well. Electrolyte needs vary much more than either caloric or hydration needs, so you will have to experiment quite a bit in training until you have this aspect of your fueling tailored to your specific requirements under various conditions.
Electrolytes are analogous to the motor oil in your car—they don’t make the engine run, but they’re absolutely necessary to keep everything running smoothly. Proper functioning of the digestive, nervous, cardiac, and muscular systems depends on adequate electrolyte levels.
Muscle cramping, though there are many theories as to why it happens, usually involves improper hydration and/or improper electrolyte replenishment. No one wants to cramp, of course, but remember, cramping is a place far down the road of electrolyte depletion. Cramping is your body’s painful way of saying, “Hey! I’m on empty! Resupply me now or I’m going to stop!” It’s like the oil light on the dash; you never want it to get that low.
That’s precisely why you shouldn’t wait for cramps to remind you to take electrolytes. Just as you shouldn’t wait until you bonk before you refuel, or you’re dehydrated before you replenish fluids, your regime should always include these essentials.
In this article, we’ll look closely at this vital, but often neglected and misunderstood, aspect of fueling. We’ll tell you why salt tablets don’t work and why Hammer’s line of Endurolyte products are are unquestionably the finest electrolyte formulas available.
What are electrolytes? Why do I need them?
Electrolytes are chemicals that form electrically charged particles (ions) in body fluids. These ions carry the electrical energy necessary for many functions, including muscle contractions and transmission of nerve impulses. Many bodily functions depend on electrolytes. Optimal performance requires a consistent and adequate supply of these important nutrients.
Many athletes neglect consistent electrolyte replenishment because they’ve never had cramping problems. Even if you’ve been fortunate enough to have never suffered the painful, debilitating effects of cramping, you still need to provide your body with a consistent and adequate supply of electrolytes. Why? Because the goal in replenishing electrolytes is not so much to prevent cramping, but to maintain specific bodily functions at optimal levels. Cramping is your body’s way of letting you know that, in terms of electrolytes, it’s on empty. When you’ve reached that point, your performance has been severely compromised for some time. Remember, you want your body to perform smoothly, without interruption or compromise. Just as you shouldn’t wait until you’re dehydrated or bonking before you replenish fluids or calories, you never want to wait until you’re cramping before replenishing electrolytes. Consistent replenishment of electrolytes is just as important as the fuel you consume and the water you drink during exercise.
Can’t I just use salt tablets?
Salt tablets are an unacceptable choice for electrolyte replenishment for two reasons:
- They provide only two of the electrolytes your body requires – sodium and chloride.
- They can oversupply sodium, thereby overwhelming the body’s complex mechanism for regulating sodium.
Each of these issues is important, and we’ll discuss both of them. Right now, let’s focus primarily on the second one.
Far too many athletes have suffered needlessly with swollen hands and feet from water retention due to ingestion of salt tablets or electrolyte products that were too high in sodium during prolonged exercise in the heat. The body has very effective mechanisms to regulate and recirculate sodium from body stores. Excess sodium consumption interferes with or neutralizes these complex mechanisms. Sweat generates large sodium losses, which is monitored closely through hormonal receptors throughout the body. However, rapid sodium replacement neutralizes the system, allowing water intake to dilute the sodium content. High-sodium electrolyte supplementation compromises the natural physiological control of serum electrolytes. Once the body detects an increase in sodium from exogenous sources (food, salt tablets, or products too high in sodium), the hormone aldosterone signals the kidneys to stop filtering and recirculating sodium. Instead, the kidneys will excrete sodium and another hormone, vasopressin, will redominate and cause fluid retention. While ingesting large amounts of sodium may temporarily resolve a sodium deficiency, doing so substantially increases the risk of a number of other problems, including increased fluid storage in the form of swelling (edema) in the extremities. Consequences also include elevated blood pressure and an increased rate of sodium excretion. All of these inhibit performance. If you’ve ever finished a workout or race with swollen hands, wrists, feet, or ankles, or if you have experienced puffiness under your eyes and around your cheeks, chances are your sodium/salt intake was too high.
The truth is that the human body needs only a minute amount of sodium to function normally. We require a mere 500 mg of sodium each day, athletes maybe 2,000 mg. This is easily supplied by natural, unprocessed foods. However, the average American consumes approximately 6,000-8,000 mg per day, well above the upper end of the recommended dose of 2,300 – 2,400 mg/day.* (See asterik on page 44) The average athlete stores at least 8,000 mg of dietary sodium in tissues and has these stores available during exercise. In other words, you already have a vast reservoir of sodium available in your body from your diet, ready to serve you during exercise. In addition, your body has a highly complex and efficient way of monitoring and recirculating sodium back into the blood, which it does to maintain homeostasis. You do need to replenish sodium during exercise, but you must do so with amounts that cooperate with, and do not override, these complex body mechanisms.
*In 2009, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided additional scientific evidence that the majority of Americans over the age of twenty should limit the amount of sodium (salt) they consume daily to 1,500 milligrams (mg) to prevent and reduce high blood pressure.
The health consequences of high sodium
Not only are high-sodium diets bad for your health, but those who consume large amounts of sodium in their diet are guaranteed greater sodium loss rates and will require greater sodium intakes during exercise. Sodium, as you probably know, drives thirst, and thirst drives drinking until excess results is definitely not a performance-enhancing scenario.
Don’t I need to replace what I sweat out?
It’s easy to formulate a product that matches one of the many perspiration analysis studies and then sell it on the basis that athletes simply need to replace what they lose. Some products do just that. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with this because individual sweat-loss differences vary greatly, and the human body does not and cannot efficiently replace what it expends during exercise at any intensity above a walking pace. Electrolytes lost are not replaced by electrolytes consumed in the moment.
The body is able to replace, at best, only about one-third of what it loses during exercise. This is true for fluids, calories, and electrolytes. If you try to replace all the fluids at once, you may end up with dilutional hyponatremia (overly diluted blood sodium levels) or water intoxication. If you attempt to replace all the fuel you expend, your stomach will back up in total rebellion, and refueling will grind to a halt. Likewise, if you try to replace in equal amounts all of the electrolytes you lose, a number of hormonal triggers may create all sorts of problems such as gastric distress, edema, muscle spasms, and cramping.
As emphasized in the LESS IS BEST *The right way to fuel* article at the beginning of this book, the key to successful fueling (fluids, calories, and electrolytes) is to NOT focus on what you lose, but rather on how much your body can effectively accept and absorb. Bill Misner, Ph.D., says, “Give your body 30-40%, even though it cries aloud for 110%. When it comes to the amount of fluids you drink, calories you eat, and electrolytes you replenish, this is an absolutely vital principle to remember. The closer you adhere to it, the greater your opportunity for success.
Pre-loading sodium prior to a race? Bad idea!
Courtesy of an article written by a registered dietician, one practice now being considered, and even adopted by many athletes, is to & increase sodium in the diet by pre-loading three to four grams of sodium about 12 to 24 hours before the race.
What is bothersome about this recommendation is that one would think that a registered dietician ought to be well-versed on the health consequences of a high-sodium diet (which the overwhelming majority of Americans consume). Yet this particular person advocates additional sodium in the diet prior to a race. We adhere to the principle of limiting sodium that is currently medically recommended since research supports that chronic consumption of more than 2,300 milligrams per day may contribute to congestive heart failure (CHF), hypertension, muscle stiffness, edema, irritability, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), liver disorders, ulcers, and cataracts.
A number of references are provided in the article, apparently to solidify these recommendations:
1) Eichner, E.R. “Genetic and Other Determinants of Sweat Sodium.” Current Sports Medicine Reports 7.4 Supp 1(2008): 236-S40.
Comment: Our interpretation of Eichner’s statements/conclusions is that the more sodium in the pre-event diet, the more plasma aldosterone level is suppressed, resulting in a higher rate of sodium loss in sweat during the event. Our position is that suppression of aldosterone prior to events by increasing sodium intake is counterproductive to keeping natural body homeostatic controls in the healthy norm range, which means consuming a low sodium diet of under 2,300 mg daily.
Bottom line: More sodium in the diet equals more sodium lost during exercise.
2) Misner, William. Ph.D. Director of Research & Product Development, “Thoughts on reducing sodium Sodium imbalance: what it causes and how to fix it.” 43-46
Comment: Our position is that over 2,300 mg/day results in harmful consequences to health proportionate to predisposed individual sensitivity, while a large majority of the human population reacts negatively to >5,800 mg/day.
Bottom line: Keeping sodium intake levels between 1,500-2,300 mg/day will support sodium requirements without taxing the aldosterone pathway or the kidney organ’s role in homeostasis.
3) Murray, R. and L. Kenney, “Sodium Balance and Exercise.” Current Sports Medicine Reports 7.4 Supp. 1 (2008): S1-S2.
4) Stachenfeld, N.S. Acute Effects of Sodium Ingestion on Thirst and Cardiovascular Function. Current Sports Medicine Reports 7.4 Supp. 1(2008): S7-S13.
Bottom line: Salty foods and/or salt tablets will not cut it when it comes to electrolyte replenishment. Instead, adopt a low-sodium approach that emphasizes a balance of essential minerals that cooperatively enhance the body’s natural hormone and enzyme actions. You want a product that will provide comprehensive electrolyte support without compromising internal regulation.
Comment: The human body is constructed to be sensitive in monitoring homeostatic electrolyte balance. This suggests that a consistent intake of small amounts of fluids and electrolytes help to prevent severe deficits of fluids and loss of electrolytes.
How the body controls serum sodium
Aldosterone is a hormone that controls the rate of sodium circulated in the human body. When sodium levels dip too low through loss in perspiration or urine, aldosterone is released, stimulating the kidney tubule cells to increase the reabsorption of sodium back into the blood. In basic terms, the body has a very complex and effective way of monitoring, recirculating, and thus conserving its stores of sodium.
High sodium intake will suppress serum aldosterone, whereas low sodium intake will elevate serum aldosterone. In other words, too much sodium will suppress and neutralize aldosterone’s beneficial sodium recirculation effects, causing more sodium to be lost. Conversely, a low-sodium diet and a more conservative sodium intake, in tandem with other depleting electrolytes during a workout or race, creates an environment where lower amounts of sodium are lost in sweat and urine.
This is also why sweat rate figures can be deceiving. You’ll find many a coach or researcher stating something to the effect of, “I’ve seen athletes lose up to several grams of sodium during a one-hour training session.” That may very well be true for some athletes during such a short-duration bout of exercise, especially if it’s under a controlled environment (such as riding a stationary bike in a warm room with no circulating air). However, that doesn’t mean that those losses are sustainable hour after hour. Again, the body’s built-in chemical messengers and hormones (namely aldosterone) help prevent those losses from continuing down the same path. Yes, the body does need sodium replenishment, but it has to be an amount that works in cooperation with aldosterone’s sodium recirculation/conservation effects. A high-sodium diet and/or too-high sodium intake during a workout or race effectively negates aldosterone’s desired effects, which means greater sodium losses.
Bottom line: Instead of adopting a recommendation that more and more sodium be added to the already too-high and unhealthy amounts in the diet, athletes should focus more on lowering their daily sodium intake. It is almost virtually guaranteed that each and every one of us consumes far more sodium than we need on a daily basis, and the harmful effects of oversupplying the body with sodium above its daily needs is a real and present danger which will compromise optimal health. Lowering your sodium intake in the diet, keeping it in the range of 2,300 mg or less, is not only a more appropriate recommendation/protocol for general health purposes, it will also benefit athletic performance as well. Definitely do not pre-load sodium in the days leading up to a race.
So what is the answer? How should I replenish electrolytes?
Proper electrolyte replenishment during endurance exercise requires a gradual, consistent approach that incorporates all of the electrolytes in amounts that do not override normal body mechanisms. Remember, electrolyte intake needs to be below systemic detection, yet help alleviate systemic depression. This means that you need to consume enough to support body functions and prevent heat-related issues such as cramping without overwhelming your body. Electrolyte intake must slip under the body’s radar detection system while still providing optimal support.
***Endurolytes, Endurolytes Fizz, and Endurolytes Supreme are full-spectrum electrolyte products designed to fulfill the body’s electrolyte requirements. They are designed to counter the effects of hyperthermia, optimize specific bodily functions, and enhance endurance performance, especially beyond the two-hour mark. The electrolyte profile of the Endurolytes formula balances cations (positively charged ions) and anions (negatively charged ions) responsibly without emphasizing one electrolyte over others. This is a key note to remember: When a balance of electrolytes of cations to anions are managed in the energy producing cell, assuming the cell has adequate fuel and fluid, such a cell will produce energy at a higher rate than one overdosed by a single cation mixed with an irrational list of anions. That’s a darn good reason to avoid going salt-only or to use any product, whether its a fuel or supplement, that contains high levels of sodium. They will usually include the consequences of too-low amounts of other electrolytic minerals. Additionally, we do not formulate Endurolytes, Endurolytes Fizz, and Endurolytes Powder to reflect the amounts of electrolyte loss in sweat because each person has a unique biological predisposition in terms of minerals lost via perspiration. Furthermore, the differences in an athlete’s size and fitness, as well as the pace of exercise, and of course the humidity and heat, can mean up to a 1000% difference when one athlete’s sweat rate is compared to another’s. A one size fits all formula based merely on sweat rates cannot, and will not, adequately support your specific electrolyte requirements.
In the purest sense, the Endurolytes formula is not so much an electrolyte replacement product, but is better described as an electrolyte stress support formula. It helps the body perform better under the demands of exercise, especially in heat, by providing a full complement of minerals in the proper balance without interfering with normal body control systems.
The Endurolytes Formula
Endurolytes contains chelated minerals. Chelation is the process of bonding a mineral to another substance, ideally an amino acid. This makes the mineral more bioavailable. Chelated minerals are the form most often recommended because they provide greater absorption than their non-chelated counterparts. For example, magnesium is 87% absorbed when chelated, but only 16% when taken in an inorganic, non-chelated form. One nutritional scientist wrote, “estimates of normal mineral absorption average 10%. However, absorption of chelated minerals may be as high as 60%.” Let’s examine each mineral in the Endurolytes Formula:
CALCIUM is the most abundant mineral in the human body (about 2.85 lbs/.8 kg in the average person). Normal heart rhythm, healthy nerve transmission, and strong muscle contractions require a constant blood calcium level. During exercise, calcium-dependent enzymes produce energy from fatty and amino acid conversion, providing 60-65% of your energy needs when exercise goes beyond two hours in length. Because fatty acids are such an important fuel during endurance exercise, having adequate calcium available to efficiently convert them into energy is crucial. When blood calcium runs low, the body extracts it from the bones, but this process can’t keep up with your exercise depletion rate. Serum calcium deficiency during endurance events may produce high blood pressure, muscle cramps, and weakness.
MAGNESIUM should accompany calcium at a ratio of 1:2. When calcium flows into working muscle cells, the muscle contracts. When calcium leaves and magnesium replaces it, the muscle relaxes. Many enzymatic reactions necessary for fuel conversion to muscular energy occur in the presence of adequate magnesium. Deficiency of magnesium contributes to muscle cramps, tremors, sleep disturbances, and in some cases, convulsive disorders.
POTASSIUM is the chief cation (positively charged ion) within all muscle cells. It is necessary for maintaining the optimal concentration and balance of sodium. Potassium deficiency symptoms are nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, muscle spasms, cramping, and rapid heart rate. Even though 100-200 mg are lost in sweat alone (not counting internal muscle and cell use), if we try to replace those amounts all at once, optimal sodium balance is altered. In addition, too much potassium is hard on the stomach and can cause severe stomach distress.
SODIUM is the chief cation (positively charged ion) outside the cell. The average American carries 8,000 mg of excess sodium in extracellular tissues. During endurance events, a minimum of three to four hours is necessary to deplete this mineral, which may result in symptoms of abnormal heartbeat, muscle twitching, and hypoventilation. However, if sodium is replaced at or near the same rate as depletion, it overrides the hormonal regulating mechanisms that enable the body to conserve electrolytes. Consumption of too much sodium will cause a variety of problems, the least of which is fluid retention. Therefore, we highly recommend a more moderate, cooperative replenishment of sodium.
CHLORIDE is the relative anion (negatively charged ion) that accompanies sodium. This electrolyte is absolutely necessary in maintaining the osmotic tension in blood and extracellular fluids. It’s a somewhat complicated process, but to put it in the simplest terms, think of osmotic tension as being the proper balance and consistency of body fluids and electrolytes. An appropriate amount of chloride (as sodium chloride) supports, but does not override, the function of the hormone aldosterone in regulating and conserving proper electrolyte levels.
MANGANESE is included in Endurolytes as it is necessary in trace amounts for optimal muscle cell enzyme reactions for conversion of fatty acids and protein into energy. Again, fatty acids and protein are a crucial part of the endurance athlete’s fuel supply. While manganese is not technically an electrolyte, its importance cannot be overstated. Research also shows that manganese deficiency plays a key role in blood sugar fluctuation, free radical build-up from intense exercise, and nerve function disorders, especially in older athletes.
PYRIDOXINE HCL (vitamin B-6) is a coenzyme required in 60 enzymatic reactions involving the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. We include this water-soluble B vitamin in Endurolytes because of its active role in maintaining sodium-potassium balance.
L-TYROSINE is an amino acid added to the Endurolytes formula to protect thyroid and adrenal function. Blood plasma deficiency during extreme endurance events will lower thyroid and adrenal production, hindering the proper rate of metabolism. Symptoms of l-tyrosine depletion first appear as depression, later anger, then despondency that degenerates into total despair. If any of these has ever happened to you during a long training session or race, it may be due to low thyroid and adrenal production. It can be easily avoided by the intake of supplemental l-tyrosine through any of the Endurolytes products.
GLYCINE is an amino acid added to help neutralize the naturally salty/bitter taste of the minerals.
Consistent replenishment of fluids and calories is essential to maintain energy levels during workouts and races. Providing constant replenishment of electrolytes is an equally important component of proper fueling.
Getting your fluid and caloric needs dialed in and nailed down is fairly easy to accomplish, but fulfilling your electrolyte needs requires more attention because you have much more variability to account for. Using Endurolytes, Endurolytes Fizz, or Endurolytes Extreme in your training will resolve that challenge. They contain the right minerals in the right balance. Also, because they are independent of your caloric and hydration sources, they provide you with the necessary dosing flexibility. Regardless of your size, sport, training intensity, fitness level, or the weather, you can fulfill your electrolytic mineral needs accurately and precisely hour after hour with Endurolytes, Endurolytes Fizz, or Endurolytes Extreme.
The Hammer Nutrition website has several detailed articles on sodium and electrolyte replenishment. We especially recommend:
Myth Debunked: You Need Electrolytes After You Work Out
- March 19, 2018
If you’ve participated in any type of physical activity, you’ve likely heard that you need to replace your electrolytes, especially if you sweat a lot. Electrolytes are minerals, such as sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphate, that regulate body fluids and are essential to physical activity.
Do you need to replace electrolytes whenever you work out?
Your body loses water faster than it loses electrolytes, so most of the time all you need to do is make sure you rehydrate by drinking water. Most people’s regular workouts are not intense enough to require electrolyte replenishment right after the workout is done. There are times when water alone is not sufficient and you also need to replace the electrolytes lost through sweating.
Although each person is different, as a general rule of thumb you usually don’t have to replace electrolytes if your workout is less than one hour. The longer the workout and the more intense the exercise, the more likely you’ll need electrolytes. The warmer the weather and the more you sweat, the more likely you’ll need electrolyte replacement. Again, this is just a general guideline and will differ by individual, activity and other factors. Pay attention to signs that your electrolyte levels are too low, such as muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, nausea or mental confusion.
If you do need to replenish electrolytes after your workout, skip the sugary sports drinks. Aside from the fact that most commercial sports drinks are filled with artificial ingredients, the sugar in them can slow down the rate at which water enters the bloodstream. Instead, you can start to replenish lost electrolytes with the food you eat following your workout. These foods are good sources of electrolytes:
- Sodium – pickles, peanut butter, soup and tomato juice
- Chloride – celery, lettuce, olives and table salt
- Potassium – bananas, tomatoes, spinach and sweet potatoes
- Magnesium – leafy greens, almonds, cashews and tofu
- Calcium – yogurt, milk, cheese and kale
As long as you eat a balanced diet and stay well hydrated, your electrolyte levels should be where they need to be after a light-to-moderate intensity workout. If you are engaging in intense exercise sessions on a regular basis, such as when training for a marathon or triathlon, you will need to take extra steps to keep electrolyte levels in check.
Ways to Replenish Electrolytes After a Workout
September 21 2018
By Katie Kissane MS, RD, CSSD
Electrolytes are the minerals found in sweat and other bodily fluids. This includes sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium. When we exercise and as we sweat, we lose electrolytes. The most common electrolyte is sodium followed by chloride, then potassium.
Why Are Electrolytes Important?
Electrolytes are needed to send electrical impulses to the heart, maintain fluid balance inside and outside of cells, and signal muscle contraction. When electrolytes are lost through sweat and not replenished, it can cause muscle cramps. Dangerously low sodium levels can occur when there is a large amount of sodium lost through sweat and water is consumed without replenishing sodium. This is referred to as hyponatremia. That’s why it is so important to replenish electrolytes (as well as fluid) during hot and humid conditions and during long durations of activity.
What Is the Best Way to Replenish Electrolytes?
Many people consume electrolyte drinks to replenish electrolytes, but not all electrolyte drinks are created equal. Beware of drinks high in sugar, artificial sweeteners, or food coloring. If your electrolyte drink is a bright neon color, that might be a problem. There are some good low sugar and natural electrolyte drink options available. Keep in mind that electrolytes are not the only important thing to replenish after a workout. It is generally a good idea to replace electrolytes as well as protein and carbohydrates for muscle building, repair and recovery. Consider a post-race recovery drink that combines all three. Plus you get the added benefit of additional fluids.
Are you looking for more natural ways to replace electrolytes and fluids? Broth or broth-based soups are great because they usually contain fluids and sodium. However, this may not be the most desirable option on a hot summer day. Milk can be very cold and refreshing and contains electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein. In fact, a glass of milk contains 8 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbs, about 100 mg of sodium, 380 mg potassium and 27 mg of magnesium. Chocolate milk might work well for a very active individual needing additional carbohydrates post exercise. Greek yogurt has all of these benefits and includes more protein. Consider adding some fruit to Greek yogurt to get additional carbohydrates and potassium. Not everyone can tolerate milk and milk products and unfortunately, the milk alternatives generally don’t have all the protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes that are found in cow or goat’s milk.
Fruit and vegetables can be a great post workout food because they contain carbohydrates, potassium and fluids. Fruits and vegetables are not a great source of sodium so consider adding other sodium-rich foods to the mix or add a little sea salt to fruit for additional sodium and chloride. Watermelon can be very refreshing post-exercise with a sprinkle of sea salt.
Adding nuts and seeds to a post-workout snack can be a great way to get additional magnesium and calcium. Almonds and pumpkin seeds are a good source of these minerals and if salted would contain the additional sodium needed.
Coconut water can also be a natural alternative to an electrolyte drink as it contains a high amount of potassium and has some natural carbohydrates. It is not, however, a great source of sodium.
After a particularly long and challenging workout (especially in hot and humid conditions) consider making a smoothie with several of these ingredients to maximize the benefits. This could include fruits high in potassium (mango, banana, oranges or even avocado), Greek yogurt, nuts or seeds such as chia seeds, coconut milk for the fluid, and a dash of sea salt. This will cover all the post-exercise recovery needs plus help replenish electrolytes and fluids.
This article was written by Katie Kissane, MS, RD, CSSD, a registered dietitian board certified in sports dietetics with diverse experience in many areas of nutrition including diabetes, food allergies/intolerances, and eating disorders. She holds a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Colorado and a master’s degree in food science and human nutrition from Colorado State University. Katie is the owner of NoCo Sports Nutrition and works with a variety of athletes including youth athletes, collegiate athletes, and professional athletes. She currently sits on the United State Olympic Committee Sports Dietitian Registry and as an athlete herself, she has a unique understanding of the many challenges athletes encounter.
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Nutrition and Recovery
July 2, 2019 | By Physio Logic
Guide and best practices to replenish electrolytes and fluids after a workout.
By: Michelle Miller, Clinical Nutritionist & Rachel Naar, Registered Dietitian
Water constitutes most of our body weight and provides the medium by which other nutrients function. The thirst mechanism is most effective at rest, so if you’re hitting the gym or going for a run you may not even feel thirsty until later when you’re dehydrated.
Thirst is NOT an indicator of adequate hydration. It is also important to note that weight loss after exercise is not indicative of fat loss, as the water loss is a result of fluid shifts.
Under normal conditions, fluid balance is easily regulated.
Exercise challenges fluid balances by:
- Increasing body temperature
- Increasing fluid loss via sweating
Your Body’s Response to Dehydration
- Increases in:
- GI Distress (think nausea/vomiting/diarrhea)
- Heart Rate
- Core temperature at which sweating begins
- Decreases in:
- Cardiac Output
- Endurance Capacity
- If you’re just starting out, workout first in a cool environment!
- Monitor hydration.
- Ensure extra salt intake early on in heat exposure (or if muscle cramping occurs).
- Acclimate to the heat: schedule daily heat exposure for at least a half-hour for two to three weeks to adapt to the environment.
To minimize the potential for thermal injury, ACSM experts recommend:
- Water losses due to sweating during exercise be replaced at a rate close to or equal to the sweating rate
- Individuals who are not acclimated to hot temperatures should refrain from intense workouts in the heat.
- Ensure adequate hydration before activity
- Slowly drink 5-10 ml/kg 2-4 hours before
- Additional 3-5 ml/kg if urine is dark or limited
- Include sodium in foods or beverage to stimulate thirst and retain fluids
Fluid Replacement During Exercise
- Goal: to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
- Requirements vary with sweat rate, exercise duration, environment, clothing
- Restrict losses to 1-2% of body weight
- 0.4-0.8 L/hr
- Ex. If you are running for 2 hours, consume between 0.4-0.8L/hr, which would be 0.8L-1.6L in total for 2 hours.
Fluid Replacement After Exercise
- Goal: to replace fluid and electrolyte deficits
- May take 4-24 hours
- Regular consumption of food and fluids adequate to recover over 24 hours
- Sodium must be included in diet
- Rapid recovery requires 1.5 L/kg body weight lost)
- Ex. If you lose 1 kg of body weight (2.2 lbs), you will recover with 1.5 L of fluid.
- Extra volume compensates for increased urine production
- Sports drinks helpful if sodium not obtained through food
- Ex. If you lose 1 kg of body weight (2.2 lbs), you will recover with 1.5 L of fluid.
- Combine water or sports drinks with high sodium foods
- Soup or broth
- Tomato or V8 juice
What’s the deal with Sports Drinks?
- Provide fuel (carbohydrate) and electrolytes
- Carbohydrate enhances fluid and sodium absorption in small intestine
- Benefits of added amino acids, vitamins, etc. are questionable
- Formulated to provide quick, effective rehydration along with an energy source
- Added sodium helps to retains fluid
To Sports Drink or to Water? That is the question.
- Type and duration of event
- >60 minutes and/or high intensity (consider including sports beverage)
- Climate conditions
- Heat and humidity, altitude (consider including sports beverage)
- Pre-nutritional status
- Inadequate Carbohydrates, low sodium diet ( consider including sports beverage)
How about coconut water?
Claim: Most natural “like putting a straw in a coconut” (Vitacoco/ Harmless Harvest) and high in potassium
- SODIUM is more critical than Potassium in hydration
- little Potassium is lost in sweat
- Commercial forms can be highly processed!
More questions about staying hydrated? Schedule an appointment with the Clinical Nutrition Department by filling out the form below or calling now.
CATEGORIES : Exercise Health Nutrition