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Adding Electrolytes During Activity

Electrolyte Powder Mix Electrolyte Powder Mix

Importance of Electrolytes

During exercise, you not only lose a considerable amount of water through sweat, but also varying amounts of electrolytes including sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.  These electrolytes function to maintain fluid balance, aid in muscle contraction and aid in nerve impulse transmission.

When should I consume electrolytes?

Electrolytes should be consumed in addition to water whenever large sweat losses occur.  Examples include:

·         Athletes with high sweat rates (>1.2 L/hour or >5 cups/hour),

·         Athletes with very salty sweat (salt rings on clothing or hat)

·         During periods of prolonged exercise lasting over 2 hours   

Electrolyte of concern: Sodium 

While adequate fluids are essential for exercise, too much water without added electrolytes, particularly sodium, may result in a condition called hyponatremia.  Excess sodium can be lost during heavy exercise or in hot weather conditions when you are sweating more than usual.  Even if you are drinking plenty of fluids, if you are not replenishing your sodium losses, unfavorable symptoms can occur.  Symptoms include bloating, water retention, muscle cramping, weight gain, nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, seizures, and in serious cases, death if left untreated.  While cases are rare, the outcomes can be dangerous and potentially life threatening.  

How to replenish electrolytes:

Adequate sodium in the diet helps the body retain the fluids you consume, especially extracellular fluids and plasma volume. Consuming a sports drink or supplement with added sodium during and/or after exercise can help replenish sodium lost through sweat.  Endurance athletes may even need to supplement with salt tablets during exercise. Post-exercise, athletes should NOT restrict their sodium intake.