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What Are Electrolytes?

Even though the temps may be cooling (I mean 80s are cooler than 90s 😁) down a bit, if you're an avid exerciser, training for an athletic event, or just a heavy & salty sweater 🙋‍♀️, then it may be advantageous for you to replenish the electrolytes!

First, I am sure you have heard the term electrolytes prior to today's post. From either being active & athletic or even if you have had the stomach bug--the word 'electrolytes' is thrown around quite a bit. But, do you know what they are and what do they do?

Electrolyte are minerals & compounds such as sodium chloride (salt), potassium, calcium, magnesium, & bicarbonate,.etc. and when in solution, have an electrical charge. These electrically charged minerals play critical roles in communication and signaling within our cells & bodies for functions such as pH & fluid balance, muscle contraction (including heart), blood pressure, & nerve function.

We lose these electrolytes (primarily sodium & chloride) through secretions mainly through urine and sweat.

This is why it is important to replenish electrolytes after sweaty activities (usually lasting an hour or more OR if you are a naturally, salty-sweaty person). I'm sure you are do I know if I am a salty-sweater?? Well, there are lab tests for this, but most of us don't have access to those. So, one more practical indication might be that you have a gritty feel to your skin after workouts or sweaty days or even leave a white residue on your skin. Another indication is if you leave a white stain on your hats or clothes!

How do we go about replacing electrolytes?

First, if you have a heart condition, hypertension, kidney issues, etc --you should consult your doctor prior to gulping electrolyte beverages & supplements.

Electrolytes are absorbed better when carbohydrates are present. So, yes, it is suggested that you ingest carbs in the form of sugar (usually in the forms of sucrose & glucose)! (mind-blown emoji)

3%-8% carbohydrate drink (meaning 7g-14 g of carb in an 8 oz serving) is the recommended amount of carbohydrate.

The lower end is most likely for the run of the mill, not super hot/humid & sweaty activity under an hour. Also, if you have a sensitive stomach during/after activity the lower carbohydrate drinks are probably best for you as high, quick carbs may cause upset stomachs! Sipping (1 oz every 10 min) on this beverage throughout the workout is encouraged rather than chugging after the fact.

Most sports drinks & supplements will contain a combination of a few of the electrolytes with sodium being the one in most abundance as it is the one that is lost in the greatest quantity. The ideal amount ranges greatly depending on a variety of factors--sweat rate, duration & intensity of activity, altitude, temperature/humidity, and more). One of our favorite Sports Dietitians, @eleatnutrtion posted recommendations for the amounts of electrolytes in sports beverages and supplements, and, bonus, they also reviewed over 20 brands of electrolyte products! So check out their posts for more specific information on amounts and product guidance!

As an avid, intense, award-winning, salty, and heavy-sweater I have felt the effects of electrolyte depletion a few times! Whoops. The good news is, once you learn and practice to find what carb & electrolyte amounts & ratios work for you, you can prevent it from happening so your performance, recovery, & and not to mention your CRITICAL functions in your body aren't thrown off-balance and hindered!


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