Electrolytes and Hydration

Electrolytes and Hydration
by Michele Burdick

Optimum hydration is essential for successful physical fitness training, exercise, muscle gain, and fat loss.

Without proper reserves and ratios of electrolytes and fluids, or proper timing of intake of these nutrients before, during, and after exercise, your ability to perform basic functions could be in jeopardy.

But did you know that your body is more that 60% water? Balanced hydration and electrolyte consumption not only allows the body to maximize physical workouts, muscle contractions and recovery, but is also essential in all our daily functioning; everything from sleeping, waking, working, thinking and everything in between. Hydration in the form of an electrolyte repletion formula cannot be emphasized enough.

But what do we really know about proper hydration and electrolytes?

What are electrolytes?

Electrolytes (sodium and potassium), found throughout body tissues, are vital to health, and act as chemical messengers in the body carrying electrical impulses from the nerves to control all tissue function and movement. Imbalance of any of the electrolytes can lead to serious disruptions in physiologic function, primarily heart and nerve function, muscle control and coordination, and bodily fluid levels.

Not only can inefficient intake of electrolytes and water create an imbalance such as dehydration, too much consumed can cause over hydration also known as “water intoxication”, both of which can be fatal.

Sodium is an essential electrolyte as it “holds” water in the cells. The minimum sodium requirement is 500 milligrams per day. For optimal health, it is recommended that one consume less than 2400 milligrams per day.

Potassium is integral to maintaining the body’s fluid balance with sodium. Along with sodium, it is one of the main electrolytes that are consistently lost in sweat. Potassium is the most abundant electrolyte found inside the cells of the body, and is essential for many physiologic processes including nerve impulse transmission, heart and skeletal muscle contraction, and processing of carbohydrates (energy production).

The daily recommended allowance of potassium is roughly 3.5 grams per day.

Signs of dehydration

By the time you feel thirsty, dehydration has already begun its process. Early signs include dry mouth and a decrease in energy. If left untreated, these can quickly lead to cramps, nausea, headaches, and heat exhaustion.

Good News- It is cure able!

Dehydration is among the most preventable sports related injuries.

  • Drink early, about 2 hours prior to exercising.
  • Drink often, sip continually on your water bottle rather than gulping down a whole gallon in one sitting.
  • Add sports drinks with electrolytes, watch out for too much sugar. Many sports drinks are no better than sugar water, be sure to read all labels before you consume any beverages.
  • Drink post exercise. Weigh yourself prior to work out, then after workout. If you weigh significantly less after than before, cautiously rehydrate with water and electrolytes.
  • Drink during exercise, 7-10 fl. oz every 10-20 minutes.