Electrolytes: How Much Do Athletes Need and Why Are They Important?

If you are an athlete, you know firsthand that the key to optimal performance and recovery starts with proper hydration. In fact, studies even suggest that athletic performance can become impaired following just a 2% loss of water weight.  Hydration, however, is much more than just simply replacing fluids. It is also about your intake of electrolytes and electrolyte balance.

Everybody knows the importance of electrolytes. They are minerals that carry tiny electrical charges throughout the body, serving many different roles to help regulate functions such as muscle contraction, nerve transmission, metabolism, rehydration,  pH regulation, and blood pressure maintenance – just to name a few.

Electrolytes are similar to that of the oil in a car’s engine. They don’t fuel the engine, but they are absolutely necessary to keep everything running smoothly.  Proper functioning of the nervous, cardiac, digestive, and muscular systems all depends on adequate electrolyte levels. With that in mind, it goes without saying that replenishing the electrolytes you naturally lose through sweat is of the utmost importance. 

On average, athletes sweat much more than the average untrained person. When the body starts to overheat, the nervous system stimulates sweat glands, which prompts the body to begin sweating in an attempt to cool the body down. Recent studies suggest that the reason why athletes may perspire more, producing more sweat than the average Joe, is simply due to the fact that they are more fit. The body becomes more efficient at the physiological process of producing sweat, and is able to sustain harder efforts at the same aerobic output level, meaning they will naturally get hotter, and thus sweat more. Every time the body produces sweat, it depletes necessary nutrients and low levels of hydration, so it is critical that athletes replenish these lost electrolytes throughout their workout. In addition, athletes also need to refuel after they exercise to provide their body with the nutrients it craves to recover, returning to equilibrium and healthy hydration levels.  

When Should Athletes Replace Electrolytes?

Before Workout: Have you ever noticed that your sweat tastes a bit on the salty side? That is because sweat is made up of mostly water and sodium. If you are an athlete that happens to be a “salty sweater”, then it might be a good idea to consider taking an electrolyte supplement or munch on a salty snack prior to a heavy workout. 

During Workout: Electrolyte products that contain sodium make for an exceptional choice during exercise because the sodium works to replenish the nutrients lost through sweat and helps the body to utilize carbohydrates as an energy source. However, many popular sports drinks today are often loaded with artificial flavors, fillers, and maltodextrin – which can cause more harm to your athletic performance than good! Stay away from trendy sugar bombs during your exercise routine and reach for natural, sugar free electrolytes like Adapted Nutrition’s Hi Lyte concentrate to fuel your body with the  healthy nutrients it needs to perform at its best. 

Post Workout: Water and electrolytes go hand-in-hand. It is much easier to retain water in the body with the intake of salt, because water is naturally attracted to these molecules.  Consuming salty foods or an electrolyte supplement post workout, can help you rehydrate much faster than if you were to just drink water alone. 

What is the Recommended Amount of Electrolytes That Athletes need? 

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it boils down to the recommended amount of electrolytes an athlete needs to support an active lifestyle. The amount depends on many factors like age, gender, weight, fitness and activity level. However, for exercise duration under two hours, an electrolyte supplement containing 120-160mg of sodium and 50-100mg of potassium per 16-ounce serving should prove itself sufficient as an electrolyte replacement. 

If you are an extreme distance athlete participating in marathons or ultra-marathons, you may need a product with a much higher concentration of electrolytes to replenish your body. Athletes in this group should aim for anywhere between 400-500mg of sodium and 400-500mg of potassium per 16-ounce serving. 

Always be sure to check the label for unnecessary carbohydrates, steering clear of any added sugars and other harmful additives. In addition, keep in mind that sodium – rather than potassium – plays the primary role in electrolyte replacement, proving itself to be more of an important factor when deciding which electrolyte product is best for your specific needs. 

How Can Electrolytes Help?

Have you ever experienced a muscle cramp in your leg during a workout? Although there are many theories as to why this happens, it usually involves improper hydration and inadequate electrolyte replenishment.  Cramping is your body’s natural – and oftentimes painful – way of letting you know that it is running on fumes, alerting you to the need for immediate electrolyte replenishment. Since athletes naturally perspire more, depleting vitamin and mineral stores faster, they are more prone to cramping and fatigue.  It is critical to refuel the body with fluids and electrolytes for greater performance, endurance and recovery. 

Recap

Electrolytes are essential minerals that athletes require to perform at their best. Although everyone needs electrolytes, athletes tend to sweat more and thus lose more electrolytes like sodium and chloride faster than the average gym-goer. Signs that you could be electrolyte deficient can include muscle cramps, weakness, twitching, hyponatremia, irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, fatigue and even confusion. 

If you are an athlete looking for a surefire, convenient, and healthy way to replenish your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs for optimal function, consider a superior electrolyte supplement from a company that is passionate about using high-quality and natural ingredients – like Adapted Nutrition. They offer clean electrolytes that are of the highest potency, to ensure your body absorbs the nutrients it needs to train at its best!