Most of us can get away with rehydration by slurping down water after an intense workout, but for some – like athletes for an example – they need to put in a little extra effort to replenish the minerals post-workout that they lose that are flushed out through sweat from hard work or hot weather. Hydration is key to optimal performance and recovery, but it is much more than just replacing fluids. It is also about your intake of electrolytes. Many athletes turn to trendy sports drinks or electrolyte drinks to replace these important minerals, but the truth is that in many instances, these sugar bombs are doing more harm than good. In fact, did you know that one serving of Gatorade has 36 grams of sugar? To put it into perspective for you, that is equivalent to nine shocking teaspoons of sugar – yikes!
Athletes who develop a systematic approach of ensuring they are constantly keeping their body hydrated with fluids and enough electrolytes report having higher energy levels and much better recovery. With that in mind, it is needless to say that electrolytes are imperative when it boils down to athletic performance! When an athlete is adequately hydrated, their body is able to support a variety of critical functions, such as:
- Transport nutrients and oxygen to working muscles
- Aid muscle repair
- Remove lactic acid build up
- Eliminate nitrogenous waste
- Regulate body temperature
Believe it or not but losing as little as 2% of body weight through sweat can prove itself to be detrimental to an athletes ability to perform due to a low blood volume and less than optimal utilization of oxygen and nutrients. That is why electrolyte replacement is of the upmost importance!
However, what exactly are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are the medium through which electricity gets transferred throughout the body. Simply put, they are minerals that conduct an electrical charge when mixed with water and help to regulate many functions such as nerve signaling, muscle contraction, hydration, and pH balance. The primary electrolytes that your body uses to carry out these important functions are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and bicarbonate. Each electrolyte plays an important role to support athletic performance.
Sodium (Na) – maintains fluid balance
Sodium is arguably the most important electrolyte to monitor during training. Have you ever noticed that your sweat tastes a little bit salty? That is because it is made up of water and sodium meaning the more you sweat, the more electrolytes you lose. Excessive losses of sodium through sweat can lead to muscles cramps which can cause a major decrease in athletic performance. Sodium losses in sweat are greater than any other electrolyte so it is critical to maintain substantial balance – both during your physical activity and after. The one of the best good sources of this electrolyte is sea salt because it is less processed than table salt (sodium chloride), meaning it will be easier for your body to absorb. Sodium can also have a large effect on your blood pressure so it is something to watch out for if you have too much sodium.
Potassium (K) – prevents cramping
In conjunction with sodium, potassium helps to alleviate and prevent muscle cramps. This electrolyte is commonly found in many whole food sources, such as bananas, leafy greens such as kale and collard greens, green vegetables like brussel sprouts, lentils, and potatoes. In addition, the average individual has high stores of potassium within the body so it is highly unlikely that losses in this electrolyte level can decrease one’s athletic performance.
Calcium (Ca) – regulates muscle contractions and heart rhythm
The most abundant mineral found in the body is calcium and serves many roles not only in athletic performance, but in normal bodily functions. When calcium is circulating within the bloodstream, it has a huge impact on metabolism of essential nutrients and proper physiological functions. We already know calcium is essential for bone and muscle health. However, what many people do not realize is that this powerful electrolyte is also involved in all types of muscle functions and contractions and the synthesis and breakdown of muscle and liver glycogen. Some of the best sources of calcium are milk, cheese, tofu, and eggs.
Magnesium (Mg) – relaxes muscles
Just like how sodium and potassium go hand-in-hand, calcium and magnesium do the same. While calcium is essential for muscle contractions, magnesium aids in helping the muscles to relax. This healthy combination is critical for proper muscle function. A few sources of this super electrolyte include dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, and legumes.
Sodium Bicarbonate – may enhance endurance and delay fatigue
An interesting nutrient that has some compelling theories behind its use for athletic performance is sodium bicarbonate. This electrolyte supports pH balance and buffers lactic acid in the blood. During strenuous training or activity, lactic acid builds up which stresses the anaerobic glycolysis system. When this powerful energy system becomes disrupted, the acid accumulations inhibit muscle contractions, which can lead to fatigue, which can then greatly reduce exercise performance. Since sodium bicarbonate is also known as baking soda, the best sources of this electrolyte come from bread and other baked goods.
Whether you are a fitness guru or a newbie at the gym, replenishing your electrolytes is important. However, if you are an athlete, you tend to sweat much more than the average gym-goer through rigorous training, making it even more crucial to keep your body hydrated with essential vitamins and minerals to support your active and healthy lifestyle. Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium bicarbonate all play vital roles to maintaining an athlete’s overall health. Although nutrient rich foods are the best way to consume these body-nourishing minerals, sometimes our diet can be lacking. To bridge the nutritional gap, electrolyte supplements are an exceptional choice to fuel your body with the support it needs to function at an optimal level!
If you are looking for an efficient and effective way to supply your body with a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals to support your athletic performance, reach for an all-natural and clean supplement like Adapted Nutrition’s Hi Lyte. This super supplement is designed to be potent, fast-acting, and completely absorbed by your body to provide mineral and electrolyte balance and deliver the electrolytes your body craves to help achieve your greatest athletic potential.