‘Electrolytes’ is a word you have probably heard many times before. It comes up a lot during conversations about the health, safety and nutrition of athletes.
Electrolytes are a blend of essential minerals and ions which are vital to conducting electricity through the human body. They are crucial when exercising to maintain a healthy body and balance.
The minerals in electrolytes include:
They regulate your nerve function as well as your muscles as you move. Electrolytes are the key to hydration and balancing body acidity.
As you do any form of exercise, your body naturally loses electrolytes through sweat, so it is super important to replenish them before, during, or after your exercise. Keep in mind that as important as hydration is, your levels of electrolytes are also very important and can be affected by your hydration levels. By keeping on top of your electrolyte intake, you are assuring that the important minerals, such as sodium and potassium, stay level and won’t cause fatigue, burn-out, vomiting, or diarrhea after an intense workout.
If such things occur, listen to your body. It is likely a sign there is something your body is lacking. For example, if you find that you often cramp during or after a run, you are probably missing sodium in your body and need a salty snack along with your water intake.
But, that is not all! Electrolytes are also important in your regular day-to-day life as they help improve your nerve signals, maintain your blood’s PH levels, build new tissue and support blood clotting.
Electrolytes are known to aid in the process of water movement through cells. This means that they support the rehydration necessary for muscle repair to happen. Glucose is very important in this process as it is needed to pull the electrolytes into your system during your rehydration period. Be cautious with this one, however, as too much sugar can slow the process down so, listen to your body when it comes to your regular sugar intake. Try to avoid super sugary electrolyte drinks if possible, and stick to more natural alternatives.
If you are someone who follows a guide to running nutrition, you might be surprised at the foods you already intake that are filled with electrolytes!
- Yogurt (preferably Greek or natural yogurt with no added sugar)
- Fish (preferably flounder or similar types)
But, if you are finding that you need a little electrolyte boost, some incredible caffeine-free blends are worth trying. For example, a great running support electrolyte blend is the Amino Extension Running Support Electrolyte Blend. This blend is an electrolyte blend that also has the added support of Vitamins B6 and B12 and Folates. As spoken about before, this blend will aid in muscle recovery as well as your stamina.
The main thing to consider when thinking about trying electrolyte drinks is your age, climate and activity level.
When considering the many different aspects of electrolyte intake, you must first think about your activity level as that will help you figure out the level of support your body will need.
If you are a casual runner/do casual exercise, your level of electrolyte support intake won’t need to be as great. Usually, if your nutrition has a lot of electrolyte-filled foods, you will not need to worry too much. We would recommend having some electrolyte snacks or drinks around just in case you feel like you need it.
If running is a part of your weekly routine, you should partake in replenishing your electrolytes regularly. You could be missing some electrolytes needed, but not realise it. We would recommend something like the running support electrolyte blend mentioned above! This will mean you are getting all of your minerals at once as well as your hydration, as the powder needs to be mixed with water.
Marathon runners need the most electrolyte to support the most. They are the most likely to suffer from the consequences of electrolyte loss. With a shorter run, such as a 5k, your electrolyte loss isn’t so severe that you should be worried about your overall health. However, the longer the run, the more you are likely to feel those effects early on and lose your ability to run further and faster.
Marathon runners would benefit from having some energy gels on hand, to quickly replenish electrolytes while on the go. They are lightweight and compact and therefore easy to carry.
Keeping hydrated is super important, but if you don’t do it alongside your key minerals and electrolytes, you may suffer something called hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is a condition that occurs when your body holds on to too much water. Symptoms include nausea, headaches, and fatigue. Medication and hospitalisation may be required if it doesn’t get taken care of straight away.
We hope that this has given you the information you need to make the best, and healthiest choices for you and your running routine. Whether you are a hobby-runner or a marathon-runner, this will give you the confidence you need to make sure you are giving your body the right nutrition and hydration.