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Electrolytes: Hydration For Performance

Author:Feed The Machine
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electrolytesElectrolytes: Hydration For Performance
The products you’ll find in our Electrolytes Category are those that have electrolytes as their primary ingredients. However, many of our other products like our sports drinks contain electrolytes. Although, having electrolytes in sports drinks, gels, or energy chews is a great idea, we feel it’s important to also use a separate electrolyte product so you have the flexibility to increase your electrolyte and water intake as needed. If you only have electrolytes in your sports drink and you need more, you’ll have to consume more sports drink (and calories) which you may not need. Also, having your electrolytes separate from your calories allows you to drink more water while keeping your electrolytes in balance. Most athletes don’t drink enough, so drink up, but make sure you're taking enough electrolytes!

What are Electrolytes?
Without electrolytes you wouldn’t move a single muscle in your body. Got your attention?

An electrolyte is any substance containing free ions that behaves as an electrically conductive medium. That means that one of the main functions of electrolytes is to work together to conduct nerve impulses that allow you to contract your muscles. Other functions include controlling fluid balance and regulating certain hormones, to name a few.

In our bodies, there are five main electrolytes, Sodium, Chloride, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium. These are all lost in varying degree when we sweat while exercising. That is why it is important to replace the lost electrolytes during exercises lasting more than one hour. Most of us have felt it when these are out of balance with symptoms like dizziness and cramping. Such imbalances lead to serious performance declines. In some cases, it can even lead to Hyponatremia, a very serious electrolyte imbalance condition.

Hyponatremia is an electrolyte disturbance (disturbance of the salts in the blood) in which the concentration in the plasma is too low. Over hydrating with plain water, especially during exercise that causes loss of electrolytes through sweat, can dilute essential electrolytes in the body, causing disorientation, illness and in rare cases, death. For this reason, supplementation is key.

Function and Benefits

Sodium: This electrolyte is responsible for controlling the total amount of water in the body. It helps regulate blood volume and helps maintain muscle and nerve function. Too much sodium in the body can result in hypernatremia which leads to weakness, lethargy, and in severe cases, seizures or a coma. Too little sodium in the body results in hyponatremia and is often caused by diarrhea or vomiting and can cause headache, confusion, fatigue, hallucinations, and muscle spasms. To learn more about sodium and the importance of proper supplementation as an athlete, check out this article titled ''The Math of Salt Loss'' by Jonathan Toker, Ph.D.

Chloride: This negatively charged ion (anion) is primarily found in extracellular fluid and works closely with sodium to maintain proper pressure and balance of fluid compartments of the body. It's also important in maintaining acidity in the body. 

Potassium: Mainly found outside the cell, this electrolyte is important in regulating the heartbeat and in supporting muscle function. It also plays a vital role in neuron transmission. An imbalance of potassium (along with sodium) can further increase risk of hypertension, heart disease, and even stroke.  For the athlete, potassium deficiency often causes muscle weakness and cramping. 

Calcium: We all know the importance of calcium in the formation of bones and teeth, however, calcium is critical for other functions such as nerve impulses, blood clotting, and muscle contraction. About 99% of all calcium is found in our skeletal structure and when there is not enough calcium in your blood, it is taken from your bones to supplement the deficiency and over time, can lead to osteoporosis. 

Magnesium: This electrolyte is necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, aids in the synthesis of both DNA and RNA, and is essential to every cell of every living organism. Magnesium helps maintain normal nerve and muscle function, supports the immune system, maintains heart rate, helps stabilize blood sugar, and helps in the formation of bones and teeth. 

Product overview

There are excellent products on the market. We carry the ones that we’ve come to trust as endurance athletes. Over the years, we’ve tried many and have only kept the best of the best. Each one offers something slightly different that meets individual preferences. They come in a variety of delivery systems:

Effervescent tablets: Simply add these tablets to water. The advantage is that every time you drink water, you get the electrolytes you need, you don’t have to remember to take your electrolytes. Another benefit is that these have flavor which encourages some athletes to drink more. They all come with very little calories. They are light and refreshing. Example: Nuun which invented electrolyte hydration tablets.

Liquid form: These electrolytes come in liquid form that can be added to any amount of water. Example: Elete is a liquid form product that you simply add to your water before training or competition. Unflavored options are available for those who prefer it.

Capsule/Tablet form: This form works well for those who want more control of how much electrolytes they need. If you need more, you can increase your intake without increasing your liquid intake. Example: SaltStick. These capsules have a unique buffered salt composition that helps aid in digestion and absorption. 

Some suggestions

Many of us use a combination of these electrolyte offerings. For example, you can use Nuun in your water bottles / hydration bladder and then carry a capsule product as an additional supplement when you feel the need to increase your intake (when it’s hot and humid for example). This gives you the most flexibility.

(view our Electrolyte Product Category Video)


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