Electrolytes: necessity or accessory?

2016Feb18_WomensFitness_AElectrolytes are in the colorful, tasty sport drinks that help you through your workout. They also remind you of how athletes would treat themselves after crossing the finish line. But how big of a part do they play in unleashing the workout beast? Before marching towards the vending machine, here are a few things you should know about electrolytes.

What are they?

We know they come in liquid form, but most people know little else past that. According to Michael Bergeron, Ph.D., and fellow of the American Sports of Medicine, electrolytes are “positively or negatively charged substances, like the minerals sodium and potassium, that conduct an electrical current in your body.”

This is due to the fact that the human body itself is one giant electrical system, and electrolytes are in charge of tasks ranging from helping muscles receive signals from the brain, as well as retaining water and distributing it throughout your cells.

The supporting role

Someone exercising at an intense level loses liters of sweat per hour, not to mention thousands of milligrams of electrolyte sodium as well. With this loss it makes it harder for the body to retain the water you drink. That means despite all the water you’ve just chugged, you haven’t actually rehydrated. So if you want to avoid salt cravings and muscle cramps after two hours of a highly intense workout, loading up on electrolytes would be useful.

For those that work out at a moderate intensity for about an hour on a daily basis and adhere to a well-balanced diet and proper hydration, electrolytes won’t be necessary.

Final verdict

It really all boils down to how much exercise you’re doing and at what intensity level. Since the FDA states that we normally get enough salt in our lives, a warning goes out to those who consume excessive electrolytes and aren’t training for an athletic event. Too much of them can cause an imbalance of sodium over potassium. Side effects of such an imbalance include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Before hitting the gym, make sure you’re well-rested, hydrated and fueled – if so then you’re good to go. If you do experience post-workout salt cravings, mix ½ tablespoon of salt into your sport drink. Don’t forget to balance out potassium levels by incorporating a banana or a serving of spinach into your post-workout meal.

Need some more info on sports drinks? Have questions about electrolytes? Call us today. We have more information to help improve your workout efficiency.

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