The Importance of Electrolytes during Exercise
If you’re working hard toward your workout goals, pushing the limits and seeing how far you can go, you’re going to need something to restore the fluids and nutrients that you lost through sweat in the process.
Many people believe that rehydrating with electrolytes before, during, and after a workout is unnecessary, and they will say that drinking water all the time is just as good. After all, most electrolyte drinks are just going to add extra carbs and sugar to your body - the very thing you’re trying to get rid of when working out - right?
But there are actually a lot of studies that now show that drinks that are supplemented with electrolytes can actually have a more positive impact on your workout performance versus water alone, and they hold many other benefits as well.
One study published in the “Journal of Athletic Training” showed that drinking electrolyte-enhanced drinks before and during an intense workout actually boosted athletes’ performance, allowing the participants to workout harder for longer than when they drank water only.
This was due to the fact that, while the electrolytes did not prevent muscle cramping altogether, it did, however, increase the amount of time it took for the cramps to set in. This allowed the athletes to workout nearly twice as long than when they only drank water, because they didn’t have to stop from the cramping.
Another study showed that drinking electrolyte-enhanced drinks decreased the need to drink more in order to feel fully rehydrated. So, the athletes were able to actually feel more hydrated without having to drink nearly as much as when they only drank water during exercise.
This could serve as a real benefit to serious athletes because drinking less during a workout saves time. It can also prevent an upset stomach from drinking too much at one time.
The bottom line is that when you exercise, you lose fluid and electrolytes by sweating, and your body is going to need something to make up for that loss. The problem that many people run into though is thinking they need more electrolytes than they really do. And it’s true that if you take in a lot more than you put out, you’re really not going to reap the benefits. The amount you need is going to mostly depend on how much you sweat.
A variety of factors can influence this, including how much you weigh, genetics, the temperature, how hard your workout was, and how hydrated you were to start with.
If you’re doing strenuous activity in hot temperatures such as outside in the sun or with heavy equipment on, you definitely want to refill on electrolytes often to stay healthy and safe.
And if you’re striving to get the most out of every workout, you should also be replenishing your body with electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks. Doing so delays cramps and reduces the number of times you have to stop your workout for a sip of a drink.
It’s time that you start putting more into your workouts so that you can get the most out of each one.
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Baker, Lindsay B. “Sweating Rate and Sweat Sodium Concentration in Athletes: A Review of Methodology and Intra/Interindividual Variability.” Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), Springer International Publishing, 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5371639/.
Cuddy, J., et al. “Effects of an Electrolyte Additive on Hydration and Drinking Behavior During Wildfire Suppression.” Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, Sept. 2008, https://www.wemjournal.org/article/S1080-6032(08)70181-9/fulltext
Jung, Alan P, et al. “Influence of Hydration and Electrolyte Supplementation on Incidence and Time to Onset of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps.” Journal of Athletic Training, National Athletic Trainers Association, 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1150229/.
Shirreffs, S. M. “Hydration in Sport and Exercise: Water, Sports Drinks and Other Drinks.” Nutrition Bulletin, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (10.1111), 17 Nov. 2009, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-3010.2009.01790.x.
Smith, J. “A Look at the Components and Effectiveness of Sports Drinks.” Journal of Athletic Training, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1992, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1317152/.