When he entered my office holding a Gatorade at 9:00 a.m. and mentioned he would not be training until 2:00, I wondered why he was sipping a sports drink right then. His response, "For the electrolytes--not that I even know what electrolytes are...!'' Like many of my clients, this athlete was confused about electrolytes: Did he need them? How to replace them? Are engineered sports foods the best sources? If you are also confused about this topic, keep reading!
What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are electrically charged particles that help the body function normally. Some of the more familiar electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Calcium and magnesium help muscles contract and relax. Sodium and potassium help water stay in the right balance inside and outside of cells. Sodium is the electrolyte lost in the highest concentration in sweat.
Do Active People Need Extra Electrolytes?
If you are a fitness exerciser, you are unlikely to need extra electrolytes to replace those lost in sweat. If you exercise hard for more than four hours in the heat (such as marathoners, tri-athletes, or long-distance cylists), you may benefit from replacing sodium losses, particularly if you sweat a lot or have been consuming only plain water or even a standard sports drink. In that...
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