What Are Electrolytes and Why Do You Need Them?
If you've spent anytime pursuing an active lifestyle, you're almost guaranteed to have heard the term electrolytes being thrown around by friends, competitors, and coaches. But with all the different information and products out there, from all-natural broccoli shots to electrolyte enhanced face moisturizers, it can be difficult to understand what you actually need as an outdoor athlete.
So let's start with the basics.
Your body uses electrical charges to contract your muscles and trigger chemical reactions. Electrolytes are substances that have a positive or negative electrical charge when they are dissolved in water. So simply put, electrolytes are what help your body remain balanced.
There are a few main elements your body depends on to maintain proper hydration. Sodium is the most common electrolyte in the body, and is also the primary electrolyte lost in sweat. Chloride and potassium are the next two big elements you sweat out, and alongside sodium help to regulate and maintain fluid balance in your cells. After that we have magnesium and calcium, which are crucial contributors to optimal muscle contraction and energy metabolism.
Now we know what electrolytes are, but why are they important?
One study from Spanish researchers looked at the performance of medium distance triathletes who varied the level of sodium they consumed during competition. The athletes who hydrated and replaced 70% of their sodium loss completed the race 26 minutes faster than those who only replaced 20% of lost sodium.
Not only do electrolytes help with your top end performance, they also work to prevent dehydration. When you think of dehydration, people typically imagine fatigue and dizziness. But dehydration can also negatively effect your plasma volume, heart rate and cognitive function. All this means that utilizing electrolytes in your hydration strategy will keep you feeling better for longer, even during those hard days in the heat.
For outdoor athletes, managing your electrolyte intake and maintaining optimal hydration is key to achieving your best and feeling good while doing it. So make sure to fuel up next time you head out!
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Here's to Nourishing the Moment!