Electrolytes are very necessary for the life of an athlete as they help you stay hydrated and up on your toes. This article discusses the importance of hydration on athletes, effects of dehydration and how electrolyte supplements can be of help.
Importance of Hydration on Athletes
It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional or amateur athlete, or maybe just exercising for recreation, the bottom line is, you need to stay properly hydrated. To be properly hydrated, you need to have a good amount of water before, during and right after exercising. Water is a very important element necessary in the body for regulating body temperature, transporting nutrients, giving you energy, lubricating your joints, etc. Dehydration may lead to muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness amongst other things. A good way to know if you’re getting properly hydrated is by checking your urine. When it’s too yellow, you know it’s time to pump those water numbers up. Consuming Electrolyte Pills is another way to do this.
How much water should You Drink While Exercising?
There isn’t a specific amount of water you need to drink because everyone is different, however, you should consider things such as environmental factors, and intensity of an exercise.
The basic guidelines suggested by the American Council on exercise include:
Drink 17-20 ounces of water at least 2-3 hours before you start exercising.
Drink 8 ounces of water 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your light warm-up.
Drink 7-10 ounces of water at a maximum of 20 minutes when exercising.
Drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise.
All these help you stay more hydrated with less chance of being dehydrated. Dehydration happens when you lose more water in your body than what you intake. When your body doesn't get enough water, it can’t function properly and it could cause a lot more damage than you know. There is mild dehydration and severe dehydration. The general symptoms of dehydration include:
Nausea and vomiting
Lack of sweat
Harder and faster heartbeat
Symptoms of severe dehydration could include loss of consciousness and mental confusion. If you are getting any of these symptoms, it is best to seek medical attention immediately.
Dehydration can also lead to heat illness which occurs when the body is dehydrated and can't effectively cool itself when exercise is taken place in hot weather. The three stages include:
Heat Cramps: involves muscle spasms in the stomach, arms, legs or back which can be painful.
Heat Exhaustion: which includes headaches, fast heartbeat, nausea, and low blood pressure.
Heat Stroke: Involves high body temperature, flushed skin, loss of consciousness, fast breathing and seizures. If left untreated can lead to death.
How to Take Electrolyte Supplements for Hydration?
The truth is, even bottled or tap water contains little traces of electrolytes such as potassium sodium, calcium, and magnesium but as an athlete, sometimes that isn't enough. Taking electrolyte supplements or electrolyte tablets with significant amounts of minerals would create a space for a lot of potential benefits involved.
Electrolytes are chemicals which form the ions in our body fluids. That means they ensure specific body functions are run at the best level possible. When the electrolytes in the body are few, it can cause the body to cramp and as an athlete, that can ruin your practice and even your performance. You might be wondering; how exactly can you prevent this from happening? Sometimes drinking enough water isn't enough, so how do you keep your body at its peak performance level? Well, with electrolyte supplements, you can achieve that and so much more.
To be able to function properly as an athlete, the body needs to replenish lost fluids and calories and to do this, adequate electrolytes are needed. Unlike water you know to drink 8 to 10 ounces for specific reasons, you need to experiment a little to find the right electrolyte dose to help you achieve your full potential.
Why Are Electrolytes Important for Athletes?
Electrolytes are positively and negatively charged ions which perform a lot of functions in the body. For fluid balance, activities and muscle contraction to occur, it must be present in adequate concentration. When an athlete sweats, they are losing these electrolytes in the form of chloride (Cl-) and sodium (Na+) and they need to be replaced to attain maximum performance and to do that is to hydrate their bodies and rehydrate continuously with the help of electrolyte supplements.
When Should Athletes Replace Electrolytes?
There are a lot of electrolyte supplements such as hydration tablets, dehydration pills and so on. But when is the right time to take all these supplements as an athlete? When should you know to replace electrolytes in your body?
As an athlete who sweats a lot of salty liquids, then you might want to take hydration tablets before a heavy workout as you are prone to losing more electrolytes. You might want to take these tablets if you stay in a really hot environment or you’d be having an intense work out of over an hour.
During the workout, your main goal is to rehydrate as much as possible. Going for supplements with more carbohydrates and sodium is more advisable to replace all the lost ones you would encounter during a workout session.
Due to the excess sugar in a lot of sports drink, it is best if you choose one with low or no sugar.
Since retaining water in the body with salt intakes is a lot easier due to the natural flow of molecules, taking salty food and water can help replace electrolytes in the body as well. Sports drinks in some cases are more useful and the use of rehydration tablets go a long way.
The Recommended Intake of Electrolytes
The amount usually depends on the duration of an exercise, if it lasts over an hour, chances of losing around 1-2% body weight as fluids are high. It can be increased if the day is really hot and if an athlete has a high sweat rate. Meanwhile, exercise duration of up to 2 hours would require as little as 60 mg of sodium and 15 mg of potassium to get the required results and electrolyte replacement for an athlete’s performance.
Athletes such as runners and triathletes require a higher concentration of electrolytes to be able to rehydrate with minimal liquid and fewer carbohydrates. It is highly recommended for athletes that fall under this category take between 180-250 mg sodium and 10-100 mg potassium*, however, always consult a physician before taking any supplements.
Sodium is a higher-performing element in electrolyte supplements as it places a huge role compared to potassium in replacing electrolytes in the body and it makes it a key factor to inquire before purchasing any supplement.
Hydration and rehydration are very important in the life of an athlete and sometimes, taking tap or bottled water wouldn't give you the results it is you need to function properly. Dehydrated athletes are limited to what they can do and sometimes, it is more detrimental than not.
The use of electrolyte supplements such as hydration tablets, rehydration pills, etc. can replace all lost electrolytes in the body before, during and after work out and boost your performance without fear of muscle cramps and fatigue.
For more handy info on hydration, visit the CDC hydration website at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/nutrition/index.html
IOM Report: Adapted data from Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate, The National Academy of Sciences
ACE Report: FitFacts Healthy Hydration, American Council on Exercise
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