In this article, you will learn:
- Electrolytes’ role in assisting your performance
- Why we lose electrolytes
- Signs to indicate you are low in electrolytes
- The best ways to replenish electrolytes
As athletes, there’s no doubt you’ve heard the term “electrolyte” before. You know that they are important to fuel your training and to replace after a workout, but you probably have some questions about what they are and why you even need them in the first place. What happens when you don’t replace them after a workout, and what are the best electrolyte-replacing products for you?
Well we have some answers! Read more below, and don’t forget that elite athlete or not, we all need electrolytes to sustain life, and they are especially important to keep balanced during a fasting period or a reset.
Q: What are electrolytes and why do we need them?
A: Electrolytes are essentially minerals that, when mixed with water, create an electrically charged potion that regulates the functioning of your muscles, nerves, pH levels (acidity/alkalinity), and fluid balance in the body. When you exercise, electrolytes allow your nerves to tell your muscles to move and then allows your muscles to contract and relax. They make sure you don’t overheat and help maintain enough fluid in your bloodstream to help you perform at your peak.
Q: How do we lose electrolytes?
A: There are a host of ways to lose electrolytes and fluids, leading to dehydration. You might be exercising outdoors in a hot climate or indoors doing hot yoga, hitting the sauna frequently, generally sweating a lot (like a hockey goalie wearing full gear!), or simply not keeping up with hydration. Anyone who has gotten food poisoning or sick in other ways knows how quickly you can lose fluids and how critical it is to rehydrate.
Q: How can I tell if I might be low on electrolytes and fluids?
A: Some symptoms to look out for are headaches or dizziness, feeling like you’re bonking or hitting the wall during your workout, muscle cramps, a quicker-than-expected pounding heart rate, and/or an obvious feeling of thirst. Not only do electrolytes act as the electrical spark that literally moves you, but as you lose them and become dehydrated during a workout, your blood becomes thicker as it loses water, your temperature starts to rise because there’s not enough fluid inside to help produce sweat to cool you, and your heart starts to beat heavily in an effort to keep up. And at this point, your muscles aren’t able to show up to do their job either.
Q: How do I ensure I am fueled up?
Just as it’s important to fill your car’s gas tank (or hit up a charging station) before hitting the road, it’s as important to get ahead of your hydration and electrolyte status before going into a workout.
For general hydration and electrolyte balance
- Drink purified water.
- Salt your foods to taste with an unrefined sea salt like Celtic Sea Salt and Redmond’s Sea Salt.
- Eat plenty of raw, living veggies and fruits which contain both minerals and water.
- Drink organic pressed raw veggie juices and fresh smoothies.
- Sip on some homemade or high quality store-bought bone broths (Kettle & Fire, Bonafide) or use them to make some soup or bibimbap bowls with a variety of veggies.
When you finish a less-intense activity
One that doesn’t leave you feeling wiped out, you can rest easy. Go about your day without a special recovery concoction, just follow the same real-food and fluid guidelines for general hydration and electrolyte balance.
For high-intensity activity, training, and competition
Electrolytes aren’t the only essential nutrients to help you fuel for and recover from an intense workout, but if you’re highly active in sports like distance running, cycling, tennis, hockey, and soccer, to name a few, they need to be on the list. Not any typical hydration product will do, either. Some can cause major gut discomfort or heaviness, increase your need to urinate, or even contribute to dehydration. No one wants this, especially when you’re in an intense training session.
Pair electrolytes with their favorite side-kick—carbs!
One consideration for electrolyte fueling is to make sure they are combined with their favorite side-kick, carbohydrates, in order to fuel you quickly. Another is to make sure they are in the right form and proportion. Follow these 3 electrolyte guidelines to fuel and feel your best:
- Avoid fructose (most fruits, agave) and maltodextrin.
- Choose small amounts of glucose/sucrose (cane sugar) during workouts and keep added sugar around 8g per serving.
- Keep your sodium:potassium ratio at about 3:1.
Some favorite products that meet the guidelines suggested above
- Skratch Labs Hydration Mix (this one in particular has the perfect sodium: potassium ratio) with UCAN LIVSTEADY
- Vitargo unflavored (carbs) paired with UCAN Hydrate or Thorne Catalyte (electrolytes)
- Coconut water products like COCO5 with added minerals and Harmless Harvest are great too.
- If you’re a salty sweater, add a few drops of Aussie Trace Minerals to any hydration mix you make, but if you’re just looking for some sideline snacks, some hydrating fruits that are generally easy on the gut include bananas, watermelon, and oranges.
If you are a high-performance athlete, you need to include electrolytes. If possible, it’s best to consume electrolytes with carbs, so they are better absorbed.
Electrolytes will make sure you remain hydrated and ready to perform in sport and life! Check out our performance fuel bundles for sport specific fueling.