As we sweat we lose 1-2 liters of water per hour. When we lose water we lose electrolytes. Most commonly people think of sodium. Sodium is important for the body’s water regulation, it helps with heart function and is a key component in muscle contraction. Fortunately the typical American diet contains enough sodium that deficiency would be rare in most cases. However, if you are an endurance athlete depletion may become an issue after about 3 hours of sustained physical activity.
Potassium is another electrolyte that is fairly recognizable. Potassium’s role is to help with water balance but also the acid-base regulation of the blood. The kidneys are the prime regulator of potassium so most potassium is excreted through the urine. Since potassium is involved with the acid-base regulation keeping potassium levels regulated will help to buffer the lactic acid build up in muscle tissue especially in endurance athletes where longevity is key. Potassium is kept inside the cell and sodium is kept outside the cell.
Magnesium is electrolyte responsible for keeping potassium inside and sodium outside of the cell. Magnesium is found in abundance inside ATP cells (the body’s energy cells) and is also involved with the contraction of muscle, nerve conduction and helps with cell division and repair. Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetable which we all know we do not get enough of. Endurance athletes if you want to have the optimal kick for the end of your event keep magnesium levels topped off.
Chloride helps regulate the repolorization (relaxation) of the muscle so that contraction can can take place again and you body can perpetually be propelled through a particular movement.
A note to all of you endurance athletes: please do your do diligence with keeping your electrolytes balanced so that you can continue to perform at your best. Physical Dimensions has a phenomenal product that is recommended to help you maintain the proper balance. Lyte Solutions by Health Images can be picked up in-office or ordered online. It is sold in powder or liquid form and has no sugar added unlike other electrolyte supplements sold.