The Importance of Electrolytes and Hydration

Staying hydrated correctly in our Colorado environment is difficult…especially if you’re an athlete, and even more difficult as an endurance athlete.

“Extraordinary measures are required to stay hydrated under extraordinary circumstances. Cold climates, indoor heat, high altitude/air conditioned summers are conditions that contribute to low humidity and dehydration.  Other circumstances include athletics, alcohol and caffeine consumption, smoking, air travel, high doses of EPA/GLA, sweating, certain medications and insufficient salt and/or water intake.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration may include any of the following; fatigue, sweet cravings, insatiable appetite, lack of thirst as well as insatiable thirst, an aversion to salt and/or water, dry skin and/or mouth, low and high blood pressure, poor recovery after exercise and training, increased susceptibility to colds, flu, headaches and muscle aches and pains.”  

Heath Equations 

As we sweat we lose 1-2 liters of water per hour.  When we lose water, we lose electrolytes.  Of the most commonly lost minerals, 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 an 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 vegetables, which we all know we need to increase our daily consumption.  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 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 two phenomenal products that are recommended to help you maintain the proper balance, carried from Health Equations and Designs for Health.