Every athlete knows that proper hydration and electrolyte balance are crucial to their training, but finding the right balance can be difficult, especially for new athletes who don’t yet have a natural feel for how much water or sports drink they need to stay hydrated and avoid muscle cramps. Luckily, there are several simple rules of thumb that athletes can use to get them off on the right foot. This guide will help you understand what electrolytes are, why you need them, how to determine if you’re dehydrated and the best ways to rehydrate yourself when necessary.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge. Found in almost every type of food, these electrolytes help your body maintain muscle contractions (like heartbeats), digestion, absorption of nutrients, nerve conduction, and more. The good news is that you replenish these nutrients quickly after sweating by drinking filtered water and using electrolyte replacement drinks which contain a healthy mix of electrolytes.
Why do we need them?
Just like water, we need electrolytes. But what are they, exactly? And how do they help us in a way that plain old H2O can’t? Every cell in our body needs electrolytes for proper function. They play an especially important role when it comes to muscle and nerve function, as well as heart health. These minerals carry electrical charges and enable your cells to communicate with one another. We lose electrolytes through sweat, urine, or stool (if you have diarrhea). If you don’t replenish them with food or supplements (or by drinking sports drinks), your body will take from its stores of sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium to keep things running smoothly.
How can I get more electrolytes?
Drinking lots of water and eating fruits and vegetables with higher electrolyte content is a great way to boost your sodium intake. But if you’re craving a flavoured drink (and you want to avoid sugar and artificial ingredients), look for a sports drink that use natural ingredients and includes the vital electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium like. The added bonus? Natural sports drinks are typically lower in calories than their artificially-sweetened counterparts.
What if I don’t consume enough?
Staying hydrated is essential to your health, but it’s also important that you consume enough electrolytes. Without enough sodium in your diet, you can experience side effects like cramping and dehydration. For athletes who sweat a lot during workouts, electrolytes become even more important for recovery. To avoid these symptoms and ensure optimal hydration, drink plenty of filtered water throughout your day and add a sugar-free electrolyte such as Bindilyte to your bottle.
Are there any foods that have high levels of electrolytes in them?
Yes, and you may be surprised by some of them. Here are a few favorites: beans, certain meats like liver or tripe (go for grass-fed organic if possible), nuts, sunflower seeds, olives and bananas are all good sources of electrolytes.Yes, and you may be surprised by some of them. Here are a few favorites: beans, certain meats like liver or tripe (go for grass-fed organic if possible), nuts, sunflower seeds, olives and bananas are all good sources of electrolytes.
How do sports drinks compare to natural ones (coconut water, etc.)?
Sports drinks like Bindi contain electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium), which are important for proper hydration. Sports drinks help replenish these minerals when you lose them through sweat during physical activity. Coconut water has less sodium than sports drinks, but it also doesn’t have added sugar or calories, and so functions a bit like Bindilyte. Sports drinks do tend to taste better than coconut water though, and Bindilyte has higher levels of electrolytes.
Is it possible to drink too much water (hyponatremia)?
Yes. If you drink a lot of water and consume very little sodium it can cause water intoxication or hyponatremia. This condition occurs when there’s too much water in your blood, but not enough sodium to balance it out. It’s also possible for someone with hyponatraemia to experience muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, which can be particularly dangerous during intense exercise such as a long distance triathlon or marathon. Hyponatraemia tends to be more serious if you have underlying health conditions like heart disease or kidney disease.
What are some effective ways of hydrating besides drinking water?
Besides water, there are many effective ways of hydrating. Fruit is a great example, as it’s an easily digestible form of liquid that contains minerals and carbohydrates (both being forms of hydration). Another great way to stay hydrated is by consuming low-fat milk or soymilk; although these beverages do contain sugar in their natural state, it’s usually minimal.
Does it matter what type of water I drink? (tap vs. bottled vs. filtered vs. spring/mineral water)
Depending on what type of water you drink, it can have a major impact on your daily hydration. It’s recommended that we all consume 1-2 litres of water per day.
In general drinking clean filtered water is always preferred over any other beverage. It’s worth adding a filter to your tap to remove chemicals that can inhibit optimal hydration.