You’ve been pushing yourself hard lately — those extra miles on your long run; a few intense intervals tacked on to your bike ride; an extra 30 minutes of swimming in the pool. Your fitness gains have been great, but now you’re starting to feel it — fatigue, headaches, maybe some muscle cramps. You wonder what the cause may be, but the answer is simple — you’re likely running low on electrolytes, a phenomenon that 5% of all racers experience.
Electrolytes are essential minerals your body loses through sweat, and a great way to replenish them is via the intake of electrolyte formulas. This guide outlines 5 important electrolyte benefits and advice on how you can improve your intake to feel like your high-achieving self again.
What Are Electrolytes in the Body?
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that carry an electric charge, such as sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. They’re essential for many important functions, including proper hydration, muscle contractions, and nerve signalling.
Water vs. Electrolytes
Water and electrolytes are both crucial components of your health as an athlete, with each playing distinct yet complementary roles.
Water comprises about 60% of the human body weight and is essential for various bodily processes, including nutrient transport, waste removal, and temperature regulation. It also acts as a lubricant for joints and cushions delicate organs. When you lose water through sweat, urine, or other means, you become dehydrated, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and dizziness.
Similarly, electrolytes play a critical role in maintaining proper fluid balance and enhancing nerve and muscle function.
Here are the critical roles each electrolyte performs:
- Sodium: Regulates blood pressure and fluid balance.
- Potassium: Helps maintain normal muscle function and the nervous system.
- Calcium: Builds and maintains strong bones and teeth and is involved in muscle contractions.
- Magnesium: Regulates blood sugar levels and blood pressure and enhances muscle and nerve function.
Water and Electrolytes: A Collaborative Effort
While water is essential for overall hydration, electrolytes are crucial for ensuring that the water is distributed and utilised effectively throughout the body. During intense exercise or prolonged sweating, replenishing both water and electrolytes is essential to prevent dehydration and maintain optimal performance.
5 Key Benefits of Electrolytes
As an athlete, the benefits of electrolytes are essential for your performance and overall health.
Here are 5 important benefits electrolytes provide:
- Hydration: Electrolytes help your body absorb water and maintain the proper balance of fluids. Without them, the water you drink just passes right through you. This fluid balance is critical to prevent dehydration during exercise/workouts and keep you going strong.
- Energy: Electrolytes like potassium and magnesium are important for converting the food you eat into energy. They help transport nutrients into your cells, so you have the power to push through that last mile or make it to the finish line.
- Muscle Function: Calcium carbonate, sodium, chloride, potassium and chloride all play a role in proper muscle contraction and relaxation. These electrolytes send signals to your muscles to move and are essential for activities requiring endurance, power or speed. Check out our detailed guide on the best electrolyte drink for leg cramps for our top recommendations for proper leg muscle function.
- Immunity: Electrolytes help support your immune system. Zinc, for example, helps your body heal wounds and defend against illness. Without proper electrolyte balance, you’re more prone to fatigue, infection and slow recovery.
Brain Health: Electrolytes are essential for cognitive functions, from thinking to coordination to mood. Sodium, potassium and calcium help transmit signals in your brain and body.
A lack of these electrolytes can lead
to fatigue, irritability, and impaired concentration or performance.
To enjoy these electrolyte benefits, focus on staying properly hydrated and consider an Energy Gel Electrolyte, especially when exercising intensely or in hot weather. Your body and your performance have a lot to gain from the support these essential minerals offer.
Recommended Daily Intake of Electrolytes for Athletes
As an athlete, your body requires higher amounts of electrolytes to function at peak performance. But then, you must understand how much you need to take before a workout.
How Many Electrolytes Do Athletes Need?
For most active individuals, the recommended amounts of key electrolytes are as follows:
- Sodium: 500 mg per hour during an exercise/workout, but not to exceed 2,300 mg per day.
- Potassium: 3,500 to 4,500 mg per day.
- Calcium: 1,500 mg per day
- Magnesium: 400–420 mg per day for men and 310–320 mg per day for women.
Athletes and those who sweat heavily may need significantly more. The more you sweat, the more electrolytes you’ll require to replenish what’s lost. Listen to your body and watch for signs of electrolyte imbalance like fatigue, irritability, nausea or muscle cramps. Also, don’t forget to pair your electrolyte formulas with a balanced diet.
When to Take Electrolytes — And How
Here are the best times for athletes to consume essential electrolytes and the best means of achieving this:
- Drink electrolyte-enhanced beverages before, during and after prolonged activity. Look for sports drinks with sodium, potassium and other electrolyte minerals.
- Add electrolyte tablets, powders or drops to your water bottle. These provide precise amounts of electrolytes in a concentrated form.
- Eat potassium-rich foods like bananas, sweet potatoes and avocados. Also, add sea salt to your meals or snacks.
Note: If you experience severe depletion in electrolyte levels, we recommend seeking medical advice.
Maintaining the right balance of electrolytes is key to athletic performance and well-being. Staying properly hydrated and replenishing what you lose through sweat is the best way to feel energised, avoid discomfort and get the most out of your active lifestyle. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be excelling at peak performance in no time!
The Best Electrolyte Supplements for Runners, Cyclists and Triathletes
The best nutritional supplements provide essential electrolytes: magnesium, sodium, potassium, and calcium. They come in convenient tablet, powder or liquid forms, so you can easily restore electrolyte levels on the go. For runners, cyclists and triathletes, in particular, electrolyte supplements are a must-have, particularly for long training sessions when you’re pounding the pavement or cranking out miles on two wheels.
Here are our top 3 recommendations:
- Electrolyte Tablets: Electrolyte formulas like HIGH5 Electrolyte Tablets are a great choice. They contain electrolytes like magnesium, sodium, potassium, and calcium, alongside vitamin C, in an easy-to-take tablet form. Just drop one in your water bottle, and you’ll be good to go. The tablets come in different formulations and flavours, so you have enough choices.
- Hydration Powders: Isotonic powders provide electrolytes in a powder you add to water to make an isotonic sports drink. These electrolyte formulations let you customise the flavour and electrolyte content to your needs. Once formulated, they’re convenient to use when out on a long ride or run.
- Coconut Water: Coconut water is a natural source to replenish electrolytes, including potassium, sodium and magnesium. This formula contains no added sugar and the right balance of electrolytes for sports. Coconut water does provide fewer electrolytes than purpose-built sports recovery drinks, so you may need to supplement it with a tablet or powder for high-intensity or endurance exercise.
No matter which option you choose, be sure to follow the usage directions and your body’s needs. Staying properly hydrated and maintaining the right electrolyte balance is essential to your performance and health as an athlete. Keep experimenting to find what works best for you and helps you reach new heights in your workout/fitness routines.
4 Potential Side Effects of Electrolytes + How to Avoid Them
While electrolyte supplements provide essential benefits, too much of anything can have side effects. Hence, pay attention to how your body responds and make adjustments as needed.
Here are 4 electrolyte side effects to look out for:
- Gastrointestinal (GI) Distress: In large amounts, electrolytes can irritate your stomach or intestines, causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or cramping. Start with a lower dose and build up gradually to allow your body to adjust. If GI distress symptoms persist even at lower doses, you should seek medical advice. Staying properly hydrated also helps minimise GI issues, so be sure to drink plenty of water when taking electrolytes.
- Elevated Heart Rate: Electrolytes help regulate your heart rhythm, so consuming too many at once could lead to a temporarily increased heart rate or abnormal heart rhythms. If you experience heart palpitations or an unusually high heart rate after taking electrolytes, cut back to a lower dose or stop using them. Consult your doctor if the problem continues or you have an underlying heart condition.
- High Blood Pressure: While electrolytes are essential for blood pressure regulation, excessive sodium intake from supplements could elevate your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure or are sodium-sensitive, choose a low-sodium or sodium-free electrolyte formula and be cautious with dosage. Check with your doctor about safe amounts for your condition.
- Dehydration: Ironically, consuming too many electrolytes without enough water can lead to dehydration. Always follow the directions on the product packaging and drink plenty of water when taking electrolyte supplements. Dehydration signs like increased thirst, dry mouth, dizziness or dark urine may require medical advice — stop taking electrolytes and rehydrate with water immediately after you experience any of these symptoms.
By adhering to the aforementioned tips, you can enjoy the benefits of electrolyte supplements without unwanted side effects. But as with any supplement, if you experience severe or persistent problems, discontinue its use and consult your doctor. Moderation and balance are key to peak performance and wellness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are electrolytes important?
Electrolytes are important for vital body functions like maintaining fluid balance, muscle contractions, nerve signalling, developing strong bones, proper blood sugar and blood pressure levels, etc.
Can I drink electrolyte water every day?
Yes, you can drink electrolyte water every day. Drinking electrolytes regularly will likely not cause harm to most persons, but certain individuals—such as those with kidney disease or high blood pressure—should speak to a health professional or sports nutritionist about whether or not to use these beverages.
While electrolyte water is beneficial for athletes and those who sweat a lot—as it helps to replenish lost electrolytes—it’s important to choose an electrolyte formula that’s low in sugar and artificial ingredients. This is particularly important in diabetics to prevent surges in blood glucose levels.
What are electrolytes benefits for the skin?
Hydrating with electrolytes offers skin benefits like freshness, dewiness, and plumpness. They help attract and retain water, promote cell regeneration, and boost nutrient absorption, leading to a more radiant, glowing, and youthful complexion.
What are electrolytes benefits when sick?
Electrolytes offer several benefits when sick, including maintaining fluid balance, optimising blood pH levels, preventing dehydration, and supporting bodily functions. They help replenish lost fluids and minerals through sweating, vomiting, or diarrhoea.
Electrolytes also aid in muscle contractions, nerve signalling, and nutrient transport, which are essential for recovery and immune function. As an injured or sick athlete, consuming electrolyte-rich fluids, such as sports drinks or electrolyte-infused water, may help alleviate symptoms.
There are several electrolyte benefits for athletes and fitness enthusiasts who wish to perform at their best. Staying properly hydrated and nourished is the foundation for success in your workout sessions. Don’t settle for dwindling/subpar performance due to negligence. You’ve trained hard to achieve your goals; now, give your body the fuel it needs to propel you to your fitness goals. And what better way to start than with HIGH5 ZERO Electrolyte Drink Tablets?