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Electrolyte drinks contain a converted ionized substance, which has been dissolved in an ionizing substance such as water. Electrolyte is a "scientific" term for salts, specifically ions. During intense exercise the body loses both fluid and electrolytes, mostly sodium and potassium through sweat. If you are not hydrated before or during exercise, dehydration can occur through the act of sweating, as little as 2% dehydration can result in a decrease in performance. To keep your body fluids constant with electrolyte concentrations, so that important cells within the body can function efficiently, lost electrolytes need to be replaced. The nerve cell, heart and muscle use electrolytes to carry and maintain electrical impulses across the cell membrane into other cells. Electrolyte drinks (sport drinks) contain potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium to provide energy during intense exercise, by replacing these lost electrolytes and replenishing the body’s needs, helping to sustain energy and recovery from exercise.

How will the ingredients in my Electrolyte drink help me?

Sodium (Na) – Maintains fluid balance

Potassium (K) – Prevents cramping

Calcium (Ca) – Regulates muscle contractions & heart rhythm

Magnesium (Mg) – Relaxes muscles

Bicarbonates – May delay fatigue & enhance endurance

How much do I need?

A specific value cannot be measured for the consumption of an electrolyte drink. Several factors determine the amount that is necessary to an athlete’s personal needs for electrolyte losses such as: fitness level, activity duration, age, gender and environmental factors.

The main importance of exercise is to be aware of the signs of dehydration and to ensure that these are avoided. Understanding the environment that you are exercising in can be greatly beneficial to helping decide this matter. The body will work harder, and sweat more when exercising in a hot and humid environment, therefore electrolytes will be lost at a greater rate through sweat; the same can be said for strenuous exercise. Meaning that it is essential to replace electrolytes through fluids.

It is important to remember that electrolytes aid during and after exercise and so are beneficial for recovery.

“What you hydrate with is just as crucial as any other nutritional strategy you take on to improve your performance. A sports drink that is easily metabolized will help with hydration, but electrolytes are the key. For optimal hydration choose a beverage that is easily tolerated and digested, but most importantly, one that has a well-balanced electrolyte profile”.

Reference: Vishal Patel, Electrolytes and Hydration January 10, 2014

There are some great products available on the market, following the instructions on the label will help to determine how much electrolyte substance is necessary for your body. Nuun is one of our favourite, easy to carry electrolyte drink.

“The fact is, a sports drink may be your best choice if you're an intense athlete. A new study shows that athletes can stave off fatigue 37% longer if they drink sports drinks -- the kind with electrolytes and carbohydrates in them. They also run faster, have better motor skills, and are mentally sharper, says the study, which appears in the April issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise”.

Reference: Jeanie Lerche Davis

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