Think of electrolytes like the motor oil in your car. They don’t make the engine run, but they’re absolutely necessary to keep everything operating smoothly. Without the proper levels of these minerals, your body can’t carry out critical functions, including muscle contractions and the transmission of nerve impulses. The consequences can include not only muscle cramps, but also fatigue, swelling, digestive distress, and even bonking.
Here’s what you need to know to replenish electrolytes right:
1. Start early. Don’t wait for a muscle cramp to tell you to replenish electrolytes. By then, your electrolyte levels have already dropped far too low. We suggest taking a “pre-emptive strike” dose of Endurolytes about 30 minutes prior to the start of your workout or race. This will provide electrolytic support for at least the first hour of the race. After that, replenish electrolytes consistently every hour.
2. Salt tablets are not the answer! Salt tablets are an unacceptable choice for electrolyte replenishment for two important reasons: 1) They can oversupply sodium and overwhelm your body’s complex mechanisms for regulating this electrolyte; and 2) They provide only two of the electrolytes your body requires—sodium and chloride.
Your body has very effective mechanisms for monitoring and conserving sodium. If you take in too much of it (as salt tablets, excessively high-sodium electrolyte products, or food), your kidneys will excrete the sodium, and the hormone vasopressin will cause you to retain fluids. The effects can include swollen hands and feet, elevated blood pressure, and increased sodium excretion. All inhibit performance.
3. Skip the salty foods. Limit your dietary sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. If you consume a high sodium diet, you can expect to lose more sodium during exercise. In addition, sodium drives thirst, and thirst drives drinking until excess results. Over-hydration is definitely not performance enhancing. In fact, it can have life-threatening and even fatal consequences.
4. Replenish electrolytes completely. Proper electrolyte replenishment during endurance exercise requires a consistent approach that incorporates all of the electrolytes, not just one or two of them. The levels should be potent enough to support body functions and prevent heat-related issues like cramping — without overriding your body’s natural mechanisms for regulating these minerals.
Electrolytes done right
Hammer Nutrition’s Endurolytes, Endurolytes Extreme, and Endurolytes Fizz are formulated to help your body perform better under the demands of exercise by providing a full complement of minerals in the proper balance and levels:
- five electrolytic minerals — calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and chloride
- manganese to help convert fatty acids and protein into energy
- vitamin B6 to help metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and protein
- L-tyrosine to protect thyroid and adrenal function
HEED, Hammer Nutrition’s complex carbohydrate powdered sports drink, also contains a complete electrolyte profile. Some athletes find that a scoop or two of HEED in their water bottle will keep them going strong for an hour or more. Others satisfy their complete electrolyte needs by consuming both HEED (an excellent base) and Endurolytes products.