You’re probably not drinking enough water. And you’re probably dehydrated. You just don’t know it. Dehydration is a real problem for regular everyday people, but what about the folks in the gym or on the court putting in the work every day? Sitting on the couch is one thing, but not staying hydrated can cost big – on and off the field.
Athletes sweat a lot. For multiple hours a day, they’re grinding it out, either practicing their sport, or preparing the gym, hitting the weights, or working up that cardio. And in the middle of a grueling workout session, it’s easy to forget to take a drink to keep hydrated. Dehydration can affect a workout, and if not taken seriously, can seriously affect someone’s on-the-field production. When someone works out, they’re losing on average 1-2% body weight from fluid loss.
Grabbing something to drink immediately after that amount of sweat loss is imperative because that post-workout recovery time slows down considerably when the body’s fluid volume is at an ancillary level for nutrient delivery, along with oxygen into muscle tissues while removing waste from the bloodstream. Special products such as electrolyte hydration powders can also be used to help fast-track this process.
When the body overheats, the nervous system triggers the sweat glands, which lets the body know “it’s time to sweat,” which is the natural way to cool the machine down. Because athletes have bodies trained to sweat more and produce more than the average person, they lose a lot of water content.
The more anaerobic activity to engage, the body works harder to pump blood and oxygen to the muscles. And when the body perspires, it knocks out nutrients and impacts hydration, so athletes have to refuel all the time, no matter if it’s on sitting in the dugout or after the squat rack. Giving the body proper hydration is critical for the body’s long-term success.
Electrolytes are essential for training
For years, there was always that guy who’d tell you to drink a Pedialyte the next morning after too many longnecks the bar the night before. It turns out the wives’ tale remedy to cure a hangover wasn’t all that crazy. Look in any gas station today, and you’ll see that electrolyte drinks are more than just one brand, and there’s a whole row of options. If you’ve ever been laid up with a stomach infection, one part of the path to normalcy is adding an electrolyte-heavy drink or tablet into the recovery process to get the body the nutrients it needs. Because so much bacteria passes through the gut, replenishing the body with electrolytes is critical.
When it comes to athletes, that’s a little different.
Here’s the science: Electrolytes are positively and negatively charged ions that conduct electrical activities to perform body functions. To maintain fluid balance, electrolytes must be present in the proper doses for muscle contraction and neural activity—which are critical to maximum performance, along with basic daily functions. Electrolyte balance is stored in the kidneys, either excreting or conserving them.
Water follows the electrolytes, thus pushing the charge. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes in the forms of sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl-), so replacing these minerals is important, along with potassium (K+), Magnesium (Mg2+), and Calcium (Ca2+), to see peak performance, hydration is essential, along with getting these nutrients back into the body.
What happens when the body loses electrolytes?
Ever wanted to know why sweat tastes salty? It’s from electrolytes, and that salt content is dictated by things like diet, body heat, and sweat rate. Athletes who get lightheaded, dizzy, or feel their muscles lock up post-workout may be salty sweaters. Drinking a lot of water is critical for hydration, but they’re also diluting internal electrolyte concentration and throwing the body off-kilter. Popping an electrolyte tablet or dropping in some powder in a water jug is an easy way to keep up and stay ahead of dehydration.
When should we replace electrolytes?
- Pre-workout: If you’re a “salty sweater,” taking an electrolyte tablet is a great way to keep the body balanced from stress and fluid loss.
- Mid-workout: Because electrolyte tablets contain sodium and carbohydrates, they’re ideal during exercise. Many of the “big name” sports drinks are heavy in sugar, which many athletes don’t want mid-workout, so many opt for an electrolyte tablet, which sodium replaces missing electrolytes and utilizes carbohydrates.
- Post-workout: Because the body is in recovery, the body retains water, and salt builds back up through the system. This is a perfect chance to utilize an electrolyte tablet for rehydration instead of water alone.
What’s the ratio for fluids and electrolytes?
A 60–90-minute workout can lose 1-2% fluid body weight. Bodyweight dictates the percentage of loss, if someone’s 150lbs, think: (150lbs x 0.01 to 0.02 = 1.5 to 3 lbs body weight loss, or 24 to 48 fl oz) – this number can increase. Taking an electrolyte tablet or a powder packet during and after a workout at a minimum can keep the body working harder and functioning at a higher level, which isn’t what athletes are always striving for, to be their absolute best? It starts with hydration. The rest is up to you.