The down-low on electrolytes

[Image courtesy of Mike Mozart]

If you read content from the fitness world long enough, you’ll come across products and drinks that replenish your electrolytes. If you’re like me, you know they’re in sports drinks. You might have a general idea that athletes lose a lot of them and that they have something to do with working out for extended periods of time and replenishing lost fluids, but beyond that, they are a mystery. Well, don’t worry, here’s the down-low on electrolytes.

To understand electrolytes, think back to high school chemistry because electrolytes are just ionized salts. As you may be able to gather from their name, they help with the electrical transfer of signals in the body that keep cells working, particularly in the muscles and organs. Without the positively and negatively ionized electrolytes, your body wouldn’t be able to function properly. With too much or little of them, your muscles can get weak or cramp.

Electrolyte replenishment for athletes is so important because two of the main electrolytes, potassium and sodium ions, are lost when you sweat. That’s why it is so important for those who workout for extended periods of time (typically three hours or more) in a day to replenish their lost electrolytes, often times by consuming sports drinks with higher sodium and potassium levels. While athletes and those training for high-energy events, like marathons, can benefit from sports drinks, Americans generally consume too much sodium and high-sodium sports drinks probably are not ideal for the average fit geek.


5 thoughts on “The down-low on electrolytes

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