Everyone knows that we should stay well hydrated during exercise. When we exercise our body temperature elevates. Our body responds by sweating, this is its way of cooling down. How much we sweat depends of the weather, the intensity of the workout, and even the clothing we are wearing. No matter how much we sweat we lose water and electrolytes when we sweat. This fluid loss is called dehydration. Severe dehydration could seriously impact our health.
Our bodies maintain a very delicate balance of various chemicals to survive. Water is an important component in this balance. In fact, our bodies contain a high percentage of water. Our brain is 70% water as are our muscles. Even our bones contain water. Water helps release toxins from our muscles, kidneys, and liver. So we definitely need to drink water. However, when we sweat we do not just lose water. We also lose electrolytes. Water does not contain electrolytes.
Electrolytes are ions of certain minerals. Ions are positively or negatively charged atoms or molecules. The ions or electrolytes in our bodies help regulate certain metabolic functions. For instance, the negative and positive charges of electrolytes are necessary for the electrical stimulation that contracts our muscles, including our heart. Electrolytes also control the flow of water molecules to the cells. And just like with water, maintaining our electrolyte levels, is critical to our health.
The mineral ions that make up electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, hydrogen phosphate and hydrogen carbonate.
- Assists with electrical impulses in the body allowing brain function and muscle contraction.
- Affects urine production.
- Helps maintain proper acid-base balance in the body.
- Aids in maintaining blood pressure.
- Important in the production of electrical impulses that contract muscles and in brain function.
- Helps regulate fluids in the cells.
- Aids in the transmission of nerve impulses.
- Regulates the heartbeat.
- Aids in digestion.
- One study links potassium to bone health.
- Builds and maintains bones.
- Part of the necessary electrolytes for nerve impulses and muscle contraction.
- Involved with the relaxation of the muscles that surround the bronchial tubes.
- Assists in muscle contraction.
- Helps activate the neurons in the brain.
- Assists with enzyme activities.
- Involved in the synthesis of protein.
- Helps regulate balance of body fluids.
- Aids in maintaining blood pressure
- Assists in controlling the acidity level of the blood.
- Is instrumental in calcium being deposited in the bones.
- Contributive in maintaining the normal levels of acidity in the fluids of the body, in particular the blood
- Helps keep the acid-base balance in the body.
Electrolyte replenishment drinks have been shown to provide certain benefits that water alone cannot. One study showed that runners who had consumed a carbohydrate electrolyte sports drink had a higher aerobic capacity than those of the placebo group. In another study, this one measuring the athletes speed, the group that had consumed the sports drink posted faster times than the placebo group. Electrolyte replenishment drinks help retain fluid and use it more efficiently during exercise. Those which include carbohydrates help stave off muscle fatigue.
One thing to beware of is that some sports drinks have a very high sugar content. There are sports drinks with upwards of 70 grams of sugar per serving and some with as little as 12. Despite this the American College of Sports Medicine have found that sports drinks are beneficial in providing energy to muscles, maintaining blood sugar levels, and preventing dehydration, making electrolyte replacement absolutely vital! So make sure to drink plenty of water in your daily life and after you exercise, think of having an electrolyte replenishment drink.