Electrolytes: what are they, how do you take them, how much do you take? People throw around all kinds of nutritional information that can be confusing and even contradictory. How does one decipher the code and figure out what is really best for your body when you are working out? The best way is practice. If you find something that works, practice with it. But finding out what to practice with, on the other hand, can be hard and confusing. So today we will talk about what electrolytes are and how to use them to your benefit.
An electrolyte is simply a chemical used by your body to conduct the electrical impulses that your body uses to function. Think back to Biology 101, you may remember that your body uses electricity to send signals across your nerves and your nerves make your muscles work. Some electrolytes you can watch for are: sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and a few others. Having a balance of electrolytes in your body will help prevent cramping as well as dehydration. The three ways that people take electrolytes are through gels, through pills, and mixed into their water.
Taking Es through a Gel: If you look on the back of any energy gel, you will see a list of electrolytes that it has in it. Next to that, it will say how much of that particular one is in the gel. The dosage of Electrolytes in gels is very small compared to other sources. However, if you are not running in heat and are a very light sweater, this may be sufficient for you. Check out E-Gel for a good example of electrolytes in gel form.
Taking Es in Pill Form: A few nutrition brands make electrolyte pills. Depending on the brand you get, the kinds of electrolytes and dosage will vary. If you cramp up easily, this may be the best way to go. You can take up to four or six pills/hour (depending on temp and sweat rate). Check out Hammer Nutrition’s Endurolytes for a good example of electrolytes in pill form.
Taking Es in Drink Form: Many people think of this as Gatorade. That is right, Gatorade is the original electrolyte drink. However, you may as well just make some koolaid and throw in some salt. There are better ways and this is likely the easiest way to take electrolytes because you can balance your hydration while you are taking them. There are many products that you can get that are pure electrolytes. After depositing this into your water, you have a personally mixed hydration concoction. Check out Nuun or Elete for good examples of drink based electrolytes.
Determining the dosage of electrolytes is the tricky part. When I tell people about electrolytes, I usually tell them, “I have never met anyone who has ended up in trouble because they had too many electrolytes. You usually just sweat the extra out. However, if you don’t have enough, you can become hyponatraemic (water poisoned) or get muscle cramps. So use them and abuse them!