Do I Need Electrolytes When I Workout?

We all know how important it is to take water on when it’s warmer or when we are working out, but the often forgotten addition is electrolytes.  We often think that endurance or elite athletes are the only ones that need them, but is there a place for them for others? 

Let’s take a look. 

What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are substances that have a natural positive or negative electrical charge when dissolved in water. 

An adult’s body is about 60% water, which means nearly every fluid and cell in your body contains electrolytes. 

They help your body regulate chemical reactions, maintain the balance between fluids inside and outside your cells, and more.

Your body gets electrolytes or their components from what you eat and drink. Your kidneys filter excess electrolytes out of your body and into your urine. You also lose electrolytes when you sweat.

There are a few electrolytes that we are interested in:

Sodium

Sodium plays a critical role in helping your cells maintain the right balance of fluid. It’s also used to help cells absorb nutrients. It’s the most abundant electrolyte ion found in the body.

Magnesium 

Magnesium helps your cells as they turn nutrients into energy. Your brain and muscles rely heavily on magnesium to do their job.

Potassium

Your cells use potassium alongside sodium. When a sodium ion enters a cell, a potassium ion leaves, and vice versa. Potassium is also especially critical to your heart function. Too much or too little can cause serious heart problems.

Calcium 

Calcium is a key element in your body, but it does more than just build strong bones and teeth. It’s also used to control your muscles, transmit signals in your nerves, manage your heart rhythm and more.

Chloride

Chloride (the name for a chlorine ion) is the second-most abundant ion in the body. It’s also a key part of how your cells maintain their internal and external balance of fluid. It also plays a role in maintaining the body’s natural pH balance.

Important electrolytes, including sodium and potassium, are lost in sweat during exercise, and this occurs more so in warmer temperatures. 

Abnormal electrolyte levels can cause:

  • irregular heartbeat
  • weakness
  • twitching and muscle spasms
  • changes in blood pressure
  • tiredness
  • numbness
  • confusion

Whilst we hydrate during warmer weather, we often just use water.  This is important for overall bodily function but this can deplete our electrolyte levels.  

For that reason, you may find electrolyte supplementation is useful during warmer months or if you are increasing your training load.  

This is even more important if:

  • You are working out for longer than an hour, 
  • You are a salty sweater (you feel salty or gritty after you workout), 
  • You feel fatigued, cramped, nauseous, or dizzy on water alone. 

There are a number of electrolyte tablets on the market, but you can also include certain foods to support your electrolyte levels too:

  • Bananas, 
  • Avocados, 
  • Sweet potatoes, 
  • Coconut water, 
  • Yoghurt. 

To learn more about the importance of hydration, check out our blog below:
Happy Hydration – the importance of drinking water