September 19, 2012

What Are Electrolytes?

You know when you’ve just had diahhorea you can buy a powder in a sachet which you mix with water to replace the electrolytes (we thought that’d get your attention!) ?  Well, when you sweat you lose electrolytes too but what are they??  If these sports drinks come with electrolytes in or if you can get a tablet which dissolves in water isn’t that enough?

No

Electrolytes are essential for bodily functions and if you’re name’s not Bradley Wiggins then you spend a lot more time off the bike than you do on the bike so surely you’d be better off having them when you’re not riding too.

You could pop those tablets all day but that’s a lot of money, a lot of artificial additives and how do you avoid an overdose anyway?!

Here’s a crazy idea – eat some food!  We lose lots of different electrolytes when we sweat.  Four are more important than others, here they are:

Magnesium

Helps with: Muscle Contraction, Energy Production.

Deficiency can lead to: Dizziness, Fatigue.

Where can I get it?: Pine Nuts, Brown Rice, Dark Chocolate (oh no should we really be telling you that?!)

Calcium

Helps with: Muscle Contraction and Relaxation, Nerve Conduction

Deficiency can lead to: Stiffness, Cramping.

Where can I get it?: Dairy

By the way vitamin-D helps your body to absorb calcium so oily fish or eggs will help and so will the sunshine one day every year in England!

Potassium

Helps with: Nerve Conduction, Energy Generation.

Deficiency can lead to: Nausea, Muscle Fatigue, Weakness.

Where can I get it?: Sweet Potatoes, Tuna, Bananas, Leafy Green Veg, Yoghurt.

Sodium (Salt)

Helps with: Making your chips tasty with vinegar lol! AND Muscle and Nerve Function, Maintaining Fluid Levels.

Deficiency can lead to: Weakness, Nausea, Muscle Fatigue and Cramping, it can Hinder Rehydration

Where can I get it?: Salt (although table salt is more processed and often contains additives, compared to sea salt but this is more expensive), Salty Foods.

Before You Go

There are other foods with electrolytes in but this’ll get you started and who knows, if you switch to these foods you might drop a few pounds too (no not the chocolate!).  There are plenty of other electrolytes too and the healthier, more varied and balanced your diet is the more chance you’ll have of getting them.

How many electrolytes do I need??

Bit complicated this one especially as the risks of too much salt is just as bad as losing too much.

Weighing yourself before and after exercise can give you an idea and you can be tested to see if you’re a ‘salty sweater’ (ooerr missus) at http://www.myh2pro.com/sweat-testing but you know it’s all a bit hit and miss.  Start eating all the above foods in moderation and you’ll be 90% of the way there 🙂

Cycling Performance , Nutrition
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