Most of us know that for recovery and training, nutrition is more than key. It’s the gasoline that fuels everything.
And, if it ain’t quality … it’s likely going to show, AND you’re going to feel it.
On that note, a common question I’ve gotten over the years that relates to performance is whether we should be taking electrolytes. After all, we’ve seen the Gatorade and others sports’ drink advertisements, and likely wonder if they’re necessary or are simply trying to sell something we can get from our food!
Here I break down if electrolyte supplement is necessary, and where/how you can get them.
Benefits of Electrolytes
Electrolytes are electrically-charged minerals that are crucial for your cells, muscles, and organs to function properly. They help regulate the fluids in your body, as well as things like muscle contractions (and remember, the heart is also a muscle) and electrical impulses.
The key electrolytes for athletes are: sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, and potassium.
Electrolytes are also responsible for:
- Transmitting nerve signals from the heart, muscles, and nerve cells to other cells
- Building new tissue
- Supporting blood clotting
- Maintaining the blood’s pH level
- Regulating the fluid level in blood plasma
In particular when we’re training, we’re relying on specific electrical impulses in our muscles AND our brain (reflexes) in order to move quickly and efficiently. Without these, things get sluggish, fast.
We also lose quite a bit of fluid during training, which rapidly flushes out our electrolytes. This is the reason why you see athletes drinking sports drinks instead of straight water: they’re refueling what they’re losing.
Not refueling these electrolytes can result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which has been shown to increase fatigue … and which can then, obviously, decrease performance.
Should You Take Electrolytes?
This truly depends upon your level of training, and to an extent, the climate you’re training in. If you’re regularly working up a heavy sweat as an athlete, or are even an intense gym-goer most days of the week, then it’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting enough. This goes double if you’re training in a hot environment, as you’re likely sweating more and therefore losing more fluids, faster.
Electrolyte supplements can be found in pretty much any health food store. Just make sure you chose a brand without added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and/or chemicals.
As far as frequency, drinking a serving of electrolytes after your sessions should be enough to replenish, provided your diet is also filled with nutrient-rich fruits and veggies, which we’ll get into below.
Foods That Are Rich In Electrolytes
Several natural foods are very high in electrolytes, so make sure you’re getting plenty of these every day:
1. Coconut water
2. Raw fruits (bananas, oranges, kiwis, berries, watermelon)
8. Celery or celery juice
The Bottom Line?
Not having adequate electrolytes can easily reduce performance, so make sure you’re getting them – adding supplementation if necessary.