Electrolyte Replacement

Some people use them, others assume its something an electrician uses to fix a fuse box in dark a place. So before you go asking your electrician how many batteries his electrolyte needs, here is a quick lesson on what they actually are.

The majority of endurance athletes will take part in sporting events that will last anything from 30 minutes to 6 hours and above. Many of the Ironman races are around the 10 hour mark depending on fitness and terrain. But exercising for that length of time is not something that can be done without providing the body with the right fuel. To be able to go harder for longer an athlete requires to take in something known as electrolytes. Electrolytes mainly consist of words that you will probably forgotten since you were in chemistry class at high school. Nevertheless they are vital aspects to an athletes performance.

The five most important electrolytes are sodium, chloride, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. And if anyone can remember the chemistry lesson where you set fire to magnesium, you will recall that it went bright white with indescribable heat. And, guess what, this stuff is needed in your body. Possibly one of the most important electrolytes is sodium, as explained by Rehrer (2001) as it helps to maintain plasma volume and hydration in the body. The majority of these electrolytes escape the body through our sweat, and sodium as we know is what gives sweat that salty taste. If an athlete was unable to take in sodium as part of their nutrition fluid intake strategy, it will lead problematic consequences. Sodium has an important role to play in terms of the brain. Low-sodium in the bloodstream can lead to an athlete experiencing confusion and lethargy during an event. Something of which is definitely not needed in the closing kilometers of a triathlon.


In an endurance event it is suggested by Shirreffs et al (2007) that 176 to 552 mg of sodium should be consumed per fluid liter. This can then be increased to 920 mg for ultraendurance events such as the Ironman (Rehrer, 2001). In a field study Noakes (1993) discovered that athletes consumed 0.5 liters/hour. However, these athletes held a sweat rate of 1.0-1.5 liters/per hour, which therefore highlights the importance that sodium can in help the fight fatigue when included in a sports drink. The America College of Sports Medicine recommended that an athlete should consume 0.5 to 0.7 grams of sodium per litre of fluid per hour (cited in Campbell & Spano, 2011), although some studies have suggested taking anything up to 2.9 g (Maughan, 1991). It is important to note however, that in an event that has a duration of under an hour, the importance of fluid and electrolyte replacement is possibly not as great.

So, if at this moment in time you are waiting on the delivery of an energy powder or electrolyte powder then I can offer a substitute for the time being. It is as simple as filling up your water bottle with water and a fruit cordial of your choice and adding a pinch or two of salt. And this becomes increasingly more important with the weather been so warm at this time of year.


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