ALL OF THIS ELECTROLYTE TALK
Photo by @loribaskingphotography
Since the 80's, endurance athletes have been talking about the importance of electrolytes, but we find that a lot of people aren't sure why we need them, how they work or how to properly consume them. Electrolytes such as sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium are electrically charged ions that assist in muscle contractions, fluid balance and neural activity. Read those again: muscle contractions, fluid balance and neural activity.
In order to understand how much and when to consume electrolytes, we will split it up into two categories below.
60 Minute Workout or Less
If you consume a diet high in a variety of vegetables (such as spinach, tomatoes, pickles, olives and bananas) and lean, healthy protein sources, your base level of electrolytes will be high enough to complete a 60 minute workout without replacing electrolytes during it. However, we remind our RISE athletes to consider drinking a water bottle with 1 tablet of NUUN Sport or Hydration after each daily workout to help with the "dragging" feeling that can occur when electrolyte balance is off.
60+ Minute Workout
Although it is an advantage to consume a diet high in a variety of vegetables, fruit and lean, healthy protein sources, if you are planning to exercise for more than 60 minutes, it is a good idea to bring an electrolyte drink with you that contains sodium (180-200mg), magnesium, potassium (10-100mg) + carbohydrates (to help avoid glycogen store depletion as well). For our RISE endurance athletes, we recommend carrying two 8-12oz water bottles with them containing NUUN Endurance. Then to drink 3-4 sips every 15 minutes of exercise. Many RISE athletes choose to use ProBar Bolt chews for even more elecrolytes and carbohydrates to keep them moving forward. We also recommend that after their workout that lasts longer than 2 hours (our marathoners), to fill a regular water bottle with water and add a tablet of NUUN Sport or Hydration to it and drink it all within an hour of completing it.
Consuming electrolytes for moderate - intense sports that last 60+ minutes (such as soccer tournament weekends, back-to-back hockey games, multiple sports in one day etc) for youth athletes is a great option. However, products that are high in sugar (such as Gatorade) do not need to be consumed if the athlete will be playing for less than 60 minutes total. We see a lot of youth athletes consuming Gatorade and Propel at times when it is not needed as fuel which means that it is loading their bodies with sugar that won't be put to work. Many of our RISE Youth athletes enjoy NUUN Hydration which is a good way to stay hydrated and maintain electrolyte balance without added sugar.
*These are our starting point recommendations, but it is important to remember that each individual's sweat rate and genetics are different. Also the amount of time that your body has been accustomed to endurance exercise makes a big difference too because there are physiological changes that occur over time (for example, our bodies learn to reuse certain amounts of sodium with training rather than sweating it out). Some athletes need more water, some need more electrolytes, some need more carbohydrates. It takes practice and the guidance of an experienced running coach or exercise physiologist to help find the right plan for each athlete.