Dehydration and Electrolytes

How are Dehydration and Electrolytes related?

There are three types of dehydration:

1.  hyponatremic (primary loss of electrolytes)

2. hypernatremic (primary loss of water) and

3. isonatraemic (equal loss of water and electrolytes).

As most of us have experienced with minor dehydration, the first signs are excessive thirst, headaches, (ever felt like you had a hangover without even imbibing?), dizziness or even nausea.  You drink to thirst trying to satisfy your body’s cravings, but most likely if you are experiencing these extreme symptoms your body has also lost a great deal of electrolytes and replenishing with only water will not alleviate and restore your body’s needs.

How will supplementing with electrolytes benefit athletic performance?

Dehydration alone (loss of water) can decrease an athletes performance by about 30%.  However, water is not the only factor.  Loss of electrolytes with increased sweat (higher in hot temperatures), diminish the rate at which your body can balance PH causing a change in body temperature regulation.

Heart rate rises trying to decrease your body temperature, fatigue sets in and it can even cause your to be confused and cell function decreases (muscle function).  All things that will negatively impact athletic performance.

Finding a supplement that contains a balance of all essential electrolytes will give your body the best chance at both staying hydrated and maintaining electrolyte balance.

What do I need to look for in a supplement?

The key thing to remember about electrolytes is that they are more than just salt.  While sodium and chloride are essential for nerve function (activates muscles), they do not work alone.  Sodium actually relies on potassium, another important electrolyte, to bring nutrients into the body as well as remove waste.  These two work together by means of the sodium potassium pump.

Calcium plays a key role in glycogen metabolism (using fuel for energy).  Magnesium might be the most looked over electrolyte, because most people are more aware of the importance of salt and potassium.  However, magnesium can actually have a direct effect on all other electrolytes.

How to stay hydrated AND keep electrolyte balance.

Always drink to thirst.  If you are exercising in extreme heat or high levels of exertion, use an electrolyte supplement with the key essential vitamins and minerals (sodium chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium).  With prolonged exercise you will need to supplement these electrolytes more often, just as you would with the proper fuel.