LOLZLetter 76 | What Are Electrolytes?

Why Do You Need Them?


The next few newsletters are about hydration and fueling while running. Chances are, it's getting hotter and even more humid where you live. I think I melted yesterday on our flight.  I love summer weather for living life, but I despise running in the heat. There is a reason there aren't as many marathons in the middle of the summer: You need to hydrate more often and it can be more challenging.  As I look at the weather in New Jersey this week, we are supposed to have multiple days in the 90s. 

Dehydration is one of the most preventable causes of a bad run or race, but overhydration can also lead to many issues. It's crucial to find the right balance for you. Like anything with running, that balance varies on the specific person.

This week we are talking more about electrolytes. What are they? Why are they important?

First, What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are essential minerals that are vital to many critical functions in the body.  You can find electrolytes in everyday food, but as athletes, we often need more than food provides. 

While you can hydrate with regular water, it's also important to get electrolytes. They help your body not just function, but function well. Can you run without electrolytes? Sure. Will you run better when you consume the proper amount? Yes.

Electrolytes Come In The Form Of:

  • Sodium (Na+)

  • Potassium (K+)

  • Calcium (Ca 2+)

  • Magnesium, (Mg 2+)

  • Chloride (Cl-)

  • Phosphate (PO4 2-)

  • Bicarbonate (HCO3-)

  • Sulfate (SO4 2-)

The + and – symbols mean these minerals are ionic. Ionic nature gives the electrolytes the ability to carry electrical energy to keep the body’s systems functioning. 

Generally speaking, the major electrolytes for fluid balance and running are: sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. When we sweat, we lose more than just water. We lose the most of both sodium and chloride and a less extent of magnesium, potassium, and calcium too. 

Why Should We Care About Electrolytes?

When working out, keeping your electrolytes balanced is essential for successful training. If your electrolytes aren't balanced, it can lead to cramping, muscle fatigue, side stitches, or energy “bonking”.

More severe symptoms from electrolyte imbalance are muscle spasms, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, muscle weakness, or stiff and achy joints.

How Do Our Bodies Keep Electrolytes Balanced?
Under normal conditions, the kidneys will filter any excess levels of electrolytes. 

How Do Electrolytes Affect Running?

While running, you lose electrolytes through your sweat, which are mainly sodium and potassium.

Sweat Rate:

It's essential to determine your sweat rate. Every person is different, and sweat rate affects your electrolyte balance more than most things. Some people sweat a lot and others not as much. Some people are "salty sweaters," which means they lose a lot of sodium.

This article helps you figure out your personal sweat rate.  This article helps us learn more about various sweat tests. I didn't know there were different tests.

Why is Potassium Important?

Potassium allows the movement of fluids and nutrients across your cells’ membranes.  This means they can carry on activities like running. Without enough potassium, your muscles cannot generate nerve impulses to control muscles.

When your body cramps, it's letting you know the electrolyte tank is empty. Basically, your car is out of gas and running on fumes.

You can find potassium in bananas, coconut water, spinach, and potatoes. 

Why is Sodium Important?

Sodium is salt. It causes water retention. It should be consumed with other electrolytes to assist proper electrolyte balance. As well as maintaining fluid balance, sodium also plays a role in the gut, nerve impulse transmission, maintaining a healthy blood Ph, and muscle contraction.

If your sodium levels aren't balanced you can suffer from either hypernatremia (too much sodium) or hyponatremia (not enough sodium).  Both are very serious conditions. 

Your body can only produce and store so much sodium, which is why it's essential to consume it too.  You can find sodium in almost any packaged food, as well as beets and celery. 

Why is Calcium Important? 

We all know calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth, but it's a crucial electrolyte as well. It supports the nervous system and plays a vital role in the contraction and relaxation of blood vessels and muscles.

You can find calcium in most dairy, leafy greens, fish, and tofu. 

Why is Magnesium Important? 

Magnesium helps the body produce proteins.  It also helps muscles contract and relax. Together, potassium and magnesium play an essential role in maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart function.

You can find magnesium in dark chocolate, avocado, and most nuts. 

How Can You Refuel Electrolytes?

During Activity:

When running, you can use an electrolyte drink or mix like Gatorade.  Most of the time, those electrolyte drinks have high amounts of sugar. While working out, that plays a role in getting you energy quickly.

During the Day: 

Most of the time, you don't need sugary drinks.  You can get There are several different sports drinks like Nuun or Generation UCAN that have electrolytes without the extra sugar.

The best thing you can do for yourself is trial and error and figure out what works best for you. You can run without electrolytes, but you won't run at your best level. Getting enough is key to good running.

What is Keeping Me Entertained? 

Podcast: I'll Have Another Podcast with Gary Cantrell – aka “Lazarus Lake.”

Podcast: Ali on the Run Show Episode 251: Courtney Carter, Oiselle Advisor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Instagram: This Instagram by Aliphine is a must-read 

Movie: Runner: Guor Maker escaped the war Sudan. The documentary Runner chronicles his life, the War in Sudan, and how he eventually became an Olympian. 

Article: How This 35-Year-Old Mom Clocked an Incredible 15:04 5K Time Trial (Kiera, you might be the fastest newsletter subscriber...congrats!!!) 

Brooks Launch 7 Shoe Review Lightweight workout or trainer

How to Increase Running Mileage and Avoid Injury

Tracksmith Apparel Review

This newsletter is sponsored by Aftershokz. If you are looking to try Aftershokz Headphones, you can use this link and save 15%. Why Aftershokz headphones? They are wireless and go over the ears so you can hear traffic as well as your music. I’ve used them for several years now and never had an issue. I have reviews of the XTrainerZAeropex, and Air).

If you are looking for an excellent headphone for swimming, I recommend the XtrainerZ (seriously, I am still amazed I can swim and listen to music so clearly).

Thank you for reading, subscribing, and sharing! As many readers know, my goal is to get 1500 newsletter subscribers by July 12th. Why July 12th? I turn 30 and enter a new decade of life. Anyway, sharing is what helps the newsletter grow. I am so appreciative of whether you share with 10,000 followers or your parents. 

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