Electrolytes are the chemicals that cause formation of ions in human body fluids and help ensure that specific functions are optimized; low levels will cause cramps. If you’re an athlete, you will know how to appreciate electrolytes because cramping is nemesis for athletes. Read a thorough discussion of muscle cramps here.
Proper fuel for exercise is more than just calories and fluids; it also requires making sure that adequate electrolyte is consistent. Electrolyte needs vary more than hydration or caloric needs so experimenting on which fueling is more fitted to your needs under specific conditions.
Electrolytes are like motor oil in your car – it is not what you need to make the engine run but it is absolutely necessary for the engine to run smoothly. In the human body, proper functioning of the systems (the body’s motor engine) is dependent on electrolytes – adequate would mean smooth functioning, low and high levels would mean otherwise.
Muscle cramps are usually caused by improper electrolyte levels. It is your body’s way of warning you that you need to replenish it to maintain a good level. But of course these cramps are far from depletion yet but it is painful, so to avoid such conditions, one has to ensure that you maintain a balance.
Why is it important?
Ions in the body fluids carry the energy that is necessary in most of the functions of the human body. These functions include nerve impulse transmissions and muscle contractions. Most of the bodily functions are dependent on these chemicals.
Many athletes forget or neglect this need for electrolytes in the body, often this is remembered when cramping happens. But good athletes always make it a point to maintain the needed balance in the body because sustaining the balance is not just to avoid cramping but to make sure that the body is performing its best and will not suffer breakdowns in the long run – just like a car engine. When this is neglected, depletion of electrolytes could happen and that would need more “repair” rather than just replenishing when the level goes low, which is an easy thing to do.
Taking in salt tablets is not an acceptable way of gaining back normal electrolyte levels.
- Salt tablets provide only sodium and chloride; it is not complete.
- These tablets can cause oversupply of sodium and which will result to an overworked sodium-regulating mechanism in the body.
Many athletes experienced swollen feet and hands from water retention due to them having ingested salt tablets or other products known to replenish electrolytes but have high sodium content or causes an increase in sodium level. Read more about salt tablets in sites like https://www.healthline.com/health/salt-tablets#side-effects.
High Sodium and Its Consequences
It is common knowledge that high sodium diet is bad for the health of a human body. When a person has a high sodium diet, he also has greater loss of the same and will also require greater intake of which when exercising. Sodium makes you thirsty. When thirsty, one drinks a lot until excess results; it becomes a deterrent to performance.
Athletes sweat a lot and most of the time the notion is to replace what they have lost in sweat. However, it is not as simple as that. Some products in the market just simply replace what has been lost over sweat. But actually, this is not okay because different individuals have different sweat-loss and the body does not efficiently replace what has been lost above just a walking pace. It takes time to do that so when electrolytes are lost, it is not immediately replaced by the body in the same content.
The body replaces only a part of what it loses during an activity where sweat is lost drastically, such as an exercise. Fluids, electrolytes, and calories are not immediately replaced. If you would try to replenish all the fluids at one time, it can result to dilutional hyponatremia and you can be intoxicated with water. It will create gastric problems such as distress, muscle spasms, edema, and cramping.
Most athletes depend on energy drinks to replenish what has been lost. However, the kind of energy drink an athlete ingests is also important in proper hydration. Most energy drinks are added with sugar because it allows for faster absorption. But the kind of sugar it has also matters – fructose does not help absorb the fluids so it is a waste of money when you buy energy drinks with fructose as sweeteners. Another reason why you should be drinking sugar free sports drinks is that sugar is only necessary to make it pleasant to the palate, but is actually not necessary in the objective of rehydration. Plain water can help rehydrate, energy drinks are for replenishing the electrolytes lost, but sugar only helps fast absorption. If you have a sugar-related health condition, you will just be uselessly affecting your sugar levels.