Electrolytes are a vital part of how your body stays strong and operational. Without a proper balance of electrolytes, a person can start to feel drained, tired, sore, and fatigued. These important molecules have a host of medical benefits and play a huge role in helping people maintain health and wellness. The importance of electrolytes and their presence in the body goes beyond simply your workout routine. These ionic molecules are incredibly important for helping to sustain life as they play a unique role in muscle contractions and specifically in heart and cardiovascular health.
While electrolytes are important for your health, they can also make a huge impact on your workout. Just like other popular supplements like protein powder, electrolyte supplements can become a powerful way of helping you reach your fitness goals. If you have been wondering about what an electrolyte supplement is and why it’s important for your workout – here is everything you need to know.
What Are Electrolytes?
First off, what exactly is an electrolyte and why should you care about them? Electrolytes are ionic substances that share the unique characteristic of having a charge. These molecules are commonly called ions and they play a huge role in helping to move fluid throughout the body or sustain and promote electrical current.
The muscles of the heart use ions to spread the electrical impulse of contraction so that the heart can pump blood and ions are also used to help draw fluid across cellular membranes. Both of these processes are vital for life to continue.
What Happens to Electrolytes When You Workout?
A necessary part of anyone’s workout is always going to be a water bottle. When you exercise you put your body through a lot of stress and it’s natural to feel thirsty. Hydration is an important part of not only getting the most out of your workout but how you feel during and after your exercise.
When you are properly hydrated you can experience a lot more stamina, endurance, and strength than when your body is low on fluids. When you workout and you start to sweat, your body will want to replace those fluids which is why you feel like you need to grab a drink of water during your exercise.
While drinking water is a great way to feel refreshed and get some fluid back into your system, sweat is also composed of electrolytes that your body is losing. While water is a great way to replenish, it doesn’t necessarily restock your system with the ions that it lost.
How Do You Replenish Electrolytes?
Electrolytes can easily be taken in through your diet and this should always be one of the main ways that you make sure you are staying properly hydrated. A healthy balanced diet will not only help you get the protein and nutrients you need, but it will also supply you with the minerals and ions that your body needs to function properly.
How Can You Tell If You Need Electrolytes?
The more stress you put your body under and the more you sweat, the more you lose valuable electrolytes. One of the biggest signs that you’ve lost too many and that you need to replenish is that you will experience intense muscle soreness and cramping. Cramping is perhaps one of the greatest signs that you are low on electrolytes.
For long-distance runners, the difference between being properly hydrated with enough electrolytes and not is actually painful. Cramps and muscle spams can be the unfortunate result of not having proper hydration and a sign of being low on electrolytes.
Why Do Electrolytes Help With Hydration?
So why is it important to make sure you are getting this ionic profile in your liquid and dietary intake? While water is still the most fundamentally important liquid to hydrate with, ions play an important role in moving liquid in and out of cells. The semipermeable membrane of a cell wall needs to experience fluid both moving in and out with regularity for various processes. Ions are the main method for how this happens.
Electrolytes provide the charge necessary to draw water across cell membranes by creating ion concentrations. When the body is naturally low on ions, it can be hard for proper hydration to actually happen all the way down to a cellular level. This is why hydrating with an emphasis on supplying the body with electrolytes can make a big difference in your workout and recovery experience.
When Should You Use Electrolytes?
The main pathway that electrolytes will leave the body is through sweating. Typically a person’s normal diet and variety of drinks throughout the day can provide adequate sugars and salts to keep electrolyte counts up. However, when a person does sweat a lot, supplementing their electrolyte intake can help with recovery. Whether that is after a hard workout, or maybe after mowing the lawn on a hot day an electrolyte supplement can help speed up the recovery process.
The great thing about using an electrolyte supplement is that it’s easy to add into your normal water intake to boost your recovery. The best time to take an electrolyte supplement to get your body hydrated and running is after a workout, but you can also take it before, or even during.