Exercise Hydration & Loss of Body Salts
by Nadezhda Pavlova
by Nadezhda Pavlova
Sodium is a main electrolyte found in sweat and plays an important role in fluid balance in the body and in athletes’ performance. Sodium loss can vary a lot between individuals and is also pretty stable within an individual too. How do you determine if you are a salty sweater and how much sodium should you consume to keep hydration levels optimized? One thing is certain, and that is the issue of correct hydration and fluid replacement for athletes, so let’s examine this.
Sweat sodium concentration can be measured in a lab, but in the real world, most of us would in all honesty not find it not practical or possible. Here are some signs that could be indicators of high level of salt loss (not just one of them but if combined together):
• craving salty food
• salt marks on clothes and skin after a workout or a race
• muscle cramps
• low blood pressure
• stinging eyes if sweat runs into them
• dizziness or fainting when you stand up quickly
• generally feeling bad after exercise when it’s hot
In my experience with racing and coaching, a pre-planned hydration strategy is more effective than simply drinking to thirst. This is especially so for those engaging in very high intensity, medium-duration events. In these instances, where maintenance of blood volume and electrolyte balance is critical to support the very high levels of performance, avoidance of dehydration and hyponatremia is critical.
The problems that dehydration cause when we exercise are: a reduction in blood volume (thickening of the blood, and harder mobility) > reduced ability to sweat > rising of skin and core body temperature > increased use of glycogen > all these leave the heart rate very high and slows one down. Do not let dehydration cause your own performance to suffer!
A question that often arises is ‘Can table salt be used to get the sodium electrolyte?’ Yes, it can. Just keep in mind: 1 g table salt has 39% sodium and 61% chloride. (390 mg sodium and 610 mg chloride). So, if you want to try and make your own electrolyte drink: mix water, salt and lemon juice + zest for a homemade electrolyte drink, and eat a banana as a potassium source.
From all of this advice and information, it should be clear that simply drinking water on it’s own won’t replace the salts and other minerals lost by your body in sweat. Hydration is a critical issue and should be taken seriously, choosing a plan and product that suits you and works for you, allowing you to focus on performance.
What’s your own favorite electrolyte drink and why? Contact me and let me know.