What are Electrolytes and why are they essential?
Electrolytes are essential minerals that are needed for normal body function such as the transport of oxygen and immune support. Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, and bicarbonate.
Sodium is the most abundant electrolyte lost in sweat and when this drops below 135 mmol/litre this can cause hyponatremia which is low sodium concentration in the blood. When this occurs confusion and fainting may occur.
What is hydration?
Put simply, hydration is when there is enough water within the body to meet the body’s physiological demands and that is why water is essential for life. It is needed for transportation of nutrients and oxygen, via the blood to our muscles and to remove waste products such as carbon dioxide from our tissues. It also has protective and cleansing functions. Water is also needed for metabolism for most chemical reactions in the body.
In fact, ~50-60% of our bodyweight is made up of water, hence why it is one of the most important nutrients for every human. So, for a 70kg male individual, this means that their body contains ~42 litres of water.
What is good hydration?
Good hydration is when there is adequate water available to support the transport of oxygen, glucose, sodium, and potassium to cells. It is also important for maintaining health and performance. Hydration is essential for cardiovascular and thermoregulatory functions.
As we exercise, especially during hot and humid days, our heart rate increases and pumps additional blood to the muscles and water is critical at this point as it makes up half of the blood.
How do you improve hydration?
Knowing if you are dehydrated is a good start. This can be done by checking urine colour as this is a good indication of your hydration status. A dark yellow colour indicates dehydration which means sipping fluids and eating foods containing sodium is a good way to improve hydration. If urine colour is clear, then you are hydrated.
When it comes to hydration, a common mistake people make is to drink an excess amount of water. This is called hyperhydration and can cause an increase in urine production.
Electrolytes can help replace the sodium lost during exercise. Other benefits of electrolytes include increased water retention, promote drinking, and increase the rate of water uptake.
Hydration vs dehydration?
As mentioned above, good hydration is important as it helps shuttle blood and oxygen to the working muscles during exercise. The delivery of blood is also needed for our brain, liver, and kidneys.
When we are dehydrated the opposite occurs. During heavy and intense training session, particularly during hot and humid conditions, dehydration can impact performance and severe dehydration can impact health and wellbeing.
Why do we sweat?
Sweating and the evaporation of it from the skin is needed to regulate body temperature. When we exercise, our core body temperature rises which increases blood flow to the skin and sweat loss is a natural way to cool the body down.
Our ability to sweat is heightened during intense exercise, especially in hot environments. In this instance, our core body temperature can rise sharply which can cause heat exhaustion.
Heavy sweat losses can mean a rapid increase in heart rate which makes the heart pump faster. Fluid losses can decrease blood volume which means blood flow to the working muscles is impacted. Remember, half of our blood is made up of water so when losses are severe the transport of oxygen to is compromised. This slows down the production of energy which means our work output is diminished greatly. There is also an increased rate of muscles glycogen when dehydration occurs which causes fatigue, especially during very hot environments.
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What are hydration supplements?
Hydration supplements, like Kinetica Electro C, are supplements that contain key electrolytes to help with your hydration . Electro C contains 750mg of sodium and 150mg of potassium per 3 tablets. When sodium levels are low, there may be an increase in urine production which can cause negative fluid balance. Sodium is important for both maintaining hydration and for rehydration. Potassium, which is lost in smaller amounts in sweat is important for function of nerve and muscle cells. Is there are insufficient amount of sodium and potassium available, muscle cramping may be an outcome.
Other minerals in Electro C are Magnesium (225mg) and Calcium (150mg). Magnesium, like potassium and sodium has been associated with muscle cramping with muscle fatigue possibly being another outcome of lack of magnesium. Calcium, which we already know is important for bone health, but it also has an impact on muscle contraction.
To improve your performance and hydration even more, dropping an Electro C tablet into your Kinetica Energy product gives you both the carbohydrates which are needed for performance and electrolytes that are required for hydration.
So, if you are training for your first marathon or playing competitive football, adequate hydration can help your overall performance. It is recommended not to begin exercise dehydrated, especially in hot conditions. If you do so, your performance and health are at risk.
About the Author
This blog was written and researched by Kinetica Performance Nutritionist Sean Prunty. Seán is a qualified Performance Nutritionist, having completed his studies and exams with the internationally recognised and world leading, Institute of Performance Nutrition.