Keeping your electrolyte levels balanced is important for anyone who is active, traveling, or at altitude. If your electrolytes levels are imbalanced, you could potentially compromise your body's ability to function properly, which could lead to muscle fatigue, dizziness, or cramping. Sufficient electrolyte levels are necessary for your body's digestive, cardiac, muscular and nervous systems to function properly.
Electrolytes are sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca 2+), magnesium, (Mg 2+), chloride (Cl-), phosphate (PO4 2-), bicarbonate (HCO3-), and sulfate (SO4 2).
Sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium are the four major electrolytes that maintain the body’s fluid balance. But sodium and potassium are not the only minerals lost when the body perspires or water evaporates from the body. Trace minerals, minerals in smaller quantities (such as magnesium, copper, manganese, zinc, cobalt, selenium, silica, iodine, chromium, boron, and vanadium), play critical roles within the body's balanced ecosystem.
Its important for individuals to consume an electrolyte source that contains essential trace minerals to help regulate blood volume and maintain proper brain and muscle function during endurance training.
If you rehydrate by drinking a lot of water, which do not contain electrolytes, you may also upset the balance of electrolytes in your bloodstream. This is a dangerous condition called hyponatremia, where blood sodium and mineral levels drop below normal levels due to over hydration of a non-ionized source. When this happens, your body's water levels rise, and your cells begin to swell. This swelling can cause many health problems, from mild to life-threatening.
Hyponatremia signs and symptoms may include:
Active individuals who lose too much water, and dont replace it, will often show signs of dehydration. Dizzyiness, cramping, and fatigue. The loss of water is not the only culprit. Along with water, individuals lose essential minerals when they perspire, breath, or excrete liquids from the body. These electrolytes are the electrically charged ions in the body, which help regulate and maintain blood volume, which in turn keeps body temperature and heart rate from rising during activities or hot temperatures.
During prolonged activities, most experts recommend 'drinking to thirst'. This varies by individual but most people fall between 14 and 18 fluid ounces per hour of exercise. Keep in mind some athletes will sweat more than others. And fluid losses will be higher in heat and humidity. But no matter what, make sure you are replenishing minerals as well as fluids to rebalance electrolyte levels in the body.