An electrolyte imbalance can seriously affect overall athletic performance and health. Muscle fatigue, cramping, and numbness and tingling have all been associated with electrolyte imbalances.
“A simple electrolyte imbalance or deficiency can make you feel like absolute garbage,” says Doctor Nick Zyrowski.
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge and can be found in many body fluids. They are essential for normal function of your cells and organs, and help you balance the amount of water in your body.
In nutrition, electrolytes refer to essential minerals found in your blood, sweat and urine. When these minerals dissolve in fluids, they form electrolytes; positive or negative ions used in metabolic processes in the body.
ELECTROLYTES IN SPORT
Fluid and electrolyte balance are critical to optimal exercise performance, especially during longer or intense workouts.
Electrolytes help the body do much of its work; producing energy, regulating muscle contractions and helping build new tissue are just some of the roles electrolytes play in your body. They also deliver a host of advantages throughout exercise and beyond, such as:
- Helping the nervous system function
- Implementing muscle function (especially contractions)
- Ensuring pH balance
- Guaranteeing proper hydration
- Promoting healthy cellular physiology (retaining of fluid inside or outside the cell)
When you sweat, you lose both water and electrolytes, primarily in the form of sodium and chloride. These electrolytes must be replenished to ensure proper cell function.
Sweat rates vary from person to person, so it’s hard to establish exactly how many electrolytes are lost during exercise. Yet individual variation is not the only factor to consider; exercise type, intensity, duration, and climate all play a role in sweat levels and, therefore, electrolyte loss.
When trying to establish whether you need to replenish your electrolyte levels during or after sport, pay attention to how you feel, rather than focus on a specific amount.
IMPORTANT ELECTROLYTES AND THEIR ROLES
The balance of electrolytes in your body is imperative for optimal sport and health. As athletes push through workouts, they must ensure correct hydration to avoid or reduce muscle fatigue, cramping, headaches, or numbness – all symptoms associated with electrolyte imbalances.
The following electrolytes are the most common in your body and these are their roles:
Sodium: Hydration and fluid balance
Electrolytes, particularly sodium, help maintain fluid balance in your body through osmosis. Sodium modulates the amount of water in the body and the movement of it into and out of cells is essential for cell communication.
Potassium: fluid balance and muscle contraction
Potassium, along with sodium, is essential for cell-to-cell signalling and is also an important mineral for skeletal muscle contraction. It helps your muscles work, including the muscles that control your heartbeat and breathing.
Calcium: muscle function
The electrolyte calcium is needed for muscle contraction, as it allows muscle fibres to move over each other as the muscle shortens and contracts.
Magnesium: muscle function
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for healthy and efficient muscle contraction, cardiovascular function, neurotransmission, digestion, and healthy fluid balance. It is thought to have a positive effect on muscle relaxation and could improve muscle function.
Phosphorus: bone density and energy production
Phosphorus supports bone density and muscle contraction, and is an essential mineral for energy production. This mineral plays an important role in how the body uses carbohydrates and fats, and helps with nerve signalling.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ELECTROLYTE DEFICIENCY OR IMBALANCE
An electrolyte imbalance can be very serious and happens when the levels of electrolytes in the blood become too high or too low.
Electrolyte imbalances are often caused by insufficient liquid and food intake (not replenishing electrolytes), loosing fluids through persistent vomiting or diarrhoea, sweating or fever, or a higher than normal blood pH. Sometimes, they can also be caused by certain diseases or conditions.
Electrolyte deficiency symptoms and signs include:
- Extreme muscle weakness
Poor muscular endurance – essentially gassing out early in an exercise and not having much strength – can be caused by an electrolyte imbalance, says Doctor Zyrowski.
- Muscle cramping and twitching
Another symptom includes starting to get a lot of different spasms and muscle cramps. “A lot of times they start in the small muscle groups: the hands, the feet, around the mouth, around the eyes. Then they can go on into the big muscle groups,” explains Doctor Zyrowski.
- Lethargy and headaches
Sodium controls whether water moves in or out of cells. When an imbalance occurs and brain cells are affected, headaches, confusion and lethargy are common symptoms.
Fatigue is often associated with electrolyte imbalances and can be a big hinderance for athletes.
- Frequent thirst
“This is where you feel like you just want to drink more and more water, yet you’ve been drinking enough water, but you still feel thirsty,” describes Doctor Zyrowski. When you can’t quench that thirst, that’s typically an electrolyte imbalance.
- Frequent urination
Frequent urination is usually a result of frequent thirst and excessive water ingestion, but can also be caused by lack of electrolytes.
Long periods of exercise, particularly in the heat, can cause significant electrolyte loss. These electrolytes can usually be replaced by food and drink; however, certain populations may want to consider supplementing with electrolyte-rich drinks to replace their losses.
If you suffer from the symptoms mentioned above, it’s very important that you come out of the electrolyte imbalance or deficiency.
HOW TO COMBAT OR PREVENT AN ELECTROLYTE IMBALANCE OR DEFICIENCY
We get electrolytes from the food we eat and what we drink, therefore, the simplest way to combat an electrolyte imbalance or deficiency is through a balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of electrolytes.
Your body can typically regulate electrolytes efficiently and keep them at the right levels. However, in some circumstances, supplementing with an electrolyte-rich drink can be useful.
You’ll want to purchase a product that includes all the electrolytes mentioned above (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus). Additional ingredients such as vitamin B, C and E, taurine, and carnosine might help with the delivery process of these electrolytes and support proper hydration.
Celarity Electrolyte + Powder is a great option for an all-natural electrolyte drink for optimal hydration.
It is full of electrolytes and nutrients that support fluid balance, especially during exercise and physical activity. Electrolyte + is a naturally flavoured electrolyte powder drink created with a mix of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, taurine and carnosine, and is free from any artificial colours or flavouring and added sugars, all of which could have a negative impact on performance.
The formula contains an evidence-based blend of minerals and electrolytes to support hydration and was designed to give athletes the maximum electrolyte benefits, as well as ensure balanced levels of electrolytes during and after exercise.
Their patented Magnesium bisglycinate chelate is one of the ingredients that make the Electrolyte + stand out. Research indicates that magnesium bisglycinate is highly bioavailable, as it is quickly assimilated by cells.
Electrolyte + also contains highly bioavailable chromium picolinate, instead of inferior forms of chromium which are not well-absorbed, such as chromium chloride.
Celarity Health create their products with the purest ingredients, without adding any fillers, artificial flavours, colours or sugars. The company specialises in cellular detoxification, which removes toxins from your body by focusing on healing cells; and bio-nutrition, achieved by nourishing bodies with good foods, along with specific supplementation to aid with the restoration of the body.
Each supplement is backed by an extraordinary amount of scientific evidence and effectiveness, reads the company’s website.
A high-quality, purity-tested supplement such as Electrolyte + can be a big game-changer and is a simple fix to help you feel a lot better if you suffer from an electrolyte imbalance.
Electrolyte deficiency symptoms are very to those of overhydration, athletes should be aware of this and talk to a doctor or dietitian before beginning with supplementation.
All content within this article is provided for general information only and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.