Hydration And Electrolytes 101

What exactly are ‘electrolytes’? Electrolytes are chemical substances that transform into ions when dissolved in water. Ions are molecules to help conduct electrical impulses throughout the body. Without them, your muscles wouldn’t be able to contract and your brain wouldn’t function. I know, sounds terrible.

When you’re low in electrolytes, you’ll fatigue more quickly, lose power, and the water you’re drinking won’t be able to get into your tissues as effectively.

The good news is that getting enough electrolytes is easy. Electrolytes and water escape through sweat, so if you’re day is pretty sedentary you have nothing to worry about. If, on the other hand, you’re sweating bullets all day long under the hot sun, try one of these methods.

Skip the Sports Drinks

Gatorade came out in 1965 and since then, a number of sports drinks have hit the market. They do contain electrolytes, but they also contain plenty of sugar and flavouring agents. In some cases this might be OK, but it’s not the best option for those trying to lose fat and “eat clean”.

Coconut Water

Everyone loves coconut water. It’s a great source of electrolytes, especially natural salts, potassium and magnesium. However, just a small bottle of coconut water can contain 15g of sugar. For those concerned about body composition, this may not be appropriate. It depends on how your body tolerates the sugar.

Electrolyte Tablets

Just drop a tablet into your liter of water, let it dissolve, and drink. They’re small, portable and come in a variety of flavours.

Take Your Water with a Grain of Salt

Add a couple pinches of salt to your drinking water. Salt is a natural electrolyte and it’s cheap! Opt for a sea salt or Himalayan salt because they’ll tend to contain other minerals that are important to your health.

Other Tips

  • Don’t only think about hydrating prior to your activity. Make sure you start your activity in a well-hydrated state.
  • After a sweaty session, use one of the methods above to replenish your electrolytes: sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
  • A good baseline for daily water consumption is to drink half of your bodyweight in fluid ounces per day. So if you weigh 150lbs, drink 75 oz. of water daily. With extra activity, you’re going to want to increase that number.

Peter Roberts is a sought after nutrition consultant and strength and conditioning coach in Toronto. He’s been the head coach at Quantum CrossFit since 2010 (East York’s most highly rated gym) and consulted with Canada Basketball and Rugby League Canada, among others. He provides free fitness and nutrition resources on his site peterrobertscoaching.com to teach people how to get fitter and feel great without it being a struggle.

Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash