Written by Damien Cox – Accredited Practicing Dietitian
When we sweat we lose fluid and within that fluid are electrolytes which each have different functions within the body to help maintain our normal function. So it only seems necessary that if we lose fluid and electrolytes we need a strategy to ensure we are replacing what is lost.
We have already covered what electrolytes are in a previous blog so this will be more about the planning before an exercise event. This can be used by athletes to ensure they are covering all bases when it comes to electrolytes and electrolyte replacement strategies.
Knowing how much fluid is going to be lost is a great starting point as to how aggressive the hydration and electrolyte strategy needs to be. In a hotter climate with more intense exercise a more aggressive strategy should be adopted with pre, during and post strategies outlined this can be in the form of whole foods, sports foods and nutritional/sport supplements. However for a less intense more relaxed style session with low amounts of fluid loss a less aggressive approach can be taken.
Covering all bases
As mentioned before with high fluid loses mainly found in intense exercise an aggressive approach to nutrition and supplementation should be taken.
Planning before the event or exercise bout should cover foods that are high in targeted electrolytes (ie sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium) in the days leading up. Supplements may also be necessary pre, during or post exercise depending on the athlete, their schedule, and the intensity of the exercise.
As with the theme of this blog, planning and ensuring a well set out nutrition and hydration plan that matches the demands of training and events is key to achieving the best performance possible. Without proper planning can lead to poor decision making when choosing foods or supplements, incorrect timing of certain foods or supplements and incorrect amounts. These can all lead to poor performance outcomes which can affect your training and/or events.
Setting out a electrolyte strategy can be difficult with multiple things to take into consideration such as, training intensity, training duration, nutrition and supplementation. It can be difficult to understand where to start and how to get the ball rolling. Hopefully by starting with these tips will give you a better understanding going into your next session.