Good hydration is important when you are running trails or marathons but have you ever wondered how to tell if your electrolytes are imbalanced? What do electrolytes actually do? Of course there are some good products on the market that can restore balance to electrolytes but why do we need them? Why isn’t water enough when you are involved in strenuous activity? This definitive guide published on Runners Connect by diet and nutrition author Abbey Housefield answers all your questions about electrolytes.
Why is electrolyte balance important for runners?
For a runner, keeping your electrolytes balanced is key for successful training and optimum performance. If your electrolytes are imbalanced, you could potentially compromise the success of your next run because of muscle fatigue or cramping. Along with the more frequent muscle cramps in the legs, stomach cramps or side stitches can also be the result of an electrolyte imbalance.
Other electrolyte imbalance symptoms are: muscle spasms, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, constipation, dark urine, decreased urine output, dry mouth and foul breath, dry skin, muscle weakness or stiff and achy joints. Bathroom frequency and urine color are often the easiest and simplest way to assess your hydration and electrolyte levels.
Although bladder size is a consideration, an average, healthy adult, should urinate 5-8 times a day and the color should be a light straw yellow. This is especially important to note after hard workouts or long runs. You shouldn’t be going 5-6 hours between bathroom stops if you’re well hydrated.
I liked the analogy of the soap in the washing machine compared to the electrolytes in the body. It helps runners to visualize the role of electrolytes play in providing energy and maintaining proper organ functioning. It’s vital that runners and extreme athletes understand how to stay truly, completely hydrated and balanced during training and competition to avoid injuring themselves or worse.
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