What Are Electrolytes, How Do They Work, & Why Are They Important?

Electrolytes 101:  Why They’re Essential To Your Success On The Track

Raise your hand if you’ve heard that your body needs electrolytes.

Rider Nutrition: What Are Electrolytes And Why Are They ImportantGood!

Now, raise your hand if you know why…

If you’re one of the majorities who didn’t raise your hand, no worries.  Until recently, I wouldn’t have been able to raise my hand either.

But based off of what I’ve learned, you better believe I wish I knew how vital electrolytes were sooner.  And you also better believe I’ll never get on my dirt bike without them again!

Below, I’m going to give you a crash course on electrolytes:  covering what they are, what they do, and why they’re so crucial to your success on the track.

Related: The Effect Of Not Eating Enough Protein On Your Riding Performance

What Are Electrolytes?

Rider Nutrition: What Are ElectrolytesElectrolytes are essentially electrically charged particles in your body.  They’re formed when mineral salts dissolve in water and break apart.

Some of the most prominent and essential electrolytes in your body include calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.

What Do They Do?

They help to regulate several different (vital) systems in your body, including:

  • Hydration,
  • Muscle function,
  • Nerve function,
  • Blood pressure,
  • Tissue repair,
  • Blood acidity,
  • Blood/water balance

Basically, without electrolytes, humans can’t survive.  In that respect, they’re crucial for every person in the world.

In the performance side of things, they’re incredibly crucial for athletes.

Related: A Diet With Too Many Carbohydrates Is a Recipe for Failure!


What Are Symptoms of Low Electrolytes?

Your body’s muscles can be called the electric tissues of your body.  They are controlled by electrical impulses…

Which, lo-and-behold, are controlled by electrolytes.  (Specifically, sodium, potassium, and calcium.)

When your electrolytes are at the appropriate levels, your muscles will perform as they should.

But if they drop below that level, two conditions can occur:

  1. Your muscles will become too weak to perform adequately.
  2. Your muscles will constrict too tight (which leads to cramps).

Since your muscles are controlled by electrical impulses and electrolytes conduct said impulses, when the levels are low, and your brain tries to communicate to the muscles that they need to contract, the muscles will either be slow to respond or (in severe cases) not respond at all.

When that occurs, you’re not only killing your chances of winning; you’re also increasing your risk of sustaining a severe injury.

So maintaining the proper levels throughout the entire duration of the race is of the utmost importance.

But here’s the kicker…

As you ride, your body naturally loses fluids (including water and electrolytes) as you sweat. This drop in electrolyte levels will lead to decreased energy, decreased reaction times, and muscle cramps.

Related: This 4 Day Meal Plan Will Keep Your Energy Up All Day

How To Solve This Problem

While you can hydrate with only water, you’re only solving two problems (the risk of dehydration and overheating).  You’re not addressing the electrolyte deficit and the corresponding performance loss.

Electrolytes 101 Why They’re Essential To Your Success On The TrackEven worse, water alone can further dilute the few electrolytes that are still present in your blood’s nutrient levels.

Therefore, you need to make sure you’re ingesting enough in the form of sports drinks throughout the race or event.

Doing so will replenish what you lost, and help prevent the onset of muscle fatigue and cramps.

So from now on, when you’re on the track drop the water and pick up a sports drink (like Gatorade) that will not only hydrate you but also replenish your electrolyte levels.  Yes, sports drinks tend to have LOADS of sugar, but it’s they are the easy and cheap way to get electrolytes.  Plus, if you are using sports drinks they way they were intended, the extra sugar shouldn’t be a problem!

If you have any questions or anything to add, please leave them in the comments or on our FaceBook page!

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