Electrolytes 101: Why They’re Essential To Your Success On The Track
Raise your hand if you’ve heard that your body needs electrolytes.
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, why they are important for hydration, and why they’re so crucial to your success on the track.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals that allow electrical impulsed from your brain to move through your body fluids. They form 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.
How Do These Minerals Affect Your Body?
Electrolytic minerals help to regulate several different (vital) systems in your body, including:
- 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.
On the performance side of things, they’re incredibly crucial for athletes.
What Are The Symptoms of Low Electrolytes?
Your body’s muscles are controlled by electrical impulses, which, are controlled by electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and calcium.)
When your hydration and electrolytes are at the appropriate levels, your muscles will perform as they should.
But if they drop below that level, two conditions can occur:
- Your muscles will become too weak to perform adequately.
- Your muscles will constrict too tight (which leads to cramps).
Your brain controls your muscles through electrical impulses, and electrolytes conduct said impulses, so 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.
How To Avoid An Electrolyte Deficiency
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.
Even 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 riding 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 they are an 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!
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