Water, Exercise and Electrolytes
We all know that exercising leads to sweating and heavy breathing, and as mentioned in our last article, this leads to higher fluid losses and needs. Sweat also leads to electrolyte losses, which is why your skin tastes salty after a workout. “Electrolytes” usually include potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium and calcium. Companies selling expensive sports drinks such as Gatorade, VitaminWater or coconut water target athletes to use their products before, during and after a workout to replenish their precious electrolyte stores. Are they actually necessary? It all depends on the intensity and length of the workout. Gatorade was originally created for football players that had trained twice a day in the Florida heat (Florida Gaiters… Gater-Aid… Gaterade). This is quite different from a 1-hour workout session done in a climate-controlled gym, isn’t it?
Indeed, these sports drinks were designed for athletes undergoing intensive training, while most of their consumers do not fit in this category. That is where the main problem lies, because these products are filled with sugar and sodium. The sugar is added for taste and for rapid-acting energy, but there is way more “energy” in there that one might need. There is roughly as much sugar in a Gatorade bottle as there is in a Coca-Cola can. Not to mention all the extra unnecessary sodium that you are getting and the intense petroleum-derived dyes linked to hyperactivity in children (as if the sugar wasn't enough).
1-Hour Rule of Thumb
A common rule of thumb is that if a high-intensity workout lasts for less than an hour, electrolyte replenishment is not necessary. In these cases, good old water does the trick. The only exception to this rule is if the physical activity is being done in a particularly warm environment. For example, after a session of hot yoga, your fluid losses will be far greater and proper hydration and electrolyte replacement can be necessary.
If your workout lasts longer than an hour, you might want to replace the lost electrolytes. However, this does not necessarily equate to downing a big bottle of Gatorade with 30g of sugar! The American College of Sport Medicine explains that the electrolytes lost can be replenished at the next meal consumed post-workout. This means that all you need to do is make sure that you include food items that have these electrolytes.
Here are some food items that you can include in your post-workout meal:
Sodium: Found in salty foods. Note that on average, we eat enough and even excess amounts of salt, so don’t overdo it on the salt.
Chloride: Found in salty foods (see above), the cabbage family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts), tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, lettuce, celery.
Potassium: Found in fruits and veggies (squash, sweet potatoes, bananas, potatoes, watermelon, spinach, beets).
Magnesium: Found in dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, whole grains.
Calcium: Found in dairy products and dark leafy greens, beans, lentils, almonds.
Homemade Electrolyte Drink Recipe
While sports drinks can be a tasty way to stay hydrated, it’s best to not overuse them. Instead of breaking the bank on expensive sports drinks saturated with sugar, you can also make some yourself right at home for pennies! Here are two recipes for you to try!