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With the sweltering heat blanketing the nation, I know there's just one thing on your mind: Fluid replacement.

I know! It's almost like your mind is an open book, isn't it?

Maybe you're thinking more about air conditioning, but dehydration is a real concern when it's hot outside, a good time to ask yourself: How are my electrolytes doing?

If you're not exactly sure what electrolytes are, you're not alone. In the simplest terms, electrolytes (which include sodium, chloride, postassium, magnesium and calcium) help maintain the fluid balance in your body. You lose electrolytes when you sweat, which can throw things out of balance, leading to dehydration.

When it comes to fluid replacement, there are a few general guidelines to follow to make sure your electrolyte situation is under control:

Before Exercise - If you're about to do an extra long workout or if you're a 'salty' sweater (meaning there's salt residue on your skin and clothes after sweating) may want to have a salty snack or a sports drink before your workout. Otherwise, plain water will usually work fine for the average exerciser.

During Exercise - If you're working out for more than an hour, experts recommend sipping a sports drink with carbs and electrolytes.

After Exercise - Plain water won't always help you rehydrate after a hard, sweaty workout. Experts recommend having a sports drink or a salty post-exercise snack like nuts, pickles, pretzels or crackers to replace AWOL electrolytes.

There are so many hydration products out there, it's hard to figure what you need. There are tablets, powders and drinks, some with calories and some without - how do you choose? You'll find an excellent explanation of different electrolyte options in Shawn Dolan's article, Electrolytes: Understanding Replacement Options, but, the average exerciser (working out for 30-60 minutes, for example) can probably rely on water or a sports drink (like Gatorade) for fluid replacement.

What about you? Do you use sports drink or another type of electrolyte replacement product? Leave a comment and tell us all about your hydration issues.

Source:

Dolan S. Electrolytes: Understanding Replacement Options. The American Council on Exercise. Retrieved 8/10/2010.

Comments
August 13, 2010 at 11:18 am
(1) Fred says:

I never have understood this. If we are replacing sodium, chloride, postassium, magnesium and calcium, why drink a sugary gatorade? If you run for 30 minutes to burn, say 387 calories (male 170lbs), and then drink a 20 oz gatorade because there are 2.5 servings in one bottle and you are really thursty and just one more gulp won’t hurt, etc. You are drinking 122 calories. That is like throwing away 30% of your workout. Workouts are hard. By golly I want the whole thing to count. What am I missing?

August 13, 2010 at 12:10 pm
(2) Suze says:

Great question. Real problem. I’m open to any suggestions anyone has.

I really struggle with this problem. My body does not hold fluid balance well. I live in a desert. My electrolytes go off balance this time of year from doing nothing at all, IF I leave my house. Or if I exercise indoors after 10am. All it takes for me to get super low blood pressure, dizziness, and nausea, is to ride in the car for 10 minutes in the afternoon, and it takes hours to recover. I’m still looking for a way to get some cardio exercise in my life, but so far, pretty much haven’t found anything that will do it. I get too sick when I DON’T exercise, I’m afraid if I try cardio in this condition to wind up in the hospital. It’s just too hot for me to recover from nothing to recover from workouts, too.

(Yes, I’m thinking of moving.)

Meanwhile, I use pediatric electrolytes daily just to recover from grocery shopping, etc. At least they work!

Any better ideas?

August 14, 2010 at 4:59 pm
(3) Sue says:

I have problems exercising due to sever neck and back problems I have disc fusions C1through C7.Lower back fusions L3through L5.I also have 3 bad discs in my Thorisac spine.I can do very little exercise Iam not even to vacume or sweep or mop I also can’t lift anything over 5 lbs. I also am a diabetic I do not have a weight problem I only weigh 124 lbs am 5ft 2in tall. I drink plenty of water and diet soda

August 14, 2010 at 8:29 pm
(4) Frank Gurucharri says:

It’s all too common that we leave swimming off the list of sweaty exercises, but it is and those who do swim need to also replace their electrolytes and fluid.

August 15, 2010 at 7:31 pm
(5) k says:

People who exercise vigorously often need to replenish glycogen stores in the blood and liver. Gatorade, with the sugar and high calorie content is good at providing the needed boost to help muscles recover more quickly And add lost electrolytes.
I use Propel and a few reduced fat wheat thins; that’s about 100 calories and gives me everything I need after a moderate workout.
Keep in mind if you are exercising very hard you not only burn a lot of calories while you are working out, but adding muscle (which needs to be pampered in order to recover fully and quickly) and your metabolism likely stays higher than normal for an hour or so following your exercise. But, for anything less than an hour of heavy duty trailrunning, I rely on Propel and a light snack that has plenty of sodium. For a 30 minute run you Might not need the whole bottle of Gatorade, but that depends on how You feel after your runs. I think, but am not sure, that they make a ‘light’ version of it.

August 17, 2010 at 5:50 am
(6) Donna says:

I find that a small glass of instant tea with lemon, its sweetened with pure sugar, is a refresher for me. Even in the morning when I’m groggy I mix this up works great! I

August 17, 2010 at 7:15 am
(7) Joe says:

Best answer: coconut water (not coconut milk). Replaces all the electrolytes with a lower sodium and calorie count. No added sugar. 60 calories per serving.

November 9, 2012 at 9:52 pm
(8) Barry says:

I drink G2. It has about 1/3 the calories of regular Gatorade.

October 30, 2013 at 1:59 pm
(9) Sharon says:

I’ve been doing some research on electrolytes lately and I found a recipe that I’ve been following and have changed a bit. I’ve been loosely using recipe 2 found here http://readynutrition.com/resources/diy-electrolyte-powders_21062011/

but I didn’t use the drink mix. I used 2 TBSP of powdered Stevia (in the raw) and I add 2 TBSP of lemon juice because I read somewhere that you need to have a few calories in it to absorb. It’s not the best tasting but it’s low cal, low carb and has helped me feel that my electrolytes are more in balance. I have been drinking half a recipe per day for the last few days. I’m unsure how much to drink.

Version 2
2 quarts of water
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon of salt substitute (potassium salt)(I used something called No Salt)
1 pack of sugar free drink flavoring (I don’t use)
Artificial sweetener to taste (I use 2T stevia powder or Splenda)

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