Electrolytes are minerals with a particular property; they carry an electric charge when they dissolve in their ionic forms. In humans, the most abundant electrolytes are sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium. All of them participate in a great variety of biological processes, of which the most important are the transmission of the nervous impulse, the arterial pressure, the regulation of the pH and the muscular contraction. These functions are critical for life in general, but they are particularly important for athletes.
During exercise, especially on hard workouts at hot places, large amounts of electrolytes are lost through sweat. In consequence, electrolyte lost depends on the rate of sweat and vary widely among all individuals.
During the recovery phase after training, it is important to replenish electrolytes to avoid some of the consequences of acute loss and impaired athletic performance. During a slight loss, athletes might experience muscle weakness, cramps, fatigue and confusion. On the other hand, athletes with a severe loss are at higher risk of paralysis or death.
The electrolytic requirements vary between individuals. However, the recommendations are 3,300 mg of sodium per day and 2,300 mg of potassium because they are lost at a higher rate.
The sources of electrolytes are very diverse. In general, the sodium and chloride requirements are completely covered because common salt (sodium chlorides) is used for cooking. Other sources include fruits, vegetables and electrolyte supplements. The latter comprises a diverse group of drinks, composed of carbohydrates and a mixture of balanced electrolytes.
The replacement of electrolytes can be done through the use of Electrolyte Hydration Powders, and Energy Drinks. The electrolyte requirement during recovery phase depends on gender, training time and sweat rate, so it must be handled with care.
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