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How much sodium/salt and electrolytes do I need when training and racing in triathlon, cycling, running?
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Electrolytes: What You Need to Know

It’s no secret that we are in the middle of a heat wave! This means that you may find yourself struggling to hit the numbers that you normally hit, experiencing higher heart rates than usual, and all in all needing more and more fluids just to get through your workout.

Dehydration can drastically impact your ability to perform and you may even see a decline in performance before you hone in on the fact that you have become dehydrated. That’s why it’s important to have a hydration plan both on and off the bike on these hot summer days.

Please notice that above I specifically said ‘fluids’ and not just ‘water.’ The best way to hydrate yourself is by including electrolytes. The main electrolytes in body fluids include sodium, magnesium, and potassium. For the purposes of this article, we will mostly be discussing sodium.

The tricky thing about sodium intake is that our needs vary widely. In fact, the recommendation for sodium during exercise is anywhere from 200 mg to 2000 mg of sodium per 1 liter of sweat loss! That is a huge range! This is one reason why it’s important to get to know yourself and understand your personal needs.

Sweat Rate Monitoring:

One way that you can check your sweat rate is by actually going into a lab and having a test performed. This will be the most accurate way to have your sweat concentration tested. It will also be the most expensive.

Another way that you can test your sweat concentration is through the purchase of a sweat patch online. These are now available to the general public and are relatively very inexpensive.

Finally, the last and least accurate way to understand more about your sweat is through careful trial and error and listening to your body. Begin somewhere in the low to middle end of the range (500 mg per liter of sweat loss) and see how you feel. Then add or subtract sodium from your race nutrition as needed.

Is More Actually More?

One of the common misconceptions about sodium intake while exercising is that you might as well just take in more because “it doesn’t hurt.” This is not true. If you are consuming too much sodium without enough fluids, this can essentially dehydrate you as well. Your body will pull water into the gut to try to dilute that sodium which will leave less fluids in the rest of your body. That is why sodium should be accompanied by fluids so that your body can have a way to transport it. Then the sodium helps your body hang onto and use those fluids more effectively.

Pre-Workout Electrolytes:

It’s really important to me to start drinking electrolytes before I train or race so that I know that I’m not starting at a deficit. When I drink my electrolytes when I’m not training, I like to have a drink that is low in calories and carbohydrates so that I can drink it or sip on it all day long. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Nuun Hydration Tablets
  • GU Hydration Tablets
  • SIS Go Hydro Tablets

During Workout Electrolytes:

During my workouts extra calories and carbs can be a good thing so I look for drink mixes that offer it all and help me get electrolytes, fluids, carbs, and calories all in one:

It’s also valid to note that you can take on sodium through things such as gels as well and that can help athletes who are especially salty sweaters get everything they need. It’s very important though, that if you do choose to take in sodium separate from fluids that you chase that sodium with some form of fluid or water as well.

If you’re interested in trying any of the above electrolyte mixes you can use my code for $15 off.

photo by: CX Hairs

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The Feed. / Friday, July 1, 2022