IF YOUR workout didn’t leave you exhausted, choosing which electrolyte powder or tablet to use—or even knowing if you need one at all—can. They're not just a marketing gimmick right now. If you sweat a lot during an intense workout that lasts longer than 60 minutes, a drink with electrolytes is probably smart, says endurance coach Kim Schwabenbauer, DHSc, R.D., C.S.S.D., founder of Fuel Your Passion. And new formulations are coming out that contain very little sugar, so you can get your calories and nutrients from other sources. Here's what to know about electrolytes now.
What should you look for in electrolyte drinks?
Sodium. It’s a limiting factor in performance as exercise goes on. It also helps you retain fluid, and it keeps your thirst mechanism working properly.
How much sodium do you need?
You generally want a product to provide 300 to 400mg of sodium in 13 to 27 ounces of water, says MH advisor Brian St. Pierre.
Another way to know your sweat rate requires a bit more effort, but here's what to do: Weigh yourself before and after a workout. Subtract your “after” weight from your “before” weight. Add in the number of ounces of fluids you drank (no peeing during the test). If you lost weight during the workout, this calculation will help you figure out how much more you need to be drinking to keep it stable. Plan to drink about 16 ounces of fluid per pound of bodyweight lost.
What about other electrolytes?
They’re nice but not required. Potassium balances sodium and helps with muscle contraction. Magnesium and calcium are fine, but you don’t need to obsess over amounts.
Check out other ways to work out smarter in the heat.
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