Fluid and Electrolyte Loss and Replacement During Exercise

Exercise is something that we’re all encouraged to do, no matter our level of fitness. This can range from getting up and walking around the house, to running a marathon, and everything in between. There are certain physiological effects from that exercise, chief of which are fatigue and loss of fluids and electrolytes. The degree to which we experience these effects is influenced by a variety of factors. The chief factors are the intensity and duration of the exercise, but are also affected by one’s fitness level, age, weight, and health issues, and the heat and humidity levels in which the exercise is being done.

These two effects – fatigue and fluid and electrolyte loss – are inextricably related. It doesn’t take a medical education to recognize that when you exercise heavily in hot weather, you perspire more, and along with that perspiration, you will feel more fatigued. The more you sweat, the more tired you feel. The natural instinct when we experience these effects is to drink water. Our bodies let us know we need to do this, by triggering the thirst reflex. When we do drink water, we feel relieved, and are able to continue.

But we don’t just lose water when we sweat – we also lose electrolytes, particularly sodium. If we continue to exercise and just drink lots of water, we will continue to lose these vital electrolytes, and in fact may even wash away more of them, which adversely affects neuromuscular functioning. If we don’t replace these electrolytes, we can even develop a condition called hyponatraemia, in which the sodium levels in our blood become dangerously low. The first symptoms of this will be a general weakness, where we feel like we just can’t continue. In more serious cases, however, this can lead to decreased consciousness, hallucinations or coma, brain herniation, and even death.

In order to prevent this, it is vital when exercising for any prolonged period of time to replace these lost electrolytes. Most commonly, the answer people turn to for this is some form or another of so-called “sports drinks.” The problem with these, however, is that they invariably contain high levels of sugar or artificial sweeteners, and an electrolyte composition that is inadequate or incomplete.

One of the most popular of these drinks is Gatorade® One 20-oz. bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher will provide 270 mg of Sodium, and 75 mg of Potassium. It provides, however, absolutely none of the other key electrolytes – Calcium, Magnesium, and Manganese. More importantly, that same 20 oz. bottle contains a full 34 grams of sugar. As a point of comparison, one Snickers® bar contains just 20 grams of sugar. That means that drinking one bottle of Gatorade is the equivalent of eating one a three quarters Snickers bars!

Not only is this amount of sugar a problem, but to get that 270 mg of Sodium and 75 mg of Potassium, you need to drink the entire 20 oz. bottle. That’s the equivalent of two LARGE glasses of water. If, however, you are exercising strenuously, 270 mg of Sodium and 75 mg of Potassium may be insufficient to keep your electrolyte levels high enough to fuel your exercise properly, and keep you fully hydrated. You’re more likely to run out of electrolytes than you are to be able to drink enough of the sports drink to replace them. Even if you do, you are adding to an already startling level of sugar.

The best way around this is to skip the “sports drinks” entirely, and fuel your workout with a pure electrolyte formula – one that provides the full spectrum of electrolytes, in the right balance. The more you sweat, the more electrolytes you can take. Such a formula should contain no sugar or other sweeteners. That’s where Pure Vitamin Club’s Ultra Salt Electrolyte Complex comes in. Taking one Ultra Salt before exercise, and one more every thirty to sixty minutes during extended exercise (always with plenty of water) will, for most people, provide all the electrolytes you need to keep your body fully hydrated, prevent muscle cramping, and minimize heat stress.