We lose fluids, aka sweat during exercise. Well, my clients do anyway. I’d be really disappointed if they didn’t. We sweat in order to cool ourselves down; a natural process called thermoregulation. Sweat is made up of electrolytes that include water, salt, carbohydrates, proteins and small traces of other important chemicals. These electrolytes may not sound like much but they are amazingly important to our normal physiologic function. Electrolytes help keep our muscles and organs functioning properly. They help us finish that last set of squats and keep us moving forward when we are ass deep in “the suck” during endurance events. As we lose electrolytes during exercise, our body has to work harder to maintain balance. If you’re already exercising hard, adding the stress of thermoregulation zaps way more energy!!
Excessive fluid loss can create hyponatremia, a process that occurs as a result of low sodium levels in blood. Hyponatremia is no joke and it’s unfortunately pretty easy to get to. Symptoms include:
Nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, loss of energy and excessive fatigue, irritability, muscle weakness - spasms or cramps, seizures and coma. Fortunately, our body tells us something is wrong relatively early before hyponatremia sets in with the first red flag being a change in mood and appetite. Next, if the first red flag isn’t attended to, then our brain throws in another cue. “Your brain is particularly sensitive to changes in the sodium level in blood. Therefore, symptoms of brain dysfunction, such as sluggishness (lethargy) and confusion, occur first. If the sodium level in blood falls quickly, symptoms tend to develop rapidly and be more severe.” (Merck). Not only does your mood suck, you hate everything or you’re sad, now you’re confused. You wander off course. You land on your feet totally wrong during your jump squats. You get injured. Or eaten by a bear. Or both!
We need to rehydrate during exercise bouts that last longer than 30 minutes in order to keep moving and avoid symptoms that come with hyponatremia. Rehydrating with water isn’t enough because water alone doesn’t bring our electrolyte balance back up. And, according to science, (and the The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health) “Water absorption in the small intestine is a passive process and is stimulated by the active absorption of glucose and sodium.” We need to take in the right fluids for water to make it back in. The right fluids in the right mixture can be the difference between us having a great training session, hike, bike ride, swim, road run or ultra-marathon or having a really bad day.
So, how much and what do we drink to maintain electrolyte balance? The answer varies from person to person. Science says “The composition of sweat varies considerably not only between individuals, but also with time during exercise and it is further influenced by the state of acclimatization". (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9232555)
Every body and every event is different. Grabbing a gatorade (which, by the way you may as well call “soda” is not a smart way to rehydrate) or Vitamin water (probably a worse choice than soda) will not give you what the marketing tells you it will. And, the powder electrolyte drink you purchase from REI or your favorite sports store helps, but, it’s still off from where you need to be and what you need to drink.
Also, my sweat rate is different than yours. And yours is different than hers. And, mine today could be different in my 50 miler than in my 50k. A certain amount of chemistry is required to really identify what is needed to replace electrolytes and keep on competing. Dehydrated individuals risk performance and hyponatremia. So, if you spend time and money in trying to get better at whatever you are doing whether that’s being a gym goer, a bicyclist, a runner or a roller derby smasher, figure out what your sweat composition is and use an electrolyte drink made for you. Electrolyte replenishing is not a one size fits all.
My solution?! Levelen!
Levelen has absolutely elevated my ultra-running training and racing performance and stabilized my recovery. I completed a sweat test during a mid-range run and was given a break down of my sweat composition and a custom drink mix for me. I have the blend of powder that I need and they gave me recommendations on the quantity of the powder I need during my training. Instead of just (1) scoop for 16 ounces (as is the case for most powders who try to give a universal dose), I use ¾ scoop for 16 ounces on days that are of average temperature. I use more when it’s hotter and less when I drink after training (as part of recovery). No GI problems. My recovery problems have been eradicated. I have a more predictable running performance. And, Levelen is a great source of usable calories while I’m running. Usable calories and recovery are each a BIG deal. Usable means my body is taking everything in and using it (not just taking it in and dumping it out). Think about how important that is when you need to hit a caloric goal every hour. No crashes and no bonks. Hopefully you get the picture. If you’re serious about your training, get your sweat tested and get an electrolyte solution that will absolutely be your best friend!
Get your sweat tested and your first container of Levelen for 25% off!!
For you runners, get the sweat test, (1) container of Levelen mix and the Quick Start 3 Month Remote Run Coaching program for $269!