Do You Need to Replace your Electrolytes?

Fluid and Electrolyte Replacement: When is it Needed?


Have you ever wondered why your muscles cramp up after exercise? Why you walk out of a hard workout with your head spinning? Or why you feel extraordinarily tired after a tough class?


Physical function can be drastically affected by dehydration after a workout, resulting in symptoms such as fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea, and dizziness. This is because the body uses water for metabolic processes and sweats out fluid and electrolytes as it maintains body temperature.


If you recall from high school chemistry, electrolytes are minerals that dissolve into electrically charged particles, such as sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. They are needed to maintain fluid balance in cells, move muscles, maintain blood pressure, and support nerve function.


CALCIUM Needed for bone strength and muscle contraction. It is found in dairy products, green vegetables, bony fish (anchovies), and Ionic Sport Water.
MAGNESIUM Needed for muscle contraction and nerve function and should be replaced if >1 hour of sweating occurs. Is it found in nuts, beans, green leafy vegetables, and Ionic Sport Water.
SODIUM Needed for cellular fluid balance and should be replaced if >1 hour of sweating occurs. It is found in table salt (only a small amount is needed).
POTASSIUM Needed for cellular fluid balance and should be replaced if >1 hour of sweating occurs. It is found in bananas, potatoes, avocado, coconut water, dried apricots, and Ionic Sport Water.


For most people who exercise recreationally, a balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and fluids will provide the needed stores of water and electrolytes to replace any lost during activity. However, more intense athletes who have heavy sweat losses will need to be more vigilant about replacing these nutrients. The greatest amount of electrolyte losses occur when sweating for greater than one hour. This is when a convenient electrolyte drink may be of greatest benefit to replace what has been lost through sweat and metabolic functions.


You may notice that some sports drinks contain sugar and sodium, which may be confusing as those are typically said to be “bad” or “once-in-a-while foods.” These are often added to electrolyte drinks to help slow stomach emptying and increase absorption and are highly beneficial for high-intensity and endurance sports. However, for lower intensity exercise or shorter durations, they are not necessarily needed. If you decide on an electrolyte drink without these additions, just make sure to drink it slowly over a period of time to improve fluid absorption.


The drink you choose depends entirely on the workout you finish. See the table below to find the estimated fluid and electrolyte needs for various workout intensities.


Workout Intensity Estimated Replenishment Needs
Light to moderate workout (Less than 1 hour of sweating) Water
Moderately intense workout (greater than 1 hour of sweating) Water plus a snack, such as a banana, orange, or convenience sports drink with simple electrolytes like potassium, calcium, and magnesium
High intensity workout (very long duration, such as marathon, bicycling, etc) Sports drink with 4-6% carbohydrates and electrolytes such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium


The most important nutrient for working out is water. Ensure repletion by keeping track of how much you sweat during moderate to intense workouts. The best way to access fluid losses is to weigh in before and after workouts and consume 16 oz for every pound of body weight lost.
Bottom line: drink fluid to replace sweat losses, add electrolytes when sweating excessively, and listen to your body for its specific nutrient needs.

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