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Electrolytes: Why do they matter?

Electrolytes: Why do they matter?

Did you know that electrolytes play an important role in exercise performance?

Sodium, chloride, and potassium are the most abundant electrolytes in sweat, essential to regulate and maintain fluid balance. In addition, magnesium and calcium are needed for optimal muscle function and play an important role in energy metabolism. Maintaining electrolyte levels is a critical part of exercise nutrition, especially for endurance activities.

We lose our electrolytes through sweat, and how much we sweat and the amount of electrolytes we lose per liter of sweat varies greatly by person. Most athletes lose 1-3 liters of sweat every hour. That is equivalent to losing about 500 - 5,000mg of sodium and 160 - 1,000mg of potassium per hour! While keeping hydrated and replenishing key electrolytes is important during exercise in general, it is particularly important during high-intensity exercises lasting over one hour.

According to the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA), losing as little as 2% of your body weight in sweat during a workout can result in decreased aerobic performance. For a 200-lb. athlete, that is 4 lbs. of sweat lost during a workout.

To maintain optimal fluid and electrolyte levels, water and electrolytes should be consumed before, during, and after exercise. It's important to maintain adequate electrolyte levels to promote peak muscle function so our bodies can perform at their peak.

To learn more, visit SportsRD.org

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