What Are Electrolytes and Why Do Athletes Need to Worry About These?

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Nutrition Blog

You’ve heard people at gym telling you about the need to replace your lost electrolytes, usually by sipping on a sports drink after vigorous exercise. What exactly are electrolytes, how do we lose them, and why is it so important to replace lost electrolytes? This blog article answers these questions. In addition, it also reveals an opportunity for those wanting to learn more about nutrition in general:

What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are substances that conduct electricity when dissolved in water. These are vital for the normal functioning of the human body and maintain a small electrical current within on which many automatic bodily processes rely.

Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium and bicarbonate. When you hear the word ‘electrolyte’ your mind probably goes straight to a bottle of Energade or Powerade. Not a fan of sports drinks? Fruits and vegetables are also great sources of electrolytes!

Electrolytes in the Human Body

Muscles and neurons are often called “electric tissue” as they rely on the movement of electrolytes through the fluid inside, outside, and between bodily cells. These are the seven electrolytes found in the human body:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Bicarbonate
  • Magnesium
  • Chloride
  • Phosphate

How Are Electrolytes Lost & Gained?

Electrolyte levels often change in relation to the body’s water levels, among other factors. The most common electrolyte deficiency occurs after a bout of strenuous exercise, when we sweat out sodium and potassium. A rapid loss of fluids, like with diarrhoea or vomiting, will also affect the electrolyte levels. On the flip side, too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. Magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium are great electrolytes to have, but can be harmful when too prevalent in the body.

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Why Do We Need to Worry About Electrolytes?

Did you know that a muscle needs calcium, sodium and potassium to contract efficiently? An imbalance could cause muscle weakness or excessive contraction. Our heart, muscles and nerve cells all rely on properly balanced electrolytes to function correctly. These are the most common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Constant fatigue
  • Nervous system complications
  • Convulsions
  • Numbness
  • Twitching
  • Irregular blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Weakness
  • Bone disorders

Any one of the above symptoms are cause for concern for athletes. Because of this reason all who participate in exercise, whether recreationally or professionally, should maintain healthy electrolyte levels. Replace lost electrolytes as soon as possible. Most importantly, be sure to consult your doctor should any of the above symptoms arise.

Learn All About Electrolytes with a Sports Nutrition Course

Want to learn more about how food interacts with the human body? Discover the amazing world of nutrition, and how nutrition affects sports performance, with our UK-accredited Trifocus Fitness Academy Sports Nutrition Diploma! Course modules include:

  • What are physiological functions in health and disease?
  • Uncover how systems in the body are structured and function.
  • Learn how the body’s physiology responds to exercise.
  • Discover how energy is balanced in the body and how your appetite is regulated.
  • Food and diet in sports nutrition practice
  • Discover what affects how we make food choices.
  • What nutrients make up food?
  • Learn how sports nutraceuticals should be used safely.
  • Assessment and planning for sports nutrition practice
  • Uncover the best way of teaching good nutrition practices to your athlete.
  • Design your own integrated nutritional and fitness assessment tools.
  • Know what the recommended nutritional intake for an athlete
  • Sports nutritional management
  • Learn how to tailor-make meal plans for your athlete.
  • Uncover how to give nutritional advice to your athlete.
  • Select the correct sports nutraceuticals.
  • Gain an advanced understanding of sports nutrition in terms of:
  • The Glycaemic Index
  • Nutrition for Children
  • Nutrition for Special Populations

Got questions? Contact us to find out more…

Trifocus fitness academy nutrition course registration