Do you need to supplement with electrolytes when you exercise?
Well, that depends.
In general, if you will be exercising heavily, say, doing a long Metcon like Murph, challenging yourself with a group HIIT workout, or running for over an hour, or if you are exercising in hot, humid conditions, you should probably be taking in electrolytes during activity. But for your standard gym workout, or for easy runs in ideal conditions that are less than an hour, you should be fine with just water. But you can also take in extra electrolytes in anticipation of long, sweaty runs or workouts as a preventive measure to avoid hyponatremia.
(If you want to geek out about the science of electrolytes and exercise, check out Good to Go by Christie Aschwanden. I was compelled to buy her book after listening to an interview with her on NPR. She also discusses other aspects of recovery and the latest science behind everything from using anti-inflammatories to ice baths vs. Epsom salt baths after workouts. Good stuff. And check out this article as well.)
Everyone by now has heard the story of the football coach for the University of Florida worked with a doctor to create Gatorade, the first electrolyte replacement. That was in 1965. Once their team started using this new drink, their incidences of heat stroke and hospitalizations greatly decreased. Electrolyte replacements have evolved so much since then!
When you lose electrolytes through sweating, drinking water will help prevent dehydration, but will not do anything to help prevent hyponatremia, leading to confusion, nausea, cramping, and sometimes swelling. Another symptom that you may be drinking too much water is if you have a sloshing sensation in your stomach.
As I trained for my first marathons, I tried various electrolyte replacements. So many I tried had so much sugar that they didn’t settle well on my stomach. I actually got into a bit of trouble during the Chicago marathon in 2015, which was super hot and humid, because the electrolyte replacement on the course did not agree with me. Not to mention that most have artificial colors and flavors. And did you know that athletes have higher incidences of tooth decay as compared to non-exercisers? Sounds so unfair when we do so much to take care of our bodies! But this is largely attributed to all the sugary drinks and snacks we consume while doing all that work!
When I found Nuun, it was a game changer for me. They have great flavors, no artificial colors, flavors, or sugars, are vegan friendly, and are very portable. There is only 1G of sugar per serving as compared to up to 34 grams of sugar in other commercially available electrolyte replacement drinks. Nuun has also added a few other formulations, like my favorite Immunity to help boost your body’s defenses, Vitamins to provide not just electrolytes but also 11 essential nutrients, and Rest to help you sleep at night. They also have a new Endurance formula for activities lasting more than 90 minutes. There’s a reason why I’ve been an ambassador for Nuun since 2017! If you’re struggling with fatigue, cramping, and generally feeling “off” during your workouts, give Nuun a try.
*Today, January 15, 2020, Amazon is running a Deal of the Day with 40% off of Nuun products!*