By: Shray Ambe, Chaveli De La Caridad Concepcion, Laila Goharioon, Camira Williams-Liggins, Yiron Wang, and Amanda Freeman
Our blood and body fluid (including our sweat) contains electrolytes, such as minerals and various salts, which are charged particles. The most important electrolytes that we need are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride. If you have ever tasted your sweat, you may have noticed that it is salty. That is because your body is not just losing water when you sweat, it is also loosing electrolytes including ~1000 mg of sodium per liter.
Electrolytes play a key role in regulating the fluid levels within cells, around cells, and in the blood. If the electrolyte concentration outside a cell is much lower than inside the cell, then water will move into the cell in an attempt to balance the concentrations of charged particles inside and outside the cell. If the electrolyte concentration outside a cell is higher than inside the cell, then water will move out of the cell into the surrounding space to lower the surrounding electrolyte concentration. Electrolytes are important regulators of brain cell activity, blood pH levels, and muscle contraction. When body fluids decrease as little as 2%, this affects the transportation of oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles, athletic performance is impaired, and the risk of injury increases.
Athletes are advised to drink 6-12 oz of fluid every 15-20 minutes. Just like dehydration, over-dehydration can have detrimental effects so it is important to rehydrate appropriately. Maintaining a balance in fluid levels, as well as a balance in electrolyte levels, is crucial for optimal athletic performance and recovery.
1. Kovacs, MS. (2008). A review of fluid and hydration in competitive tennis. Int J Sports Physiol Perform 3(4): 413-23.
2. Zoorob, R, Parrish, M-EE, O’Hara, H, & Killiny, M. (2013). Sports nutrition needs before, during, and after exercise. Prim Care Clin Offic Prat 40:475-486.
3. Desbrow, B, Jansen, S, Barrett, A, Leveritt, MD, & Irwin C. (2014). Comparing the rehydration potential of different milk-based drinks to a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 39(12): 1366-72.
4. Rodriguez, NR, DiMarco, NM, & Langley S. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association,
IDietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: nutrition and athletic performance. J Am Diet Assoc 109:509–27.