Ever noticed newcomers in the gym always seem to be constantly sipping from a water bottle, or folk starting to jog or run will be carrying a drink without fail? Is it a comfort blanket or something really important?
When we exercise, our body temperature rises and we sweat in order to regulate the temperature. Every one knows that. Also, if we are feeling thirsty, the chances are that we are already dehydrated to a degree and performance can then fall away. Dehydration that has symptoms of confusion or dizziness can be very serious. So these are all valid reasons to drink while we exercise, or perhaps even beforehand.
But what about sports drinks and in particular those that make a big deal of being electrolyte drinks? Electrolytes refer to trace minerals in the body and the role they have. These include magnesium, sodium, potassium and one or two others. They all have a particular function in our bodies which have been created and designed in the most amazing way, without question. Potassium is needed for maintaining the right hydration levels in the body in any event but also helps to regulate the metabolism. Magnesium is relevant for the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, metabolism, thyroid function, calcium absorption, reliving cramps and assisting with restful sleep – all very pertinent for any runner.
As a rule of thumb, exercising at a moderate or intensive level, dehydration and the loss of electrolytes will start to be noticeable at the 45 minute mark. I say “rule of thumb” as it depends on the temperature, what you’re wearing, what you’re doing, how fit you are, what you have eaten or had to drink beforehand. It all makes a difference. As I run mostly in the early morning, while it is cold or cool, I never take a drink with me unless I’m running for more than 90 minutes, or it is warm. I make sure I have had a mug of tea shortly before I start.
Apart from keeping your body functioning well while exercising, they do have another very important function. Replacing those lost minerals and rehydrating will help you recover faster. I can vouch for this. I always seem to recover faster and lose that lactic acid burning sensation in my leg muscles if I replace my fluids.