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Electrolytes 101: Everything there is to know about salt, sweat and performance

electrolytes 101

When it comes to athletic performance, electrolytes can be the difference between crossing the finish line as a champ, or with struggling with fatigue, cramping and nausea.

These small but mighty elements—which include sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium—play a pivotal role in muscle function, blood pressure, hydration, and more.

Since our start in 2006, SaltStick has remained committed to pursuing the latest scientific literature as the basis for our products. That means we’re always learning! In this article, we want to share some of the #SaltyFacts we’ve gleaned over the years, to help you improve your own athletic or lifestyle performance.

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Blog: How to decrease your triathlon time by 26 minutes

Summary: A 2015 study in Spain demonstrated that triathletes who relied on SaltStick Caps to replace about 70% of their sodium lost through sweat performed significantly better in a medium-distance triathlon than those who only replaced about 20%.

Key #SaltyFacts:

  • 26 minutes – the difference in medium-distance triathlon finish times between the group that relied on SaltStick Caps and placebo group, who relied on sports drink alone
  • 70% – of sodium replaced during activity is optimal for peak performance

Why it matters: This independent study—which was not funded, sponsored or connected in any way to Toker Engineering, the company that makes SaltStick products—suggested that sports drinks alone might not provide enough electrolytes, especially for long distance triathletes. Maintaining electrolyte balance, especially during the later parts of a race, can yield major dividends when it comes to finishing times.

Learn more: http://saltstick.com/2015/03/30/how-to-decrease-your-triathlon-time-by-26-minutes/

Blog: The performance-enhancing benefits of salt, explained

Bottom Line: This study finds that a tailored hydration plan, based on an athlete’s fluid and sodium loss, has the ability to improve anaerobic power, attention and awareness, and heart rate recovery time. The bottom line: Electrolyte consumption is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Key #SaltyFacts:

  • In this study, athletes with personalized electrolyte intake plans jumped five inches farther, tracked moving objects 0.36m/seconds faster, and recovered heart rates faster than athletes with normal hydration plans
  • Endurance athletes can sweat up to two grams of sodium per hour, while American football players can lose up to six grams of sodium per hour (source here)

Why it matters: Athletes of all levels and sports lose electrolytes at different rates. Finding your ideal electrolyte intake plan can help you perform better and recover faster. (To learn more about calculating sweat rate, click here.)

Learn more: http://saltstick.com/2018/09/03/the-performance-enhancing-benefits-of-salt-explained/

Blog: Why sports drinks may not be enough to stay hydrated

Summary: We lose electrolytes through sweat during activity, and adequately replenishing our lost electrolytes is critical for both performance and health. Sports drinks can have a place in fueling, though additional supplementation is often helpful and necessary.

Key #SaltyFacts:

  • Sweat typically has 1,000 mg sodium/liter, but a typical sports drink only has 440mg/liter
  • Simple math illustrates that if, during the course of training, you ingest nothing but sports drinks (or worse, water), your electrolyte stores will become too low compared to your water stores, a medical condition known as hyponatremia.
  • Hyponatremia becomes increasingly dangerous during longer athletic events

Why it matters: As you approach longer distances and times, you must get more precise in your fueling, and more important to adjust your fueling plans based on your biofeedback.

Learn more: http://saltstick.com/2018/07/31/why-sports-drinks-may-not-be-enough-to-stay-hydrated/

Blog: This is what happens when potassium levels are too low

Summary: Many parts of the body, ranging from the heart to the digestive system, rely on normal potassium levels to conduct nervous signals that prompt muscles to contract. This process is hampered without enough potassium, and a wide variety of negative symptoms can result.

Key #SaltyFacts:

  • Potassium is critical in conducting nervous signals that prompt muscles to contract
  • Hypokalemia (insufficient potassium levels) can lead to cramping, heart arrhythmia, constipation, and high blood pressure
  • High blood pressure can also be caused by insufficient potassium relative to sodium, not just too much sodium

Why it matters: Athletes are especially prone to hypokalemia when they do not replace the potassium lost through sweat. Potassium is often overlooked, so make sure your hydration products contain potassium in addition to sodium, calcium, magnesium and chloride.

Learn more: http://saltstick.com/2018/05/07/potassium-levels-too-low/

Blog: Why is there salt in sweat? (and three other questions you were too afraid to ask.)

Summary: Our bodies heat up during exercise, pushing salt and water (sweat) to the surface of our skin. The water evaporates, leaving salt on our skin. Understanding this can help paint a clearer picture on how our bodies function.

Key #SaltyFacts:

  • Osmosis is the process of equalizing concentrations of an item through semipermeable membrane, such as salt in water
  • Sweat typically has 1,000 mg of sodium per liter

Why it matters: Understanding the components of sweat can give us a better understanding about the importance of replenishing electrolytes during exercise. The more we know about our bodies, the better we are able to troubleshoot when things don’t go as planned.

Learn more: http://saltstick.com/2018/02/05/why-is-there-salt-in-sweat/

Blog: Here are three studies that show why athletes sweat more

Summary: As we become fitter, our bodies get more efficient at producing sweat—and thus, we usually produce more of it. While the cause is still up for debate, it is even more important for athletes to develop hydration strategies as they get in better shape.

Key #SaltyFacts:

  • The sweating process is your body’s attempt to cool itself through evaporation
  • Contrary to popular belief, athletes sweat more as they become fitter, due to increased efficiency in sweat glands
  • Some research shows that athletes sweat more because changes in sweat rate result from heat production and body mass

Why it matters: Some athletes believe they get a pass on hydration because they are fit. However, the opposite is true. Because athletes sweat more, it is even more imperative for them to replenish electrolytes and water during activity.

Learn more: http://saltstick.com/2017/04/20/why-athletes-sweat-more/

We are dedicated to investigating and applying the latest science, and we acknowledge that new studies yield new findings. While there is still much to learn about how electrolytes support athletic performance, one thought is clear: athletes need to replace electrolytes when they sweat, or performance will decline over time. That’s why we specifically formulated SaltStick products to closely resemble the electrolytes lost in sweat.

As we continue to discover more about electrolytes, we pledge to keep researching for all types of athletes, from world-class triathletes or weekend warriors.

Stay Salty,

The Saltstick Crew

#SaltyFacts

  • 26 minutes – the difference in medium-distance triathlon finish times between the group that relied on SaltStick Caps and placebo group, who relied on sports drink alone
  • 70% – of sodium replaced during activity is optimal for peak performance
  • In this study, athletes with personalized electrolyte intake plans jumped five inches farther, tracked moving objects 0.36m/seconds faster, and recovered heart rates faster than athletes with normal hydration plans
  • Endurance athletes can sweat up to two grams of sodium per hour, while American football players can lose up to six grams of sodium per hour (source here)
  • Sweat typically has 1,000 mg sodium/liter, but a typical sports drink only has 440mg/liter
  • Simple math illustrates that if, during the course of training, you ingest nothing but sports drinks (or worse, water), your electrolyte stores will become too low compared to your water stores, a medical condition known as hyponatremia.
  • Hyponatremia becomes increasingly dangerous during longer athletic events
  • Potassium is critical in conducting nervous signals that prompt muscles to contract
  • Hypokalemia (insufficient potassium levels) can lead to cramping, heart arrythmia, constipation, and high blood pressure
  • High blood pressure can also be caused by insufficient potassium relative to sodium, not just too much sodium
  • Osmosis is the process of equalizing concentrations of an item through semipermeable membrane, such as salt in water
  • Sweat typically has 1,000 mg of sodium per liter
  • The sweating process is your body’s attempt to cool itself through evaporation
  • Contrary to popular belief, athletes sweat more as they become fitter, due to increased efficiency in sweat glands
  • Some research shows that athletes sweat more because changes in sweat rate result from heat production and body mass