Electrolyte Replacement Tablets – History and Overview
The science of electrolytes is not as old as you might think. In 1965 a University of Florida coach went to the science department at the university and had them do a study on why their players were being affected by the heat. This assistant coach had noticed that Florida players had a much higher level of heat related illnesses than other teams.
After studying the players for a period of time the researchers found that the player’s fluids and electrolytes that were lost through heat were not being replaced. They also found that the carbohydrates the players bodies used for energy were not being replenished. They concluded that the players were experiencing electrolyte imbalance that was affecting not only their game performance, but also their recovery time and practices leading up to the games.
Armed with this information the researchers took this info into the lab and formulated a drink that would replace electrolytes lost during intense training at high temperatures and restore their electrolyte levels more rapidly than diet alone. From this initial observation and applied science of electrolyte replacement as a way to curb the effects of electrolyte imbalance, Gatorade was born. The following year the Gators went 9-2 and won the Orange Bowl. After 2 years of beating better opponents by outlasting them on the field other college programs took notice and started buying Gatorade for their teams as well. 50 years later there is no denying the impact of electrolyte replacement as a competitive advantage.
The Science of Electrolytes
When salts are dissolved in water, they separate into electrically charged particles called ions. Because these charged particles can conduct an electric current they are known as electrolytes. As an example, table salt, or sodium chloride separates in water to form sodium and chloride ions. These ions transmit the electrical energy required for nerve impulses and muscle contractions. Too few ions in the body can lead to delayed reaction times and slowed muscle movements causing a substantial drop in performance.
Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and others are critical in allowing cells to generate energy, maintain the stability of their walls, and to function in general. They generate electricity, move water and fluids within the body, contract muscles, and are vital for keeping your body chemistry in balance.
In the human body, electrolytes are present in the body fluids; either surrounding the cells of the body (extracellular fluids) or are within the cell walls (intracellular fluids). The six major electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium and phosphorus.
The two main electrolytes are sodium and potassium which are also the main electrolytes lost during long duration, high intensity exercises like running and especially triathlons.