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the science of electrolytes

What is Electrolyte Imbalance?

5-19-2015

Electrolytes for Marathon RunnerImagine your body as an engine. Electrolytes are a lot like the motor oil. They do not make your engine run, but your engine cannot run without them. Without proper electrolyte balance your body starts to revolt against what you are doing. Muscle cramps, fatigue and lightheadedness is your bodies way of saying stop or slow down and that is exactly what electrolyte imbalance does to you.

Competitive athletes cannot afford to have this happen to them during an event which illustrates the importance of electrolyte replacement to maintain the balance of fluids and electrolytes in your body. Individuals who are active in sports or do moderate to heavy work, especially in hot climates may find themselves suffering from electrolyte imbalance due to excessive fluid loss. Fatigue, muscle weakness and cramps are often a result of this imbalance.

Sports Drinks as an Electrolyte Replacement Solution

The main goals of sports drinks in general are to prevent dehydration, replace electrolytes lost in sweat and to provide carbohydrates for extra energy during intense exercise routines.  To make them more attractive to young users the majority of sports drink manufacturers add artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors which when consumed in large quantities can have adverse effects on your health and body. This includes higher risks of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, acne, depression, yeast infection and cancer.

Electrolytes Tablets for TrackIn a recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care examined more than 310,000 patients and found that those who drank 1 to 2 servings of the sweet stuff a day were 26% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who drank it once a month or not at all.  Endurance athletes typically don’t consume too much sugar, and in fact it is an ergonomic – meaning it improves performance in events longer than 2 hours.  However some individuals who do endurance events do have weight issues and may want to avoid added sugar because they want to lose weight.

Additionally, high fructose corn syrup is considered a major health concern.  While consumption of carbohydrate in sports beverages has been shown to improve performance, current intakes of high fructose corn syrup are of particular concern.  The digestion, absorption, and metabolism of fructose differ from those of glucose. The metabolism of fructose favors production of fat in the liver, and is believed to be responsible for the large increases in fatty liver disease.   In addition, unlike glucose, fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion or enhance leptin production. Because insulin and leptin act as key signals in the regulation of food intake and body weight, high fructose corn syrup is contributing to increased energy intake and weight gain. These concerns have led to endurance athletes looking for a better long term solution.

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