Importance of Hydration and Electrolytes for Optimal Exercise Performance

by Caroline Adams June 29, 2023 3 min read

Importance of Hydration and Electrolytes for Optimal Exercise Performance

The Importance of Hydration and Electrolytes for Optimal Exercise Performance

Whether you're a casual jogger or a seasoned marathoner, understanding the significance of proper hydration and electrolyte balance cannot be overstated. As runners, we are well aware of the physical and mental demands our favorite activity places on our bodies and I have learned, in not so great ways, that hydration and electrolyte replenishment are key to performance and overall health!

In this week's blog post, we will explore  the crucial role hydration and electrolytes play in exercise and I hope to offer valuable insights into how you can optimize your performance and overall well-being as we get out in the heat this summer

  1. The Science Behind Hydration and Electrolytes: Oooooh - the sciency stuff!! 

Water is the essence of life, and maintaining proper hydration is key to our body's optimal functioning. During exercise, we lose water through sweat, which, if not replenished, can lead to dehydration. Electrolytes, on the other hand, are minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium that help regulate nerve and muscle function, maintain fluid balance, and aid in various physiological processes. Did you know that during exercise we can lose 300-1000 mg of sodium per hour - Hmmm, it might be important to replenish!! 

  1. The Impacts of Dehydration: Ever had that “I need water” feeling? You are already dehydrated!!! Now imagine starting your run/exercise routine already dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can have a significant impact on your performance. It leads to decreased blood volume, which means your heart has to work harder to pump oxygenated blood to your muscles. This can result in reduced endurance, increased fatigue, decreased cognitive function, muscle cramps, and an elevated risk of heat-related illnesses. GI issues and muscle cramps are definitely amongst the most common symptoms and I am sure you have experienced it more than once. 
  2. Hydration Guidelines for Runners: To maintain optimal hydration levels and ensure your run is all you hope for when you lace those shoes, it's crucial to establish a hydration routine before, during, and after your runs. Here are some guidelines to consider:
  • Pre-run: Drink approximately 16-20 ounces of water two hours before your run to ensure adequate hydration. Adjust the amount based on factors like weather conditions and personal sweat rates.
  • During your run: I’m not so good at this one because I don’t want to carry extra items for anything less than 1 hour run BUT the benefits are worth it. Consume fluids regularly to replace what you lose through sweat. Aim for 4-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes. If you're running for longer durations, consider sports drinks or electrolyte-enhanced beverages to replenish lost minerals.
  • Post-run: Water is NOT ENOUGH! Rehydrate within 30 minutes of finishing your run by drinking fluids containing both water AND electrolytes. Aim for 16-24 ounces of fluid for each pound of body weight lost during exercise.
  1. Electrolytes and Their Role: Electrolytes are essential for maintaining fluid balance, nerve function, and muscle contractions. Intense or prolonged exercise can lead to electrolyte imbalances, resulting in muscle cramps, fatigue, and even potentially dangerous conditions like hyponatremia or heatstroke. Including foods rich in electrolytes such as bananas, oranges, avocados, and coconut water in your diet can help replenish these vital minerals.
  2. Sports Drinks vs. Water: While water is an excellent choice for hydration during shorter runs or low-intensity exercises, sports drinks offer a combination of electrolytes and carbohydrates, making them beneficial for more extended and intense workouts. Sports drinks help replenish lost electrolytes and provide a source of energy. However, be mindful of their sugar content and choose low-sugar or homemade alternatives highlighted next.
  3. Foods rich in ELECTROLYTES: Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge and are essential for various bodily functions, including maintaining fluid balance, supporting nerve and muscle function, and regulating pH levels. Here are some electrolyte-rich foods:
  • Bananas
  • Coconut water
  • Spinach
  • Avocados
  • Oranges
  • Yogurt
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Broccoli
  • Watermelon

TIP: Based on the food items above an electrolyte smoothie would be an AMAZING post run treat!! 

Conclusion:As runners, prioritizing hydration and electrolyte balance is key for sustaining our performance, preventing fatigue, and ensuring overall well-being. Incorporating proper hydration practices, being mindful of electrolyte intake, and adjusting your hydration strategy based on weather conditions and individual needs will go a long way to ensure you perform well. Remember, staying hydrated isn't just about quenching your thirst—it's about keeping your body in top form and reaching your running goals with confidence. 

Share your favorite electrolyte-rich recipe or tell us how you stay hydrated! We'd love to hear your tips and experiences. Join the conversation in the comments below and let's energize our electrolyte knowledge together!

Cheers to staying hydrated and running strong!

Caroline Adams
Caroline Adams