Electrolytes – Dude, You need some (remix)

cat cramps

It’s time for a re-edit of this often used remedy.   I just walked off the set of our local HOT TV show “COASTAL LIVING” where today we dove into electrolytes.  Here’s what you need to know.

Let me start out with the straight dope…YOU need more than water.    Water is good, especially here in South Texas.  Equally importantly though, is getting that water into your cells and into your system.  For that you need specific Vitamins and Minerals that are depleted with everyday life and work and are depleted at an accelerated rate with manual labor, athletics and HEAT!

You’ve all heard it before – “You sweat more than water, so put back in more than water!”

 

That advice is sound.

a Little more info:

I also use electrolytes as a therapeutic treatment..(as in a “fix:)  when a patient has multiple complaints that just seem unrelated –  “Hey Doc my leg, toe, knee, elbow and back all hurt.”

Although charlie horses and cramps are often the first real noticeable symptom, there are tons of more subtle areas you may begin to suspect a deficiency in your ratios of water to electrolytes.

Maybe your last couple workouts have tanked, the run was much harder than last time, the heat is affecting you more or you just feel “off.”

This stinks, and this inconvenience is keeping you from your goals!

 

Professionally, as a sports based chiropractor, I’m typically thought of as being the muscle and joint guy.    But guys there’s a lot more to it.   I try to think, “what else..”

In any body condition there are 5 main components – there’s the obvious, joint, muscle, nerve stuff but there is almost always a nutritional component.   For any issue…Nutrition is key.     It’s real.   Most things in life have at least 3 of the 5 components happening at the same time.  It’s no biggie, it’s not like you’re falling apart – there are just a few things happening simultaneously.   You can easily have a nutritional component as well as muscle and joint stuff.  It’s not either/or –  it’s all the above.   So we often use electrolytes as part of our treatment protocols and rehab.   ELECTROLYTES is the nutritional component for a host of issues.  It’s a simple fix.

OK –  I’ve beat this to death – how about I kick a little science?

Basically speaking – electrolytes are the vitamins and minerals that tell the muscles how much to contract or relax – they help control the proper tension, so a depletion in one or multiple electrolytes cause weird symptoms. Usually muscle spasms, Charlie horses or weaknesses in athletes but it can also manifest in a lot of different ways.

Electrolytes are neurotransmitters, a huge 50 cent word that means it connections from your brain to your body.  Basically, they run the information highway system of the body.

I almost always get these 5 common reactions when I bring this topic up to clients…

but doc….

“I drink a ton of water!”

Dehydration is always thought of as too little water but should more accurately be thought of as the ratio between water and electrolytes. Too much water with no electrolyte replenishing can mess you up …the ratio is off.   You sweat more than water, you need to put back in more than water.  The most common electrolyte combo lost during exercise is sodium and chloride (salt). That’s why your sweat is salty.  This is why the majority of products designed to replace electrolytes are high in salt.  great idea in the 1960’s when Gatorade was invented.   – The problem in the US is that we get plenty of salt and I personally feel electrolyte replenishers for most US athletes should be lower in salt.

 “I take a magnesium pill or eat a banana”

That’s not wrong…I just don’t see it working for most people.   My personal observation is that replenisher drinks do better when all the electrolytes are put back into the system at one time – think of it as topping off the levels.   One mineral by itself (think “eat a banana” for low potassium) seems not to work as well or works slower than all at once, such as potassium with the host of all the others.   I’ve been suggesting these for years and I have seen much better results when taking them all at once:

  • Sodium –  Chloride  (together form typical table salt)
  • Magnesium –  Potassium and Calcium are the macro essential electrolytes
  • Selenium  –  Zinc and Phosphorus the micro essential ones

Again, my professional opinion: every athlete should do a replenisher round of electrolytes (daily dose) for 2 weeks to a month at least a few times a year.

Athletes need more.  Personally, I use them pretty much every week day and supplement higher levels with sporting events.

“I drink Gatorade, Powerade, Pedialyte etc.”

I’m not knocking these brands.  I like them.  When I’m actively doing sports and am sweating with more sweating to go.  When I need a quick sugar blast because my body is actively needing quick burning carbs to keep moving.

But as a therapeutic dosage, it’s not the product you want.  We’re talking about replenishing a deficiency here.   There’s better.

The other factor to watch is that some of the main ingredients (magnesium and potassium) are NOT stable for very long in water – that’s why a good full spectrum replenisher used as a therapeutic dose and supplement should be in powder form and not on the, shelf premixed and in the cooler in the convenience store.

I have looked at hundreds of combos of electrolytes and have formed my own opinion on a favorite brands.  There are a lot of good ones.

My rules:  It contains all the electrolytes, is low in salt and is in a powder or pill (not pre-mixed.) Taste is an important factor for each individual.  You can make your own electrolyte replenisher easily at home and cheaply (YouTube) if you’re crafty but a word of warning.  Most internet recipes are only salt and water.  You know now, you need more.

All the MMA fighters I know swear by pedialyte.   They’ll come in my clinic cramping and sore and tell me they just sucked back 7 pedialyte Popsicles.    My answer is typically, “Here’s the stuff made for grown boys.. You’re a big boy now, have a big boy treat.”

 

“I just use pickle juice and mustard.” 

Seriously?   while doing sports?

My wife’s tennis team has unofficially adopted this product.

Look, I’m always about doing what works for you so if you’re playing out of your mind or just set a 6 min mile after pickle juice…well then you do you.  BUT…

dude…Gross.   I dont want to be burping up pickle juice and mustard in the middle of a workout.  YUK.  Even if it was the best product (it’s not) It would actually negatively affect my performance but chewing up a 5 minute barf break halfway through.  No thanks.

In all seriousness – pickle juice is actually used in the electrolyte studies and overall, it will work in a pinch.   It’s easily accessible,  and pretty complete – although it is really high in salt and once again, tastes like pickles and mustard.

 

Hopefully this makes a lot of sense. 

You can have your electrolytes tested with blood work but usually you will have symptoms and weird complaints while at a subclinical level, meaning you won’t find anything on blood work.    A container of this stuff costs much less than the blood test in any rate so I usually just tell people to try it and see if it helps.  You should feel and notice a difference in just a few days.

There are a lot of us out there that need electrolytes and your typical athlete; even on supplements is usually not getting enough of these key elements in their diet.

Find a brand or two that works for you, change it up every few months so it’s different sources and different levels of ingredients and improve your body!

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