Dehydration is a major hindrance to successful training. People have different ways of maintaining a balanced electrolyte level in their system, but nothing is further from the truth. Bodybuilding, especially demands a regular supply of electrolytes such as sodium to help one overcome cramping as well as calculate their hydration needs. It is important to note that the big drinks you like taking may not be giving you what you need in terms of electrolytes. Some athletes freak out when they notice extreme cases of dehydration such as salt crystalizing around their eyes, but it could also mean you have enough supply of electrolytes. The rule of the thumb here is for you to know how to balance between remaining hydrated and having the required electrolytes. In this article, we shall be discussing the importance of electrolytes to a bodybuilding newbie.
What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are elements and compounds that your body needs for various functions such as digestion, cardiovascular, muscular, and nervous functions. These chemicals come in form of ions and include:
- Sodium (Na+);
- Potassium (K+);
- Chloride (Cl-);
- Phosphate (PO4 2-);
- Magnesium (Mg 2+);
- Sulphate (SO4 2-);
- Bicarbonate (HCO3);
These minerals are not only taken after training but they should also be taken before and during training. Preloading helps maintain a chemical balance during exercises, thus ensuring your body doesn’t stretch beyond the limit. The reason these minerals need water is that they can only break down into small ions in the presence of water. It is only then that the body can assimilate them to help in various body functions. Most importantly, electrolytes put a check on bodily fluids to ensure a needed balance. Most electrolytes are found in blood and cells, thus enabling distribution to every part of the body.
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Functions of Electrolytes
As mentioned earlier, electrolytes create a working balance in the body. However, different electrolytes perform specific functions in the body as indicated below.
- Sodium – it helps keep blood pressure at the normal level, improve muscular functioning, and promote nerve activities.
- Chloride – ensures proper functioning of the nervous system.
- Calcium – helps in muscle contractions.
- Magnesium – promotes proper functioning of cells.
- Potassium – helps maintain a balance between salinity and acidity in the body.
- Phosphate – regulates the body’s pH and energy.
Although everyone is required to include electrolytes in the diet always, their uptake should increase when training. That is because exercises tend to shift the body’s chemical balance significantly. Most importantly, electrolytes help perform vital body functions such as muscle contraction when exercising. As a beginner in bodybuilding, electrolytes will ensure your body doesn’t shut down after you begin training. You need proper muscular contraction, especially the heart muscles, to do the heavy lifting.
Electrolytes Before Training
A newbie’s body needs boosting before any kind of exercise. You need a little electrolyte boost as much as you need to hydrate before hitting the gym. At this stage, the body’s chemical balance is normal, but that is soon to change as you begin lifting. However, what many people don’t know is that the boost comes some minutes or hours after taking the electrolyte and water.
You’re advised to take electrolytes alongside some water an hour or so before exercising. The time difference is essential because you need to give the body enough time to digest and assimilate the minerals. Apart from the minerals, your heart also needs water pre-training to ensure a smooth pumping of blood to the core and extremities. Remember most of the work will be done by your limbs, so, you need to pump energy and vital minerals to those regions.
Electrolytes before training, otherwise known as preloading, also gives you the stamina to keep going even when fatigue comes knocking. Most importantly, these chemicals help regulate the body temperature hence you can keep training even when the temperature increases.
Preloading electrolytes are available in nutrition shops near you. Established nutrition outlets have found a way of balancing individual ions to give you an all-around supplement. You will come across products such as Bindilyte that will provide you with the electrolytes necessary for preloading.
Electrolytes During Training
As you might have noticed, fatigue sets in when the body exhausts its reserves of electrolytes and water. Therefore, one needs to replenish them to avoid muscle cramps and other effects that come with fatigue. However, during short training sessions, bodybuilders tend to get dehydrated rather than running out of electrolytes. Take small amounts of water at regular intervals as you train to avoid getting dehydrated. Electrolytes, on the other hand, should be taken between individual exercises; that should be at intervals of one or two hours.
New bodybuilders should take electrolytes in small quantities during training so as not to overwhelm the body. For instance, you should take smaller amounts of the electrolyte at intervals of one hour rather than taking a huge amount in the beginning only. Electrolytes supply the body with energy thus helping you build endurance.
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Electrolytes After Training
Now that you’re done with training, it is time to return your body to its original state. After a workout, your body will have exhausted or greatly reduced most minerals and water. You need to take post-workout hydration and electrolyte products to overcome fatigue after training most importantly, your muscles need to contract and relax smoothly after the exercise. That is not to mention that you need to replenish the energy you’ve used while lifting or by doing any other form of exercise. Sweating and heavy breathing come with excessive loss of water and minerals. If these substances are not replaced immediately, no amount of eating or rest can make you feel better.
Nutritional shops have stocked electrolyte products that will help you restore your body’s chemical balance. For instance, bulk powders and sachets are rich in vital minerals for this purpose. Most importantly, several sugar-free electrolyte mixes don’t alter your blood sugar. Also, minerals help your mind maintain clarity after an intensive workout. The most important post-workout minerals include magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium.
Dangers of Lacking Electrolytes in the Body
You now know that electrolytes play an important role in daily body functions. But, what happens if you don’t take electrolytes as required? Well, a lack of electrolytes in the body can cause more damage than you can imagine. Electrolyte deficiency has both short-term and long-term effects that will affect your life and bodybuilding career negatively.
Short-term effects include:
- Muscle crumps q
- Fatigue s
Long-term effects include:
- Kidney failure
- Unstable heart rhythm
- Unstable blood sugar level
Frequently Asked Questions
The topic of electrolytes and bodybuilding is relatively new and many newbies may not have all the information. These are the questions being asked about electrolytes in various bodybuilding forums. We shall try as much as we can to give accurate answers to help you with your bodybuilding career.
How often should I take electrolytes during training?
The body does not lose electrolytes as fast as it loses water. Therefore, electrolyte intake during training should be at longer intervals, say after an hour or two. Remember that taking too many electrolytes causes faster dehydration, thus making you drink more fluids that are not good for your training.
Who needs electrolytes most between men and women?
Males tend to sweat more and that means their rate of replenishing is more than females. However, there is not much difference in electrolyte needs so it is fair to say both men and women should take it at the same interval. Similarly, guys with smaller bodies should not treat themselves differently when taking them. Take as much and as frequently as the big guys because the effect is the same.
Is there a calculating method in taking electrolytes?
There is no one method that has been agreed upon but here is what can guide you. For every pound of body weight lost, take between 15 and 25 ounces of fluid containing vital electrolytes.
Which drinks are best for electrolyte replenishing?
Several drinks are infused with the electrolytes you need for your bodybuilding. While most of the foods are manufactured, there are natural ones with a balanced composition of the required minerals. A good example is a fresh milk. While looking for the right drink, try to avoid drinks with a lot of sugar and calories. Additionally, the best drinks are those 4-9% carbohydrates per 8 ounces. The drinks should also have between 120mg and 170mg of sodium. The bottom line is to have all the vital minerals in the same drink in balanced proportions.
Salt, being a major source of minerals is vital for your training as an upcoming bodybuilder. Electrolytes are the reason you don’t burn out or feel awful during training. Many newbies make the mistake of taking too much water and overlooking electrolytes when working out. Without electrolytes, your muscles might not contract properly and you may also experience fatigue as your energy drains out. Always ensure to carry a bottle of your favorite drink with electrolytes as you head to the gym. Take a sip at intervals of one hour and you will be surprised at how much you can do with that bottle seated by your side.