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As an avid runner, you know that what you eat and drink has a huge impact on your performance. When you drink your pre-run shake or carb load for days leading up to a big race, you’re equipping your joints, muscles, tendons, lungs and brain with the fuel they need to help you go the extra mile — quite literally.
For runners, electrolytes are among the most important nutrients that support this goal. That’s why we often see ultramarathon runners consuming electrolyte pills or snacking on gels before, or even during, a big race. In this guide, we’ll cover exactly why these powerful little micronutrients are so critical to runners and other athletes.
What Are Electrolytes?
To put it simply, electrolytes — sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium and others — are minerals our bodies use to regulate their core functions and help maintain hydration. For runners, electrolytes are particularly important because they impact muscle function, hydration and energy levels, which in turn impacts running performance.
Unfortunately, we lose electrolytes through sweat when working out, so runners are extra-susceptible to electrolyte imbalance. That’s why many runners opt to compensate with an electrolyte powder or pill before a run.
Try Our Electrolyte Pills Before Your Next Run
Here are a few more reasons why runners love their electrolyte supplements.
- They Boost Hydration Levels — If you’ve ever crossed the finish line of a big race, you know that it takes a lot of H2O to get you there. Excessive sweating coupled with heat of the sun can cause you to come out on the other side ready to down a gallon or two. Electrolytes are critical to hydration throughout the body. They deliver to and maintain fluid within the cells, including those in your muscles and organs, which helps them thrive when they’re put to the test.
- They Decrease Muscle Tension and Cramping — Research shows that an electrolyte imbalance can contribute to muscle weakness and cramping. If your goal is to speed up muscle recovery or shorten time between runs, you may want to consider drinking a glass of lemonade with electrolytes before each session. This will help prevent muscle cramping and spasms so you aren’t slowed down during a run and so that you can get back to training tomorrow.
- They Support Muscle Contraction — In addition to their ability to aid in muscle recovery, electrolytes also play a role in muscle function. Calcium and magnesium in particular help muscles relax and help regulate their ability to contract. This isn’t just the case for your quads, glutes and hamstrings, either. It’s also critical to another muscle in the body — the heart. In fact, when your magnesium levels are low, you may experience a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
- They Ward Off Fatigue — One big consequence of electrolyte imbalance is fatigue. If your body isn’t getting enough electrolytes throughout the day, you’re much more likely to feel zapped of energy. On top of that, an electrolyte deficiency may make you feel confused or less mentally sharp when you’re trying to concentrate. As we all know, elite runners use a combination of physical and mental prowess to smash their goals, so this is a huge benefit.
- They Help You Feel Your Best — In addition to warding off fatigue and muscle weakness, these hard-working nutrients can help prevent ailments that make you feel less than stellar throughout the day. For example, not getting enough electrolytes can lead to dehydration which contributes to headaches and may even trigger migraines in some people. Without enough electrolytes, you may experience nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy and irritability.
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Whether you’re an endurance-focused long distance runner or a record-shattering sprinter, it’s important to support your body with electrolytes. Doing so will help prevent you from getting tired before you reach the finish line or stopping short of your goal during training. The good news is that Key Nutrients has a huge variety of premium electrolyte supplements in powder and pill form to help you get your daily dose in a way that makes sense for you.