It's harped on over and over you should take electrolytes if you're an athlete. I even did a video on what electrolytes do for you as an athlete, but do you actually know when to take those electrolytes? Well, I'm Jesse Funk and on today's episode of runners I, we're going to talk about when to take those electrolytes as well as a very helpful tip from my friend, Dr. Todd Buckingham.
I know that you know that you're supposed to be taking electrolytes but what if I told you that that message has actually been over-exaggerated? Recently, in my second chat with Dr. Todd Buckingham on the Smart Athlete Podcast, we were talking about an experimental running where he was studying various athletes in Kona getting ready to race the Ironman World Championship.
Now, he was doing this test to figure out what their loss of sodium was per hour or per liter of liquid. It’s an inactive test. If you want to know more about this and my whole conversation with Todd, subscribe to the channel, hit that button right there, that bottom right hand corner, then go check that out, Smart Athlete Podcast Episode 29.
What Todd mentioned in particular, is it's very important for long distance athletes to take electrolytes. But if you're working out for less than an hour, it may not be important for you to take electrolytes at all. This is something that's perpetuated by I’ll say unnamed sports drink companies that have a vested interest in this. But it's important to note the difference and this is actually something that comes up all the time on the Smart Athlete Podcast when I talked to Registered Dietitians, the need to have electrolytes is really not so much of a need as a company advertise thing.
Now again, if you're going long, long distance longer than an hour then electrolyte replacement is very impressive. But if you're going shorter than an hour, often, you will naturally gravitate towards foods with those salts, electrolytes are salt, salt in them. And you'll get all the electrolytes you need through the food that you eat after you get done working out. So, if you work out for less than an hour, then you can pretty much just stop this video and head on your way or go check out that episode with me talking to Todd on the Smart Athlete Podcast, you're pretty much done here, you don't really need any more information.
However, if you are working out for more than an hour, or you're working out in very hot conditions, or you're dressed in layers for cold weather or the last condition, if you sweat a lot like me, then stick with me, and I'm going to give you my personal recommendation that I do to make sure I'm getting enough electrolytes in when I'm racing or I'm running, whatever it is I'm doing that requires me to take that fluid in. For that last condition if you don't know how much you sweat, as I said before, subscribe to the channel. I actually did a video on calculating your sweat rate. And that's important because one of the tips that Todd mentioned in my conversation with him is that the average person loses about 1,000 milligrams of sodium per liter of sweat.
Now because I sweat a lot under normal conditions, I sweat even more in hot conditions. I’m losing about a liter and a half per hour, which means I'm losing 1,500 milligrams of sodium, which is a lot, it's a lot to replace. And again, as Todd mentioned in our talk, conventional sports drinks don't have that much in them, maybe 300 milligrams for a bottle. So, you're going to have to take in a considerable amount of liquid to get the kind of sodium you need. You typically have to use something besides those traditional sports drinks, something with a higher sodium electrolyte content to replace those things.
Once you lose those electrolytes, you run the potential of muscle cramps, GI distress, and really just decreased performance because your muscles can't perform at maximum capacity. One of the people that Todd helped in Kona, just before the Ironman World Championship, actually wrote a comment and let me know on the podcast, he wrote a comment below. And he said that because Todd did this testing, it helped him know that he wasn't taking in nearly enough electrolytes that for the first time ever racing an Ironman distance, he was able to go without any GI distress at all, which is awesome.
So, when you actually take those electrolytes in, I like to do what I refer to as the Sip method. And this kind of falls into the same ideology. As when I suggest Rate of Perceived Exertion is something that you should learn. It has a lot to do with listening to your body and knowing how to adjust on the fly because you can make a plan and decide I'm going to drink this much fluid at this time and it has to be this way. But there's actually an increasing case of people getting ?? 04:58>. Which is overhydration because they stick to a plan.
You can also under hydrate if it's hotter or worse conditions, and you only stick to that plan. So, the ability to adjust on the fly is very, very important, and to learn how to do that is also important. So, using this Sip method that I use when I'm racing or when I'm out riding, this is a great way to figure out exactly how much you should be taking it and when.
The Sip method is as follows. I wish this was a nice acronym, but it's not it really has to do with sipping. So, basically, you're going to take your bottle, assuming you're bringing bottles with you on your run, if you're not, you're gonna have to figure out a small loop course and you're going to take a sip every five minutes. This has to be something that you're familiar with, a sports drink you already know. If it's a new flavor, a new taste, then the results are a little invalid because there's more variables than you're used to be able to kind of perceive how this tastes.
So, when you take a sip that five-minute mark you're not taking in a lot of liquids so you're not gonna really risk that overhydration, but you kind of see how does it taste. If it tastes neutral like it does all the time. You can probably drink a little bit and you're fine if it tastes very very good then you probably need to get a fair amount of liquid in at that time. Don't chug your entire bottle but take a good amount in. If it doesn't taste good at all or is sickening, then you're going to wait 10 minutes before you sip again.
In those first two cases when it tastes neutral or it tastes good, sip again in five minutes, same check. Does it taste good? Does it taste neutral? Does it taste bad? This helps you adjust on the fly. So, when it tastes bad or too sickening, and you know something's not right, you skip that time interval. Often it's because you are taking too much and you're taking too much electrolytes in or too much liquid in, one of the two and your body saying okay, no more. This isn't right.
But when it tastes especially good, that's when your body is saying “Hey I need that.” We have to remember that all these sensors that we have, taste, touch, sight, all of the rest; these are sensory inputs that we have to tell us about our own body, our own internal things from the things that we are interacting with. That's why listening to your body is important because it's already built-in with a lot of the tools you need to race at optimal efficiency.
This last tip is from Todd in that chat I had with him, Episode 29 on the Smart Athlete Podcast. And this is especially important for if you're somebody like me who sweats a lot. Remember, I'm losing at least 1,500 milligrams of sodium per hour. And that means that I need to take a lot in. It especially affects me on hot days. I wilt in a triathlon on a hot day and I usually am not able to run as effectively as I can at the end because I've lost so much liquid and electrolytes.
So, Todd's suggestion for me and this is actually really neat and very almost common sense, but not quite, is that you can actually preload with electrolytes before a race. If you know you're going into a hot race or if you're like me, and you sweat a lot and you lose a lot of electrolytes, you can preload much like you might carb load the day before.
So, in my case, Todd’s suggestion was I lose about 1,500 per hour. I could preload that 1,500 the night before. And that's going to help me with water retention on the date of an event to make sure that I'm going to operate near or at optimal efficiency. So, that's it for this episode. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.