What are electrolytes? They are electrically charged particles that help the body function normally. They include sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Calcium and magnesium help muscles contract and relax. Sodium and potassium help water stay in the right balance inside and outside of cells. Sodium is the electrolyte lost in the highest concentration when you perspire. If your electrolytes are out of balance, side effects can include fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle cramps, confusion, and intestinal distress.
If you are unable to drink sports drink, then make sure you are getting your electrolytes from other sources. The day before your long run it helps to eat salty foods such as pretzels, pickles, V8 juice, or canned soup. During hot weather marathons, I frequently carry those small salt packets from fast-food restaurants, and will eat the salt at an aid station where there is water to drink afterward. To replace potassium, make sure your diet includes oranges, bananas, raisins, potatoes, or dairy products (which also contain calcium). Magnesium can be found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, peanut butter, and dried beans and lentils.
One of the quickest ways to replace fluids and electrolytes, and to get both protein and carbohydrates into your system immediately following a run, is to drink chocolate milk. For anyone who can’t or doesn’t drink milk, there are commercially prepared recovery drinks available at all local running stores.
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