Electrolytes and Performance: What You Need to Know

Learn how electrolytes and performance interplay with each other, and what you can do to make sure yours are up to snuff

Client Question: I suffer from muscle cramps when I work out. It’s so frustrating to be in the middle of a set and have to stop—and then I usually can’t continue that same exercise without the cramp coming back. Help!

Gina's Answer:  Muscle cramps can have so many causes, that it is best to check with your doctor first. Many medications also have a side effect of muscle cramps, and a doctor or pharmacist might be of assistance if you take medications. Sometimes there is a similar one you can switch to that does not have the side effect of muscle cramps. However, there are some simple tips that help a lot of people and I’ll share them with you.

electrolytes and performanceLearn how electrolytes and performance in the gym are interrelated.

1. Dehydration.  We’re all sick of hearing it, but drinking plenty of water is SO important. If you drink coffee or other caffeine containing products, it’s even more important that you consume plenty of water. Take your bodyweight and divide it by 2, and that is how many ounces at a bare minimum of pure water you need each day.

2. Potassium.  Potassium is one of the electrolytes, and electrolytes and performance in gym are closely related. Most of us don’t get enough whole unprocessed foods each day, which naturally contain much more potassium than sodium. The more sodium your diet contains, the more potassium you need. Foods and beverages that contain much more sodium than potassium are helpful to get you back into balance:

  • orange juice
  • bananas
  • potatoes (don’t salt them!)
  • coconut water
  • low sodium v8 or tomato juice
  • any low sodium vegetable juice
  • any fruits, but especially melon
  • Certain "energy" or hydration supplements.

Some people have luck adding a potassium containing salt substitute to their food such as "NuSalt." 

You can also order a powder like this to supplement electrolytes and performance in the gym:

3. Sodium during a workout for some. If you train long and hard and drink a lot of water, and also follow a low sodium diet, there is a chance you are too low on sodium and it will help you to have some sodium during your workout to replenish lost electrolytes. Gatorade has added sodium. A do it yourself method is to add a small salt packet to your beverage when you work out.

4. Magnesium. Depletion of magnesium because of changes in our food supply is very common today, and when yours is low it can cause muscle cramping, trouble sleeping, and constipation. Not all the brands are equally absorbable. My favorite one appears below.

I hope you find these tips on electrolytes and performance in the gym helpful! Please reach out if you have any further questions about it. You can also schedule a Consultation with one of our Certified Nutritionists.

Make sure you have your Doctor's ok before adding these electrolyte containing foods to an already balanced diet. For most accurate information, ask to have the electrolytes in your blood measured during bloodwork.

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