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Electrolytes for Marathon Runners
Marathon running is no easy task. It takes on average around three to five hours of intense exercise. During the 42km journey your body is likely to go through serious challenges. If you do not pay attention to the levels of electrolytes in your body, you can risk drastically limiting your race performance.
We have put together a brief guide to electrolytes for runners to explain why they are vital for your peak performance if you’re running a marathon.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are particles which have been electrically charged. They are created by mineral salt which has been dissolved in water and then broken up.
The purpose of electrolytes is to regulate the water balance between your body cells. They are extremely important to maintain your body’s hydration and the balance of your acid base.
If my electrolyte levels are low, what happens?
If you’re in a race and your runner’s electrolytes start to lower, then sadly it is not good news. Long term endurance events, including marathons, involve a lot of sweating, which is your body’s main mechanism for cooling down. Once you’re sweating buckets it means that your body is trying to prevent the rising of your core temperature.
When we sweat, we begin to lose water as well as electrolytes. While they do not contain energy, they are an essential way of conducting electrical impulses through to your body’s muscles and nerves. Of course, it is crucial that your muscles are working effectively for you to succeed as a marathon runner. So, if there is a shortage of electrolytes in your body your brain signals may not transmit effectively through to your muscles, which results in weakness and slower reflexes.
There are other side effects of lower runners’ electrolytes including mental fog, impaired judgement and a heightened sense of fatigue. None of which are ideal for marathon running!
How do I maintain my electrolyte levels during a marathon?
It is of course crucial to drink lots of water during your race so that you replace any water you lose through sweating. It is equally as important to ensure that you replaced your lost electrolytes. On-the-go, the most effective way to do this is through drinks or gels which have been especially formulated to enhance your fluid absorption and encourage your thirst. Being thirsty is important, because if you are feeling that you need something to quench your thirst then you will be more likely to ensure that you are rehydrating yourself.