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Eletrolytes and Athletes

In this article, I'm going to shamelessly promote the products that I sell. However, bear with me. I'm selling these products because they work for me and because all my training buddies have been hounding me to make sports drinks for them. Our goal is not to make loads of cash, but to help athletes like myself meet their athletic goals. I'm a long time road bike racer, triathlete and runner. I've been racing for over 20 years and I'm finally figuring out what works and what doesn't. I'm make sports drinks for athletes because it's fun and I get a sense of accomplishment helping athletes reach their potential.

This article is centered around the notion of electrolytes, sports nutrition, the wonders of eating a balanced diet and whether supplementation is necessary. There are two basic sides to this argument, which go something like this.

Side #1: Athlete's need supplements
Side #2: Supplements are a waste of money. You can get all the nutrition that you need from a healthy, balanced diet.

I have to agree in principle with the second argument. I theory, a well balanced diet should supply you with all your nutritional needs. However, in theory I should also be rich, successful, and beautiful women should come from far and wide to try to seduce me.

My basic point is this. Yes, in theory, my diet should suffice. In theory I should eat lots of organic fruits and vegetables, till my own land, and drink wheat grass juice on a regular basis, make up with the sun and perform meditation and yoga for hours each day. I don't. My diet is pretty good, but it's tough to get the RDA for all the minerals. To make matters a little more challenging, it appears that the nutritional requirements for athletes are a little harder to meet than that of the average couch potato, and the consequences are a little more dire if you fail at this task.

As a simple testimonial, I'll describe two ways that my diet has fallen short.

The first shortcoming of my diet is really basic. I don't eat meat. I exercise alot - probably too much. I lose large amounts of Iron in my sweat and used to hyperventilate during most races. It was really frustrating until I was able to diagnose my condition and take Iron supplements.

Now the question is this. Can I get the required amount of Iron from my foods? My answer is an unequivical "yes." Do I eat enough Iron rich foods? The answer is "no". I have a healthy diet, and I probably could tweak it to get the extra Iron I need. However, after several years of being anemic every now and then, it's just easier to take Iron pills.

For the last few years, my legs have hurt alot. I'm one of those guys who trains too hard, regularily going for 180km (110 mile) bike rides and 30km trail runs. I found that I was experiencing severe delayed onset muscular pain. Basically, my summer consisted of riding really hard in the morning, feeling completely exhausted for the rest of the day, and not being able to sleep because my legs hurt so bad. In the mornings, I would seriously consider staying in bed all morning because I would be so sore.

At this point I should mention that most people are deficient in magnesium and a few other subtile minerals that also happen to get lost during your sweat. I also have the unscientifically supported belief that some of these minerals are used in endurance exercise. Perhaps alkalane minerals such as phosphates are required to nutralize the H+ ions that are released during aerobic exercise and maintain the proper PH balance too.

What I know is this. My legs were always really sore and I had trouble recovering. This slow recovery limited the amount of training I could do. I added electrolytes to my sports drinks and my legs stopped being so sore. I was really happy and I could train harder and most importantly, recover more from training workouts and actually get stronger from training. I'm finally able to bump up my training to over 30hrs/week and I should be able to go sub nine hours in my next Ironman.

So my writing reduces to this. None of the supplements are a silver bullet solution that is going to make a couch potato an olympic athlete. However, lousey nutrition will screw up whatever hopes you have of winning a local race. It will screw with you recovery and you won't get faster, just sore. If you're experiencing sore legs after hard workouts, try a sports drink that has protein, and electrolytes in concentrations similar to that of sweat.

Also, read up about the muscle inflamation and the acidic by-products of exercise. Don't use supplements with the idea that they are a magic pill. Use them with the idea that exercise is really hard for your body, and you need to give it the tools that it needs so that it can heal itself. The key things that wreak your training for long bouts of exercise are: ingestion of insufficient calories while training
lack of electrolytes
no massage/stretching/sticking your legs in cold water to encourage blood flow and elliminate lactate acid
muscle inflammation
increase in acidity in muslces

It's stupidly simple, but then most things are. You can get custom made sports drinks at www.custom-sports-drinks.com for a pretty good price. You can send me an email at sportsdrinks@custom-sports-drinks.com. Personally, I was low in Iron, Magnesium and Calcium. Adding these nutritents to my sports drinks made a night and day difference to my recovery rate.


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