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Electrolytes

Old 08-16-22, 10:58 AM
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qrtzoj
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Electrolytes

I'm creating this thread here because I'm in my late 60s but it could pertain to anyone.

Since buying my Trek DS3 three years ago I've been regularly riding a very nice flat trail in Pennsylvania near where I live (link below). Depending on how many rest stops I make the ride may last 2-3 hours if I ride the entire 28 miles. I always have a full bottle of water and a snack, trail mix usually, and have never had a problem, in all kinds of weather. Two weeks ago however during a day that was in the low 90s and 65% humidity when I got to the last few miles, I felt particularly exhausted and practically collapsed back into my car. I needed to stop at a grocery store for something on the way home that was just a few minutes away where I found myself seeing stars and barely able to remain upright so I sat on the bench inside near the front door for a few minutes and then felt good enough to continue but I kept getting blurry peripheral vision and feeling faint. Since I was getting deli meat I asked for a small container of Amish mac salad (a personal fav) and ate some back in the car and felt better, but that's the first time that has ever happened to me.

I related all this to my wife a few minutes later at home and she immediately shoved a cold bottle of Gatorade in my face and forced me to drink it all. I always thought that Gatorade was for actual athletes, not people like me. Never liked the taste of it anyway.

The point of this little story for you older folks, or anyone else, is as a warning that if you're going to push yourself physically in hot and humid weather, something we've had our share of this year, make sure you stay hydrated and include electrolytes in your water.

https://www.traillink.com/trail/northwest-lancaster-county-river-trail/

Video of one of my rides.


Last edited by qrtzoj; 08-16-22 at 10:59 AM. Reason: minor change
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Old 08-16-22, 11:09 AM
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One bottle of water and trail mix is fine, no electrolytes needed. My guess is that one could go through a couple liters of water in 3 hours and not need any electrolytes. Our bodies are finely tuned to maintain blood electrolyte levels except in exceptional circumstances. For instance drinking 2 gallons of water after a hot ride with no electrolytes could possibly kill you. You got dehydrated! One bottle/hour in ordinary weather is the usual dose, more when it's hot. And when it's hot, and one is drinking a lot of water, some electrolytes are a good idea. On a hot climb, I've gone through 2 liters in 20 miles. My key to hydration levels is that I want to have to pee about every 3 hours. If I'm not peeing in that time frame, I sit and drink and take electrolytes until I do pee. That's maybe a bit excessive, but it's safe.

When I'm riding in the heat, I watch my forearms. They have to stay wet. If I see dry forearms, I know I have maybe another 45' before I'm medical - heat stroke, which can kill you. The only thing that protects us from heat stroke is sweat, lots of it.
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Old 08-16-22, 11:25 AM
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I agree with Carbonfiberboy , most of the symptoms you describe or allude to are just dehydration. Even if you didn't recognize that you were thirsty. Some get hunger and thirst confused.

Don't get me wrong, electrolytes help, but you probably got some, maybe plenty from the things you ate and any liquids that weren't just water.

Also, many seem to approach electrolytes with the idea that if a little is good, then a lot must be better. And that is absolutely false. I have had my stomach knot up from too many electrolytes added to my bottles. And some of the more popular sport drinks have way too many electrolytes.

If one drinks say five bottles of water on a ride in short time, then they might need to ask if they've also had something that might contain electrolytes. Which are usually salts or stuff you see that typically show up with chloride in their scientific name.
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Old 08-16-22, 12:42 PM
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Agree with the above. That sounds like heat and dehydration. Sodium is usually depleted in those situations and salt helps, but it's a secondary issue except in extreme cases. Other electrolytes are irrelevant for anyone with a reasonable diet.

Addendum: ...and not on a diuretic or something.

Last edited by MoAlpha; 08-17-22 at 07:10 AM.
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Old 08-16-22, 03:59 PM
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I don't have enough information to concur with the majority.

For a single ride, yes, certainly. But how often do you do this ride? I've gotten hyponatremic on a 1 to 1.5 hour commute -- not because the ride was so long, or it was so hot, but because I ride it every day. If you (or I) eat a low-salt diet, intentionally or not, and don't replenish the electrolytes, the deficit increases until you notice it.

And for the record, I agree with you about Gatorade.
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Old 08-16-22, 06:42 PM
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Electrolytes

My cure for this problem is drinking 16 ounces of 50% V8 juice/ 50% Orange juice before my ride. It has the proper mix of Sodium and Potassium Salts plus several types of sugars. After this, you can drink up to four bottles of water during your ride, to maintain your hydration.
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Old 08-16-22, 08:25 PM
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I have a routine that is simple, cheap, works and has proven itself to me over most of 50 years (except the 15 or so when it disappeared from all my sources). Vitalyte, formally Hydrolyte, E.R.G and Gookinade. The formulation never changed; just the name. Simply a powder. I add two scoops to each WB. Drink like it's just water. But in very hot weather or I am in tough shape, it goes down and stays down better. It may be the best formulated drink out there. It certainly was 40 years ago.

The story behind it is that Carl Gookin was an Olympic hopeful marathoner planning to qualify for the '68 Mexico Olympics. Qualifier happened on a very hot day. He drank Gatorade, got sick on it and didn't finish. His day job was as a biochemist. He got thinking there must be a better way. So he got to studying electrolyte absorption and how it benefited by or competed with water absorption and acceptance of fuels (sugars). What he came up with goes down my throat anytime, even in large quantities. Has small amounts of glycogen?, glucose? (I'd have to go look). Not a major fuel source but what's there is good. I even drink it when I have a stomach bug and everything comes up. It goes down easier, stays down longer and tastes better when it comes back! (And I probably absorbed a little of those electroytes I just spent the last day or so puking.) On the bike. I often drink a half bottle or more of it in one shot. (Hilly fix gear rides there may be extended miles I do not want to or cannot take my hands off the bars.)

Comes in packages of 40 WBs worth at $20. With no adverse effects at all, for me it is a no-brainer. (Well, you do have to rinse your WBs, esp in warm weather or mold grows inside.) Google Vitalyte. They're a pleasure to do business with. Several flavors. I never get tired of Fruit Punch.

I've had a number of the competing formulations on organized rides. Very few strike me as good and with some, if I hear it is to be offered, I bring bagged Vitalyte and just take their water. (The simple tablets with a name like "Fizzies" strike me as very good and a lot like Vitalyte. No proof here other than drinking it and riding. The popular Heed works for me but I feel I have to pay attention to drinking regularly; that if I go far without, I probably will not be able to get it down and have it stay down. Yes, on-time drinking is very good practice but I want a drink that will bail me out if I screw up. I'll take being hammered after the ride but in line for dinner over the ambulance ride to the local (expensive ER) "lounge".
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Old 08-17-22, 07:22 AM
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Unless you're depleted to begin with, you cannot "load" electrolytes. The kidney is "designed" specifically to prevent that working.
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Old 08-17-22, 10:07 AM
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Hydration is necessary for proper blood circulation. Much of the electrolyte loss is potassium which is why bannas are a prefect bike food.

Humidity reduces the body's ability to maintain its core temperature by perspiration. When I lived in Dallas the humidity greatly reduced my riding as unlike in California where it was my aerobic conditioning or my leg strength and endurance it was my body core getting too hot that was the limitation. I have ridden across Death Valley and it was not nearly as bad as in Dallas on a high humidity day. At an Olympic marathon trial in Dallas a local runner died from heatstroke during the race, so conditioning was not enough.
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Old 08-17-22, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Bendopolo
My cure for this problem is drinking 16 ounces of 50% V8 juice/ 50% Orange juice before my ride. It has the proper mix of Sodium and Potassium Salts plus several types of sugars. After this, you can drink up to four bottles of water during your ride, to maintain your hydration.
My hot weather drink is 12oz V8 diluted with 4oz of water.
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Old 08-17-22, 06:56 PM
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Just regular tap water for me. Never found any benefit from those 'miracle' drinks, and Gatorade/Powerade and similar sports drinks, plus energy drinks make me nauseous at best, or barfing after a good long ride or workout. .
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Old 08-18-22, 09:02 AM
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Electrolytes allow your body to rehydrate much more quickly than pure water. Having said that, natural sources of electrolytes are generally better for you than the commercial concoctions which are often sugary. I like to squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into my water bottle. Excellent source of electrolytes.
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Old 08-18-22, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Mountain Mitch
Electrolytes allow your body to rehydrate much more quickly than pure water. Having said that, natural sources of electrolytes are generally better for you than the commercial concoctions which are often sugary. I like to squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into my water bottle. Excellent source of electrolytes.
You're treating yourself to a trace amount of potassium and a bit of sugar, not much advantage there over plain water.

As stated above, the only electrolyte potentially requiring replacement in healthy people during exercise is sodium. One of the more important sugar transport mechanisms in the gut co-transports sodium on a 1:1 basis with molecules of sugar. Water follows sodium ion passively across the intestinal wall, so water uptake is enhanced when glucose, fructose etc. and sodium are present. Hence, the original idea behind sports drinks and oral rehydration in clinical settings. Sports drinks often contain more sugar than necessary for efficient sodium and water absorption.

Last edited by MoAlpha; 08-18-22 at 11:45 AM.
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Old 08-18-22, 10:51 AM
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Hammer Endurolytes work for me. I even use them walking 18 holes on high humidity days.
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Old 08-19-22, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha
You're treating yourself to a trace amount of potassium and a bit of sugar, not much advantage there over plain water.

As stated above, the only electrolyte potentially requiring replacement in healthy people during exercise is sodium. One of the more important sugar transport mechanisms in the gut co-transports sodium on a 1:1 basis with molecules of sugar. Water follows sodium ion passively across the intestinal wall, so water uptake is enhanced when glucose, fructose etc. and sodium are present. Hence, the original idea behind sports drinks and oral rehydration in clinical settings. Sports drinks often contain more sugar than necessary for efficient sodium and water absorption.
As with so many nutritional issues, youve gotta go with what works for you. The lime/lemon (fructose, not sucrose) does it for me but I know you could enhance the effect with a tiny bit of salt in the water.
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Old 08-19-22, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by jppe
Hammer Endurolytes work for me.
I used to get those, but I just get the store brand ones from the vitamin shoppe now.
I don't know about nutritional value, but I get seriously bad leg cramps on hot days of rolling hills.

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Old 08-19-22, 05:50 PM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott
I used to get those, but I just get the store brand ones from the vitamin shoppe now.
I don't know about nutritional value, but I get seriously bad leg cramps on hot days of rolling hills.

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I know all about those as well. It doesnt help that I take a diuretic for kidney stones. You just need our NC humidity!!!
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Old 08-19-22, 09:31 PM
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I use a camelback. Works for me in this hot Florida heat. And I don’t worry about having enough to hydrate.
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Old 08-19-22, 11:52 PM
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As a former Army medic, I have seen many cases of heat cramps, also known as salt cramps. In the hot-and-sticky South, in the summer we tended to sweat until our uniforms and boots were covered with salt crystals. The military makes sure that the food it serves has an adequate amount of salt to make up for what is lost in training.
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Old 08-21-22, 01:49 AM
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Last summer on one of the 90+ days, I had the same experience as the OP. Rode about 30 miles and got off the bike to take a picture and was so dizzy, I couldnt stand, so immediately sat on a guard rail in the shade. Had half a water bottle left and pounded that down as the dizziness gradually subsided. It was also a humid day but keeping my speed above 18 didnt make it feel so hot. Almost called my wife to come get me since this was my first, and hopefully last, experience but was able to balance on the bike fine and finished. When home I drank a large water bottle of electrolytes and drank pickle juice. Everything was good after that. Drink drink drink

One of many articles that discuss the benefits of electrolyte drinks. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition...-water#illness

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Old 08-22-22, 06:22 PM
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I got myself into big trouble on Saturday. I decided to ride 61 miles on the C&O Canal (3 miles from my home, canal is flat). So far this season, I've ridden just over 1,200 miles, mostly 20-25 mile ride, but only one 40 mile ride. Last year, in August, I did 60 miles with relative ease. On Saturday, I had two 20 oz water bottles with a 50% gatorade mix/water. It wasn't crazy hot like in the past few weeks, but 85 degrees by noon. At the 30 mile mark, I felt fine, and had drank 1.5 of the water bottles. I bought a bottle of water at a spot near the canal, and put in an electrolyte tablet. I was sweating a lot at that point. By 40 miles, I felt fatigued and had drank nearly all of the 1.5 bottles. I stopped at two wells on the canal (they are checked and treated weekly) to fill up and add another electrolyte tablet. Both were dry. So I rode to the 50 mile point, and both legs cramped so severely, I couldn't stand, sit or pedal, it was very painful. To the 50 mile point, I was averaging 15.5 mph. I had never experienced cramps like this. The last 10 miles were brutal, I couldn't coast, or my legs would cramp, but I could only pedal about 10 mph. I felt like a fool. Luckily, near my get-off on the canal (to the three road mile to my house, I encountered a fisherman with a cooler. I asked if I could buy a bottle of water, he graciously gave me one. That got me home, but for the next two hours, the cramps were awful. My quads and hamstrings are still very sore today. I hope never to repeat this problem - was I just not drinking enough?
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Old 08-22-22, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Warbird21
I got myself into big trouble on Saturday. I decided to ride 61 miles on the C&O Canal (3 miles from my home, canal is flat). So far this season, I've ridden just over 1,200 miles, mostly 20-25 mile ride, but only one 40 mile ride. Last year, in August, I did 60 miles with relative ease. On Saturday, I had two 20 oz water bottles with a 50% gatorade mix/water. It wasn't crazy hot like in the past few weeks, but 85 degrees by noon. At the 30 mile mark, I felt fine, and had drank 1.5 of the water bottles. I bought a bottle of water at a spot near the canal, and put in an electrolyte tablet. I was sweating a lot at that point. By 40 miles, I felt fatigued and had drank nearly all of the 1.5 bottles. I stopped at two wells on the canal (they are checked and treated weekly) to fill up and add another electrolyte tablet. Both were dry. So I rode to the 50 mile point, and both legs cramped so severely, I couldn't stand, sit or pedal, it was very painful. To the 50 mile point, I was averaging 15.5 mph. I had never experienced cramps like this. The last 10 miles were brutal, I couldn't coast, or my legs would cramp, but I could only pedal about 10 mph. I felt like a fool. Luckily, near my get-off on the canal (to the three road mile to my house, I encountered a fisherman with a cooler. I asked if I could buy a bottle of water, he graciously gave me one. That got me home, but for the next two hours, the cramps were awful. My quads and hamstrings are still very sore today. I hope never to repeat this problem - was I just not drinking enough?
You sweat water, sodium and potassium and have to replace all three. Water's a no-brainer. Sodium is salt and easy to get. Potassium is in better sport drinks and bananas. A lot of other places as well, but those two can be found in convenience and country stores and for bananas, you don't have to read any labels. In my racing days, the infancy of sport drinks, you could re-trace races by following the banana peels.
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Old 08-22-22, 06:55 PM
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Cramps are a great mystery. While many people experience them as being related to warm weather and sweating, the existing studies of cramping in athletes have uniformly failed to show any relation to fluid or electrolyte deficits. Some aspect of fatigue seems to be a better explanation.
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Old 08-22-22, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney
You sweat water, sodium and potassium and have to replace all three. Water's a no-brainer. Sodium is salt and easy to get. Potassium is in better sport drinks and bananas. A lot of other places as well, but those two can be found in convenience and country stores and for bananas, you don't have to read any labels. In my racing days, the infancy of sport drinks, you could re-trace races by following the banana peels.
You dont have to worry about replacing potassium during exercise.
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Old 08-22-22, 07:48 PM
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I'm sure there's more nutritional science to it all as stated above to ensure the body gets the right nutrients to replenish after a long ride but I have to concur with the OP that Gatorade can do the trick. I have a bad habit of not drinking enough water when riding (lose interest in drinking warm water) and usually OK during the ride but when I get home I start to get that "bonking" feeling and have to get some Gatorade. Usually does the trick and keeps me from really crashing. I know it's not the healthiest recovery drink but it does the trick and has been serving the athletic community for many years.
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