Electrolytes are charged ions that conduct electricity in our bodies. When training for a marathon, you need electrolytes to maintain a stable fluid balance, to contract your muscles, and to keep your nervous system functioning in a healthy way. Many electrolytes are lost when we sweat, so it's important to replace your lost electrolytes when you run. It's also important to replenish your electrolytes in meals following your workouts as your muscles recover.
The Importance of Electrolytes During Marathon Training
Replacing your electrolytes is an important part of any marathon training program, so that you can run your best and recover from workouts as fast as possible. If you don't replace the electrolytes you lose to sweat, your run could suffer from muscle cramps and fatigue. Sodium is important, as it helps your body retain fluids and convert carbs to energy. Sodium and magnesium deficiencies can cause muscle cramps, and potassium deficiencies make your muscles weaker and can cause muscle shaking.
How Much You Need
The amount of electrolytes you need to replace depends on how much you've lost, and different runners sweat different amounts depending on location, environment type and their own body types. According to the American Council on Exercise, the daily recommended intake of electrolytes include 1500 mg of sodium, 2300 mg of chloride, 4700 mg of potassium, 1000 mg of calcium, and 320 mg of magnesium for women and 420 mg of magnesium for men. If you sweat a lot during your runs, you probably need more than the recommended intake on the days you run.
Replenishing Electrolytes While Running
There are several types of products on the market for electrolyte replacement during runs, such as sports drinks, sports gels or "goo," and electrolyte gummies. Some sports drinks have a lot of simple sugars in them, which is not recommended for endurance workouts because they only give you a temporary energy boost followed by an energy slump. According to the American Council on Exercise, if your training session is longer than one hour, your body will need a drink or other product that contains both electrolytes and carbs during your run. If your run is longer than two hours, choose a product with high amounts of electrolytes or bring extras.
Incorporating Electrolytes Into Meals
Many soups are high in sodium and chloride, which are important electrolytes to replace after you've done a lot of sweating. For potassium, reach for bananas, avocados, and cooked sweet potatoes, beans, spinach and other green leafy vegetables. Whole grains, nuts and nut butters are good sources of magnesium, while calcium is found in dairy products and dark leafy greens.
Lindsay Haskell enjoys writing about fitness, health, culture and fashion. She is a contributor for "Let's Talk Magazine" and "The Wellesley News." Haskell is completing her B.A. in philosophy at Wellesley College. She's also a fiction writer whose work can be read online.