What is the best electrolyte and energy provider?
" Hi Gary and Alofa,
I would like to know how much are the electrolyte fluid cost per bottle?
We are looking for a good energy provider, our current one is quite expensive.
Can you suggest any from experience?"
The person making this inquiry is training for a half iron man, an event that involves several hours of swimming, cycling and running. And he might do an Iron Man if he can afford the entry fee.
When intense physical exercise exceeds about 1.5 hours, there is plenty of evidence that replenishing fluid and energy as you go is beneficial for performance, especially the longer the event continues.
The Super Smoothie for energy and nutrients
In the Auckland to Wellington non-stop running race of 1972, the placings of the runners correlated almost exactly with the amount of energy and fluid consumed each day. The winner, Max Telford, consumed up to 14,000 calories each day whereas the first to drop out of the race consumed the least. Much of this energy intake was by way of a liquid meal such as provided by my Super Smoothie.
The Super Smoothie provides an enormous range of nutrients. The energy content can be varied by the choice of ingredients. You can even add things like Weetbix or porridge if energy replenishment is a priority.
Unless doing really low-intensity exercise, the Super Smoothie is best taken well before and after the exercise and not during, since any food in the belly, other than a simple liquid, may cause tummy upsets. A cyclist, swimmer or paddler may get away with food in the belly but runners are best to have an empty tum, since the jostling, slapping and sloshing of food when running at pace is the guarantee for serious problems like the stitch, the runs and vomiting.
I am not a fan of commercial electrolyte drinks or gels. For what they are, they are over-priced and are nutritionally inadequate. These drinks often contain stimulants like caffeine which a healthy athlete is better off to stay away from.
When talking about "electrolytes" within the body, there are two main ones: sodium and potassium. When talking about minerals which are, among other things, our cellular spark-plugs, there are at least 50 of which sodium and potassium are but two. I just can't see the sense or the wisdom of replacing just a handful when there are so many others, each with its important role in cellular metabolism.
Ancient Sea Salt (Eg: Himalayan, Celtic )
These multimineral salts contain not just sodium, but also as many as 80 other trace minerals, although in tiny quantities. If you are looking to replace minerals that are lost during extended exercise, it makes good sense to go with a multimineral salt and to determine which ones need additional supplementing. This is one of the purposes of the Interclinical Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) - to take the guessing out of what foods to be eating and what to be supplementing with.
There are many different "hair tissue tests" out there, some of which are dodgy indeed, especially ones which may use various hand-held scanners, photographs of the patient or pendulums. The Interclinical version is robust, it has been around for at least 30 years and has been extensively researched. When considering a test, look for supporting peer-reviewed research for the technology being used. Is there also a body of published research that validates the use of this technology in the Clinic?
NZ Fulvic Acid is a golden liquid that is extracted from ancient peat found at the bottom of New Zealand's South Island. Among its many health-giving properties, it contains a wide range of minerals in their most bioavailable form (fulvic acid enhances cell uptake of nutrients. I have this in my smoothies, lemon water and in my sports bottles when out exercising.
Do you need to be replacing electrolyte during exercise?
If you look at my most recent HTMA, I have ample sodium reserves to last me many days of exercise in hot conditions. Those elevated levels of sodium and potassium indicate that I currently have strong adrenal glands and good reserves of electrolyte - and good fluid levels for that matter (water follows salt).
I'll add a dash of NZ Fuvic to my drink bottles but that is the extent of electrolytes during exercise.
Like about 80% of New Zealanders, I do not need to add sodium to my sports drinks, although I do generously add pink salt to all of my food!
I was once hired to be the "training adviser" for a major NZ sporting event. I wrote that water was probably the best thing to the taking during training. I said that one of the main problems with sports drinks is they are too sugary with ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and often phosphoric acid added for taste, so they dissolve the teeth and rot the gums. The main sponsor of the event was a sports drink and gel company but I was not going to compromise my advice for them. So, I was fired.
Make your own sports drink
For both training and competition, I make my own drink. You can do the same, thus having control over the ingredients as well as putting your precious money to best use
With these commercial gels and sports drinks, you are paying for really cheap ingredients like corn syrup and food colourings. Much more has been spent on buying athlete endorsements, slick advertising and packaging than ingredients.
What I make up for myself and the athletes I am working with consists of ingredients like NZ blackcurrant and a dash of NZ Fulvic Acid. I do add several more wonderful performance-assisting and recovery ingredients but these are secret. I'm not going to tell our competitors all of our secrets. What I can say is no ingredients are stimulants such as caffeine.
An enduring athlete is, first and foremost, a very healthy person!
Blackcurrant has many performance-enhancing properties which you can learn about with a simple Google search. It is also a source of vitamin C and there is a small amount of berry sugar. I find this, combined with a dash of fulvic acid, is more than sufficient for fluid and energy during training and racing of up to two hours.
Fluid and energy replacement during exercise
One tip if you can do this, is to have two bottles: one with the concentrated homemade energiser drink and the other with plain water. You can choose what one to have at any time and to use the plain water to dilute the energiser drink as required and to rinse the sugar out of the mouth which is good for oral hygiene.
If going for longer I might add some apple juice for energy that is quickly available. And I might carry some Mars Bars for more sugar. I prefer Mars Bars over other versions such as Snickers or Moro Bars because I find them the easiest to chew and swallow when exercise really hard and not wanting to stop. But only during competition. If more energy is required such as during an all-day training session, I'll include healthier options such as filled bread rolls, dates, nuts and even some licorice.
How much to drink during exercise
Listen to your body!
If a person has trouble locating their pulse or unaware of their breathing what hope is there that they will respond to the first inklings of thirst signals?
I have never subscribed to the formulas that robotically have you drinking this or that much water every 30 minutes of exercise, ignoring completely your body's real needs. There are just far too many variables such as temperature, humidity, wind speed, physical size, the intensity of exercise and degree of acclimatisation, for any formula to have any practical benefit.
Drinking like a robot can lead to water intoxication that is now the leading cause of death during organised events such as mass runs - marathons, fun runs and triathlons.
Read more about "death by water" here (some are a bit dated but still informative):
The reason why some people get seriously dehydrated while exercising is that they fail to listen to their subtle body signals and respond accordingly. Instead of heeding the first faint whispers of impending thirst, no action is taken until after the thirst signals are screaming out for a drink. By then it is leaving things too late.
Listen to your body while sitting here right now and when exercising and after. You can help to determine your hydration needs by weighing yourself before exercise then weigh again immediately after.
One litre of water is one kilogram of weight.
If you have lost a kilogram during the workout then you need to drink about one litre, plus a little more, over the next couple of hours. Relate this loss to your sensation of thirst. If you drank one litre of water during the exercise then your total sweat loss was about two litres. You do not have to replace, as you go, all of the water being lost while exercising, so long as the loss is not so great as to affect performance. Drink enough to keep you performing while not upsetting your tummy then make up the difference later on.
During hot weather, consume more water than you would when doing the same intensity and duration on a cold day. Dilute your Energiser drink accordingly - dilute in warm weather and more syrupy when it is cold, or keep a bottle of plain water on hand for the right response to all conditions.
If you are sweating a lot then add lots of multimineral salt to your food, enjoy a few dashes of NZ Fulvic in your water, but get an Interclinical HTMA completed so that you get rid of most of the guessing and know what else to be supplementing with.
That way, you become an athlete with a long-life battery - sorry life-long - that keeps going and going year after year!