What You Need To Know About Electrolytes!

What You Need To Know About Electrolytes!

Electrolytes are an important part of our diets, but if you think that drinking some Coconut water or eating a banana helps cure or prevent cramping, then you need to think again. Here is what you need to know about electrolytes…

There are 4 main electrolytes we will focus on:

  1. Sodium (Na+),
  2. Potassium (K+),
  3. Calcium (Ca++), and
  4. Magnesium (Mg++).

Each electrolyte has a distinct function but they work in unison to create optimal cell performance. If our electrolytes get too far out of balance they can counteract each other and hinder performance.

It is important to keep adequate amounts of electrolytes in the diet, but it is more important to keep them in balance.

Electrolytes are charged particles within the body that maintain proper cell function. One common mistake is that those who regularly exercise believe that they need to constantly replenish their electrolytes due to the loss in sweat.

It is true that these electrolytes are lost through sweat, among other things, but we should keep in mind that our body is smart. Our body wants to hold onto these valuable nutrients as long as it can. With this in mind, our body attempts to retain the electrolytes which are low in the system and releases the ones which are in excess.

Sodium (Na+) is always present in sweat while the other electrolytes are in much lesser amounts. Due to this, water is the only necessary nutrient that needs to be replenished if exercise lasts less than one hour.

Don’t go around thinking that you need a calorie filled sports drink or Coconut Water just because you did some light activity for 30 minutes.

For events lasting longer than one hour, some electrolytes need to be restored. Just avoid overindulging on added sugars while replenishing your electrolytes, unless needed due to your daily energy expenditure. Remember, you don’t need it unless you have been continuously sweating for at least 60 minutes, not including breaks.

Electrolyte Breakdown:

Sodium (Na+)

Sodium (Na+) is an electrolyte that commonly works with potassium (K+).

Its main functions are to:

  • maintain our body’s fluid balance,
  • send nerve impulses and
  • allow for muscle contraction.

These functions are actually what stop cramping! Sodium (Na+) helps our cells to maintain hydration, but, more importantly, it prevents cramping through sending signals to our muscle to turn on and off. When we do not have enough Sodium (Na+), then our muscles cramp as our body turns a muscle on and saves Sodium (Na+) by not sending the signal to turn it off. This creates cramping.

While these are important functions, too much Sodium (Na+) causes high blood pressure, filtering systems dysfunction and potassium (K+) deficiency.

Sodium (Na+) works with potassium (K+) but has the opposite effect. If one gets too high in balance, it will prevent the other nutrient from performing its job.

Sodium (Na+) is a hard nutrient to avoid, being found in salt along with most everything processed. For those that exercise regularly, this is not commonly a concern due to sweat rates and the amount used for muscle contraction. However, those that are sedentary, or who have known heart problems, should avoid excess sodium (Na+) intake due to the increased stress it places on your heart.

Though it should not be banned entirely, sedentary individuals should avoid large amounts by limiting the number of processed foods consumed. Generally, anything edible within a package has some amount of salt, so be smart about your consumption.

Overall, to improve overall performance and health, a greater concern should be placed upon the intake of potassium (K+) relative to sodium (Na+).

Potassium (K+)

Potassium (K+) works with Sodium (Na+) in our cells to maintain an equal charge balance.

Other functions include:

  • maintaining osmotic pressure within the cell,
  • blood pressure regulation and
  • it is necessary for muscle strength and contraction.

Due to the large amounts of sodium (Na+) commonly consumed, and the lack of a proper diet, potassium (K+) is commonly overrun.

To keep your muscles in an optimal state of performance, try to get a good amount of potassium (K+) through your regular diet. Good food sources are avocados, tomatoes, coconut water, dark green vegetables and, of course, bananas.

If you have a low Sodium (Na+) Diet due to health-related issues, then avoid having an excess of Potassium (K+) which will actually cause more issues by throwing off your  Sodium-Potassium Electrolyte balance.

Also, avoid an excessive amount of sugars that generally come along with potassium sources unless intense exercise proceeds.

Calcium (Ca++)

Calcium (Ca++) is one of the most important nutrients and electrolytes in the body; especially for active individuals.

Calcium’s (Ca++) main function is initiating muscle contraction. Without calcium (Ca++), our muscles cannot contract.

Though this is important for our skeletal muscles, it is most important for our heart or cardiac muscles.

Without calcium (Ca++) in the blood being brought to our cardiac muscle cells, they will no longer be able to contract and our heart will stop. This is not very common due to our large calcium (Ca++) stores we call bones but can happen with too much exercise within a short period.

Our body would much rather break down our bone tissue so our heart can work rather than let our heart stop beating even once.

Remember, our bodies are smart. The only thing our bodies care about is survival. With this backup system in place, we do not have to worry much about our heart-stopping. However, if we want to keep our bones strong and increase our muscle contraction ability to become stronger, then we need a good amount of Calcium (Ca++) in our diet.

Good sources include dairy products, dark green vegetables, and bony fish.

Note: Calcium (Ca++) intake is most important for women, especially during puberty. This is because women’s ability to absorb Calcium (Ca++) greatly slows post-puberty and nearly stops around age 30. Therefore, women have to consume an entire lifetime worth of Calcium (Ca++) before the age of 30.

*Be careful not to over-consume large amounts all at once.

Magnesium (Mg++)

Magnesium (Mg++) is an electrolyte that is commonly overlooked.

Its common functions are:

  • as a structural component in our muscle cells,
  • to help lower blood pressure and
  • prevent heart arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats.

Also, Magnesium (Mg++) levels help to control the functions of Calcium (Ca++) in the body. If Magnesium (Mg++) is too low, then our Calcium (Ca++) metabolism will not be optimized.

To maintain a healthy heart and be able to gain new muscle cells keep an adequate amount of Magnesium (Mg++) in your diet. Just don’t take Magnesium (Mg++) and Calcium (Ca++) supplements together, as they compete for absorption within the body.

Some good sources are green vegetables, potatoes, nuts, and seeds.

The Bottom Line

Electrolytes are vital for our health but do not believe the new fad drinks that have you loading up on one nutrient without considering the effects it has on the rest of your body.

Know your nutrients, and know your body. Get what you need and not too much of one electrolyte versus another. 

Now go salt your bananas, and have some nuts in your milk!


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Coffee for Strength and Performance!

How Much Caffeine Is Right For You?

Caffeine is an effective tool used to increase performance during intense exercise, and it can even make you stronger!

 

We all love coffee, don’t we?

Coffee is great, but it has been given a bad reputation by those that do not understand its uses and effects. Let me help out with that…

Caffeine is mainly known to be a heart stimulating drug commonly found in supplements, coffee, soda, and many energy drinks.

Caffeine is a great stimulator, both for the brain and the body. It increases our focus, improves blood flow, and can even make us stronger!

The thing is, it needs to used properly to get these great effects and not overused to where the effects fade until they are nearly useless.

 

Coffee for Everyone:

It is almost a daily ritual for many people to wake up and then almost immediately consume a cup of coffee to get their day started.

Though this may be common, this is NOT a good practice because it prevents our body’s natural waking systems from functioning properly.

To prevent this negative effect, and improve the effects of caffeine use, allow for at least an hour for your body to naturally awaken before consuming caffeine. This will allow enough time for your body to go through its natural hormone release to prepare your body for the day ahead.

If you are guilty of this daily ritual, like most people, don’t worry, I can help correct it for you!

Simply start by having your morning coffee 10 minutes later than usual on the first day, 20 minutes later on the second, and so on until you have reached an hour or more before you have caffeine upon waking.

If this is too fast for you, you can add 5 minutes per day instead, or increase the time every other day.

You shouldn’t feel any negative symptoms by doing it this way, but if you do, just know that they will go away after a week or so and you will start feeling better than ever soon enough!

It would be more beneficial for you to try drinking 1 Liter (32oz) of water within your first hour upon waking to improve your metabolism and start your day off right!

For those of you that enjoy having coffee throughout the day, make sure that you take time to read the effects of caffeine below and what the safe daily limit is for regular use.

 

Coffee for the Athlete:

The goal of caffeine being present in an athlete’s diet should be to increase performance. If it is being overused than it will become almost useless as a performance enhancing tool.

So to gain the greatest results from the use of caffeine limit intake to only when it is beneficial, such as just before strength training or a strength-related competition.

By limiting your caffeine intake to only before strength related events, you will greatly increase its effects leading to an overall improved performance.

You will not only feel stronger, you will be stronger!

So don’t ruin the effects by taking too much too often. Use it as an extra tool in your arsenal for when you need to hit a new PR or just improve your performance!

 

The effects of caffeine include:

  • Decreased sodium (Na+) re-absorption in the kidneys leading to increased urine output,
  • Increased heart rate which temporarily raises blood pressure,
  • Opens up fat cells for the release of stored fats,
  • Increased pain tolerance,
  • Improved blood flow,
  • Hunger suppression,
  • Increased focus and awareness.

The effects of caffeine last about 5-7 hours so keep at least this much time between consumptions and before you go to bed.

 

How much Coffee is Best for me?

Taking 1.3-2.7 mg per pound of body weight (3-6 mg/kg of caffeine) per day is believed to be safe for athletes and has the most optimal effect on exercise performance.

However, for most individuals who enjoy using coffee to “wake-up” throughout the day, a safe and effective caffeine limit is to consume no more than 200mg of caffeine (12oz coffee) at one time and no more often than 1-2 times per day.

This is a good amount that will stimulate your system and will likely not cause any overload or negative effects.

For easy reference, a 12oz. cup of coffee has about 200mg of caffeine.

Overall, the less often you use caffeine, the more effective it will be when you need it!

The same principle applies to any supplement you may want to take. You want to get the most out of supplements by taking the least. If you only need a small dose of something or can do without, to get the desired effect, then take only what you need.

Always talk to a qualified physician and someone who has actually taken the supplement you are planning to try before consuming.

 

Coffee Pro Tip: Different roasts of coffee have different caffeine levels and acidity. Light roast has the most caffeine, with about 100mg per 6oz, and the least acidity while deep or dark roast coffee has the least amount of caffeine, at about 100mg per 8oz, and the highest acidity.

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How much Sleep do you actually need to reach your Goals?

How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?

The more you do, the more you need to sleep!

Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is vital for both your strength and health!

Sleep is the most important and valuable recovery tool for our mind and body. Without proper sleep, our bodies cannot function optimally, or even at a normal rate.

Studies have shown that losing even one hour of sleep from your normal sleep schedule, greatly decreases your mental and physical performance, and taking an extra hour of sleep the next day will not bring you back to normal function.

This means that you cannot catch up on sleep!

Sleep is important and must be maintained regularly during your daily schedule for optimal benefits. If you are constantly changing the amount of sleep you get or time of day that you sleep it will interfere with your Arcadian rhythm, or natural time clock.

Your Arcadian Rhythm:

Our body does not know or care what the clock says, or if it is daylight savings time. Before clocks, our body still had a natural rhythm that was based on light.

Studies have shown that when it becomes dark at night and then light in the morning, our bodies go through chemical changes that say it is either time for rest or to wake up.

As the sun sets our bodies begin to slow down functions and want to be in a restful state to recover from the day’s activities. Then as the sun comes up it begins to activate systems, such as releasing insulin to put glucose into cells for energy, in order to get ready for daily activities.

For most people, it is recommended that you sleep for at least 7 hours a night, but this is only a minimum that does not provide the most recovery.

Everyone has a different amount of sleep that is required for their body, but there is a general amount of time that provides optimal recovery for most active individuals.

For most optimal recovery, be in a restful state as the sun goes down and sleep from at least 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. each day.

This is best for your Arcadian Rhythm, which means that as the natural light from outside dims down, so should your activities for the day, and the light you use around you. This will help to start the recovery process and get your body prepared for sleep so that you are not up all night staring at the ceiling. Also, to avoid interfering with your Arcadian rhythm, which is regulated by light, avoid being around a lot of light at night such as T.V. or computer lights.

How much Sleep do you actually need?

Sleeping with the sun is best for our recovery, but not always adaptable to our life’s activities. Again, we go back to the minimum requirement of getting at least 7 hours of sleep each day, with closer to 8 or 9 hours being better for those that are active.

However, as we know, we are all different and our bodies all recover at different rates.

If you want to know how much sleep you require, then simply go to sleep at a normal time (9-10 p.m.) after a standard day for you, and see when you wake up using no alarm. If you get less than 6 hours of sleep before waking up naturally, then go back to sleep to see if you can add on some hours.

Then count the hours you were asleep, making sure that you feel rested, and this is your normal sleep requirement. All you have to do now is account for your additional requirements after activity.

The more activity you do, and the more stress you place on yourself, the more sleep you need to recover from it.

  • If you exercise for at least one hour per day, then try to add 30 minutes to 1 hour of extra sleep to your normal schedule.
  • If you train intensely or are trying to build muscle, then you should add at least 1 hour of sleep for every hour of intense training that you do.

This will ensure the most amount of recovery to help decrease stress, build muscle, and make you stronger!

Now GO TO SLEEP!!!


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How To Improve Your Metabolism!

How To Improve Your Metabolism!

Improving your metabolism comes down to being able to manage your Metabolic Rate at a healthy level. You should be able to consume enough nutrients for your body’s dietary needs while allowing for optimal performance and recovery with your daily activities.

Your Basal Metabolic Rate is the amount of energy or calories, your body uses just to survive throughout the day by maintaining its current state. The greater this number is the more calories your body needs to survive daily. The more it is raised, the more calories you can afford to eat each day.

With a high metabolic rate, there is less effect on your body through overeating and under eating. By having a high metabolic rate, or increased metabolism, it is harder to gain weight while being easier to lose weight.

If you love donuts, then you might want to consider increasing your Metabolism so you can splurge a little more often.

 

2 Ways To Increase Your Metabolic Rate:

Two ways to increase your basal metabolic rate are:

  1. Increasing Muscle Mass or
  2. Increasing Your Daily Activity.

These two can work together when increasing the training stimulus. Your body wants to do what is best for survival, so it does not care to build unnecessary muscle mass unless it needs too. Muscle is calorically expensive to maintain compared to other tissues so there must be a reason for your body to build muscle or maintain it for survival. As long as you create enough stress for your body to need muscle growth for healthy survival, it will.

An important thing to remember about calorie expenditure is cardio burns calories today, while muscle burns calories forever. It is a caloric investment to build muscle. To maintain your investment you must have enough activity to stimulate its use. This is where increasing daily activity comes in to play.

Increased activity, or exercise, helps to build and maintain muscle. This will increase the number of calories needed both to repair and maintain the newly accumulated muscle, raising your Basal Metabolic Rate.

To build muscle it is important that you eat more nutrients and total calories than normal. With an increased nutrient intake along with increased activity levels, your body will be able to grow more muscle and raise your Basal Metabolic Rate.

 

How To Decrease Your Metabolic Rate:

To decrease your metabolic rate you must do the opposite; decreasing activity levels and consuming fewer nutrients. This will make it easier for your body to gain weight while decreasing its ability to lose weight.

This can be very dangerous and unhealthy if not monitored.

Remember, the goal is to manage your metabolic rate to a healthy level. You should be able to consume enough nutrients for your body’s dietary needs while allowing for optimal performance and recovery with your daily activities.

 

To learn more about managing your metabolism read the articles JACKED and SHREDDED from our articles page.

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Think Before You Eat!

Think Before You Eat!

Each time before you eat, think of what your goals are and if this meal choice will help or hinder your progress.

Eating is a common social pass-time, but it can stop you from reaching your goals if you don’t put some thought into what you consume. Think about if you are actually hungry, or just eating because you are bored.

 

Before you overindulge, think of these things…

Are you hungry, or are you actually just thirsty? Sometimes, thirst is mistaken for hunger. If you are not keeping up with your water intake, you may actually just be thirsty.

Are you craving something sweet, or are your electrolytes out of balance? In the kidneys, glucose or sugar is filtered with sodium (Na+). When your Sodium (Na+) to glucose ratio is off, which is common during weight loss or low carb diets, cravings will often occur in the form of sweet and/or salty foods.

When cravings occur, it is often helpful to have 1-2Tbs of natural peanut butter, which will help fight off cravings while still maintaining a healthy diet.

If that does not work, you can try having flavorful tea.

 

If you have to go off your diet…

For most diets, it is reasonable to not be completely strict all the time. It is reasonable to go off of your diet 10-15% of the time and still make progress.

Still, the stricter you are with a diet, the greater your results.

Always remember to keep your goals in mind. Think of what your meal really consist of and be accountable for what you put in your body.

Think of why you started a specific diet. Think if this meal will help you reach your goals. Each time before you eat, think of what your goals are and if this meal choice will help or hinder your progress.

If you want to learn more about managing your diet, check out our Strength Articles in which we discuss a wide variety of topics to help make you healthier and stronger!

 

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