week our question goes to Namrita O'Dea. A licensed dietician and member of the
Topeak/Ergon racing team, O'Dea helps riders fine tune their bodies for maximum
performance through her business 55 Nine
Question - What is the formula for the right amount
of electrolytes? Does it differ for racing an endurance race (6+hrs)
versus doing a 2hr short race?
What's the best
source of electrolytes? There are different myths out there, like the
mustard one etc? How do you know when you're cramping because of
electrolyte imbalance vs. over doing it?
Answer - Unfortunately, there is no formula. This is because in addition to
inter-individual variability in sweat rates and sweat electrolyte losses other
factors such as duration of exercise, heat acclimatization status,
environmental conditions, and training status can impact the amount of sweat
lost and the composition of your sweat. But, with a little calculated
"trial and error" you can get close to a personal formula. A good
starting point is using the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines:
drink 0.4 to 0.8 liters per hour (13.5 to 27 ounces per hour) based on your
level of thirst. For short duration events the fluid may be water,
assuming that you have been using water in training without cramping
issues. For longer events or warm-weather events use a sports drink with
110-163 mg sodium and 18-46 mg potassium per 8 oz of fluid. Using a
pre-formulated sports drink such as PowerBar Ironman Perform is the easiest way
to get the energy, fluid, and electrolytes and makes it easier for you to
"follow your thirst" compared to popping electrolyte pills.
Don't forget to factor in the electrolytes in your gels, chews, and other
nutrition products, as well.
Pickle juice and
mustard packets are often also used to relieve or prevent cramping. The key
ingredients in both pickle juice and mustard are acetic acid and sodium. They
are OK to use but because the ingredients are so concentrated it's recommended
that you follow it up with drinking water or a combination of water and sports
there's no clear way to know for certain whether your muscle cramps are from an
electrolyte imbalance or for another reason. This is when knowing your
body and constantly practicing a nutrition strategy during training can really
help you when you are in a race situation. If your toes and feet are cramping,
though, chances are that you may be low on your sodium intake or
If you have a question you would like answered by one of our award-winning mountain bike coaches send it to Shannon@mtbracenews.com and we will get one of them on it.