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How does a low electrolyte balance affect athletic performance?

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Quick Answer

Low electrolytes hamper athletic performance by causing cramping in the body, according to Hammer Nutrition. Cramping makes it impossible to perform at or near peak levels.

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How does a low electrolyte balance affect athletic performance?
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Full Answer

Electrolytes form ions, or particles with an electric charge, in the body's fluids, notes Hammer Nutrition. These ions carry energy that powers many bodily functions, including sending nerve impulses and contracting the muscles. Multiple functions rely on electrolytes, and athletes require their electrolyte supply to be consistent and sufficient, notes Hammer Nutrition.

Many athletes believe that they do not need electrolyte replacement because they have never experienced cramping, explains Hammer Nutrition. However, cramping in the body is analogous to the oil light showing up on a car's dashboard. By that time, oil is so low that the car's engine may have already suffered from damage. When an athlete experiences cramping, that is a sign that his electrolyte stores are empty. Keeping electrolytes in the body ensures that debilitating cramps do not strike during performance.

While salt tablets replace two of the major electrolytes that athletes need, they do not replace all of them, notes Hammer Nutrition. A variety of products, such as sports beverages and specialty gels, provide the entire spectrum of electrolytes and should be part of an athlete's pre-event and in-event nutrition.

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