Tightwad Triathlete Tip #7

Posted: December 29, 2011 in Financial, Nutrition
Tags: , ,

Judging by the number of new yoga mats, pristine prAna shirts and assorted fancy bric-a-brac in this mornings yoga class, Santa was very good to some people this year (myself included, of course).  Of course, this also means that Santa’s coffers will be rather limited in the coming months as well so any opportunity to save some dough will be greatly taken advantage of I expect.

Recipe for success

Prior to this whole Ironman quest, I thought that ‘electrolytes’ were just citizens of ‘Electrolyia’, like something out of a C.S. Lewis novel; Lord knows I was never the sharpest knife in the drawer.  Of course, now, I understand that electrolytes are the minerals in your blood and other bodily fluids that carry an electric charge, and seeing as how the human body is basically one big “electrical machine”, these are some pretty significant necessities in order to make this machine operate effectively.  Typically, they exist as acids, bases and salt.

If deprived of water and electrolytes, your muscles cramp, you get dizzy and weak, and perspiration no longer cools you. Your core body temperature begins rising, and you may progress from heat cramps to heat exhaustion to heat stroke.  The latter is potentially fatal…definitely Not Winning.

However, there is no need to convince me of the value of replacing fluids and electrolytes during an intense ride or a long day running in the backcountry: I know that it’s vital to drink smart.  I get it.  The problem is that your basic electrolyte replacement drink can amount up to big money…particularly when you need to be consuming a LOT of it, and Santa is on sabbatical for another 12 months.  Fortunately, creating your own electrolyte drink is not very difficult, or expensive.  In fact, it’s pretty cheap and easy to do.

The basic formula goes a little something like this:

1)      Water – Water is the main ingredient as it will act as the primary carrier of the electrolytes.  It must be as clean as possible to work optimally.  If you do not have the luxury of a home bottled water dispenser, simply boil water in a tea kettle.  Incidentally, distilled water – the captured vapor from boiling water – is the best.  It is very close to pure water, having almost all trace elements such as minerals, pollutants and other contaminants, removed.  If you want distilled water, it’s best to purchase it because collecting the vapor is difficult to do at home – trust me.  Tap water should only be your last resort (think ‘Brain Eating Amoebas’, and that should motivate you some).

2)      Salt – Electrolytes are basically salts. Salts keep your body’s electrically conductive to maintain cell voltage for receiving or passing along information. Regular table salt works fine as long as it contains sodium chloride, which almost all salts are made of.  Some also have potassium iodide, which is also excellent for your home electrolyte cocktail. If you can locate fine grain salt, it dissolves much faster. Using a mortar and pestle on regular salt work just as well.  Personally, I like to use the Pink Himalayan Sea Salt variety.

3)      Citrus – Oranges, grapefruits, tangerine, lemons and limes – try to always have lots of these on hand as they are the best ingredients for electrolyte replenishment.  Oranges are a particularly good choice (and tastiest in my opinion).  This is why you may have seen many athletes gorging themselves on juicy slices, both pre and post-race.  Citrus fruits are great, even alone, for electrolytes.  However, adding some other sweet ingredients can enhance the effect (like honey, or coconut water).

How easy is that?  To make things even easier for you, I’ve included two of my recent favorite home electrolyte brews for you to give a go:

Recipe 1

  • 1 can orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • water

Recipe 2

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon light salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • water

If you want to simply these recipes even further, or if you’re just in a pinch for time, just add a few orange, lemon or lime slices to your ordinary sports water bottle along with a pinch of salt and, Voila!, instant electrolytes!  Who needs Santa after all?

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