If you read the label on a bottle of Gatorade or other sports drink, you will find that it contains some form of potassium, as well as sodium, chloride, magnesium and calcium. These are minerals that your body uses all the time in order to maintain proper fluid balance, as well as to perform many other important functions. They are also referred to as “electrolytes”, since they carry a positive or negative charge that helps keep these minerals in balance throughout the body.
Potassium is chiefly found inside of your cells, and therefore is not lost in great amounts as you sweat. However, potassium is highly involved in nerve conduction and muscle contraction. Some researchers suggest that potassium redistribution during exercise causes potassium depletion in muscles and nerves, which can lead to fatigue.
But if there is enough potassium available, the body redistributes it back to “normal” balance very quickly after exercise. However, LOW levels of potassium has been linked to fatigue, high blood pressure, abnormal muscle contractions (including the heart), and muscle cramps.
Bottom line? If you are not low in potassium, there is no need to replenish this particular electrolyte by drinking a sports drink after exercise.
You do, however, want to make sure that your levels are adequate. How? Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, potatoes, citrus, and bananas, as well as whole grains, nuts and seeds.
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