You’re done with a workout, long run, whatever. Your muscles hurt, which is expected, but then they start cramping. You’ve hydrated, with sports drinks like crazy for the last few days, so you don’t know why you feel so roughed up. While your calves turn into rocks with knives sticking out of them, you rack your brain to figure out where you went wrong.
In 8 oz of Gatorade, there is 30-40 mg (less than 1% DV) of potassium. Wow.
We all know that potassium is crucial to runners (normal people need 4,000-5,000 mg a day, so I can only imagine what we need!) I think part of the reason I’ve been feeling so bloated, tired and just.. off in the last year is because I’ve increased my sodium intake without paying much attention to potassium. Sodium and potassium are both needed for our muscles and temperature regulation, but too much sodium in that ratio can make us retain a lot of water, increasing our blood pressure… making our heart work harder. Potassium is a mild diuretic, and helps stabilize the amount of sodium. Physically, when I intake more potassium I feel like my legs don’t feel so heavy – I even feel lighter and ready to haul-ass running.
For ages I went through brands of electrolyte replacement systems – Gatorade, Nuun, Emergen-c electrolytes (still my top choice.) They all cost money, and I’m a college kid trying to be frugal (even though eating well and cost usually pull on opposite side of a rope.) Thankfully my parents help out a lot, my mom sent me back this time with a couple 6-packs… of coconut waters along with many other runner staples.
Enter: food. I have to eat anyway, so that’s a given. Why not find the absolute best foods I can? If I’m going to be feeding myself, why not eat the healthiest I can? I’ll admit I didn’t always have this mentality, but my coach and I had a food heart-to-heart (also known as he was about 2 inches from dragging me to the grocery store himself). I realize now that if I’m ever going to be a decent runner I need to get on it.
I’ve found a variety of foods that are high in potassium, but have other benefits as well. I’ve also complied a list of the content in a serving size. You can thank me later 😉
The Ensure has a ton of other nutrients in it too, but both it and Clif bars are kind of expensive, so I save those for after my daily training. Coconut water is pretty expensive but orange juice isn’t too bad. Note: make sure to get the OJ without calcium – it inhibits the absorption of iron, which many long distance runners are in dire need of. This is my only problem with Emergen-c electrolytes, they are high quality, but I have to be careful to only drink it at certain times. Avocados and leafy greens are also good, and sun-dried tomatoes.
Oh yeah! If I’ve found so many wonderful, halfway affordable delicious foods why do I even bother with that overly colored sugar-syrupy Gatorade anyway? Bottom line: because I like it. It tastes good in the right concentration, and it’s pretty cheap when I buy it in bulk powder. I need potassium, but I definitely need to drink a ton of water too and the sugar helps it go down faster. (Sometimes I think I should just mix dextrose powder in my water.) If I sip on it all day it keeps my blood sugar more level.
Do you like Gatorade? What foods do you eat to recover from strenuous workouts? What hydration techniques do you have?