Weight cutting is a common practice in many sports. In a recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research article, researchers examined the role of electrolyte beverages in replenishing potassium, sodium, and chloride after 24 hours of calorie and fluid restriction.
The Importance of Electrolytes
Electrolyte balance in the body may be affected differently depending on what kind of weight cutting you do. Specifically, two electrolytes, sodium and chloride, can become imbalanced during extended periods of fluid restriction.
Not only are sodium and chloride lost rapidly, but so is potassium. As the major positively charged electrolyte inside cells, potassium is important for health and energy. It is also partially responsible for the fluid volume inside cells. For this reason, the researchers in the new study measured both sodium and potassium balance.
In the new study, twelve men and women had their urine tested on three different occasions for volume and electrolyte balance. After the test, they ate and drank very little for 24 hours. After the 24-hour period, they provided another urine sample once every hour. They also consumed one of three different beverages in a random order:
- A calorie-free flavored water was the placebo.
- The same flavored beverage, but with table salt in it at the amount of 50mmol/liter, which is quite a bit.
- A beverage with potassium chloride in it instead of the sodium chloride, in the amount of 30 mmol/liter.
The drinks were divided into six servings, which the participants consumed every twenty minutes.
The 24-hour period of fluid and food restriction resulted in an average of 2.1% decrease in body mass. As a result, the fluid balance of all three electrolytes was also severely disrupted.
When consuming each beverage, the amount of urine produced following the recovery period was highest with the placebo drink, followed by the potassium drink, and then lowest with the sodium drink. This means that the salt drink was the best at helping the body retain fluid, although the potassium drink was better than the placebo. This is important for speeding up the absorption of both fluids and electrolytes after a weight cut.
Not surprisingly, the potassium drink also helped restore potassium balance, and the sodium drink restored sodium. Both of the beverages also balanced chloride levels.
Ultimately, if you plan to cut weight through fluid and calorie restriction, your water levels and electrolyte levels each need to be restored. The researchers recommended consuming food in addition to at least a sodium replacement drink. Both sodium and potassium might be even better.
1. Lewis James, et. al., “Effect of electrolyte addition to rehydration drinks consumed after severe fluid and energy restriction,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000657
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