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Electrolyte supplements ineffective for athletes: Study

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Washington: Endurance athletes, who use sports drinks and other supplements during competitions to replenish their electrolyte levels, might be doing so in vain! Well, this is what a new study has suggested.

According to CNN Health, 266 endurance athletes taking part in the RacingThePlanet event — that involves 155 miles of running for seven days in the most hostile deserts around the world — were evaluated by Stanford University researchers.

The lead author of the study, which got published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, Dr Grant Lipman has stated that the findings from this specific case would also hold consistent for other sports.

The research laid its focus on two conditions related to skewed sodium levels in the body. The first is hypernatremia, in which the sodium levels become excessive due to dehydration. The second is exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH), which as the terminology suggests, is induced when the sodium levels are too low.

CNN Health explained that EAH can cause impaired mental status, pulmonary oedema, seizures and in the worst cases, death.

The study indicated that although hot temperature increased the likelihood of such conditions, sodium supplementation did not mitigate exercise-induced hyponatremia.

Lipman — who is an emergency medicine professor and director at Stanford Wilderness Medicine — told CNN Health that “in the past, athletes were told to make sure they’re taking electrolyte supplements and drinking as much water as they can.”

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Also “it was generally thought that that would prevent things like muscle cramping, electrolyte imbalances and dizziness.” However, “there is currently no evidence to show this is true.”

Out of the total 266 athletes, 205 were men and 61 were women, who ran five races held during 2017 and 2018.

In the marathons which took place in South America, Namibia, Chile and Mongolia, 98 athletes ran in temperatures averaging in excess of 33-degree Celcius.

Some runners consumed salt tablets at one-hour gaps, while the rest drank electrolytes diluted in bottled water, Lipman continued.

He further explained that “there are multiple different methods. However, most electrolyte strategies end up with a drink that has a lower sodium concentration than what is found in the body. This is why drinking too much electrolyte solutions can result in EAH.”

The methodology of the study involved collecting data from the athletes before and after a 50-mile race on the competition’s fifth day.

Before the run, the participants disclosed the electrolyte based supplements they were going to consume and how often; and also whether they plan to sip through them at regular intervals or only when they felt thirsty.

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