Do we drink too much water when we exercise? and a review of @SportsFoodINC Electrolyte strips

Winter is here and as always I find myself doing a lot of research for my upcoming running season. Last year I ran into issues with water bloating and stomach upset that I associated to drinking too much.

This logically lead me to further reading on electrolytes and the amount of fluid (and type) to ingest during exercise.  I found that as a new runner I believed I needed to drink as much “water” as I was sweating out (about 1 litre / hour) to stay in a state of optimum hydration. I also believed it was important to drink large quantities of fluid before exercise to make sure that I was properly hydrated.

Humans like most mammals are designed to run in a moderately dehydrated state, we are also designed to re-hydrate when we eat. We cannot store either fluid or salt to any great extent. Over drinking will not only result in more frequent trips to the toilet but also an increased loss of sodium and potassium through our urine. Extreme cases can lead to hyponatermia (a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low). When this happens, our body’s water levels rise, and our cells begin to swell. This swelling can cause many health problems, from mild to life-threatening. Recent research shows  we should not consume more than 200 to 400 ml per hour during extreme exercise. (even though our body  could be sweating it out at a rate of 750-1000 ml / hour)

The best way to assess optimum hydration is to check urine color. You should drink enough fluid to ensure your urine is lightly colored. It takes between 1 to 2 hours for your body to absorb the fluid and impact your urine color.

Runners should take their last drink  about  2 hours before exercise.

If your race is over 10 km, research suggests you should take about 500 ml of fluid at the start line, drinking it just minutes before the start.

So is water all you need??

the answer: No

It is essential that the fluid consumed contain substances needed to restore the body’s supply, water isn’t enough. It is important to match your electrolyte losses from sweating.  Electrolytes are vital for the normal functioning of all cells. Sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium are the four major electrolytes that keep up the body’s fluid balance. Sodium and potassium are critical in determining the water contents of our  extracellular fluid, in conjunction with intracellular fluid. (water inside and outside out cells).

Runners typical symptoms of imbalance in electrolytes are:

  • muscle fatigue
  • cramping muscle in the legs and spasms
  • nausea
  • stomach cramps
  • side stitches
  • stiff and achy joints
  • dizziness

 Sportsfood review


IMG_20150215_150923_editTo reduce my fluid intake and maintain my electrolytic balance I have started testing products like Sportsfood (@SportsFoodINC)

Sportsfood is an electrolyte replacement strips that work to build and replenish your bodies electrolytes before, during, and after exercise.  Sportsfood strips are small, thin, oral film strips which almost instantly dissolve in your mouth.  The team is on their second version of these strips, my earlier review would have given them one major issue TASTE, however the new version has greatly improved the overall taste of the product.

What is the makeup?

Each Strip hasIMG_20150215_150940_edit_edit

  • Sodium 12mg
  • Potassium 12mg

other ingredients: Pectin, Glycerin, Water, Natural Flavors, Cellulose, Sucralose, Lecithin(soy), Cocoa Butter, Acesulfame potassium, Talc and Citric acid.

This changed from (the bad tasting Sportsfood as I called it)

other ingredients: Pectin, Honey Granules, Water, Glycerin, Natural Flavors, Perfecta(TM), Talc, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Magnasweet (R), Xylitol, Lecithin (soy), Coca Butter, Citric Acid and Stevia.

As you can see in order to combat the taste concerns of the original product Sportsfood had added a concoction of sweeteners to the product. The strips are still zero Carbohydrates and zero sugar, however I know with this could come some debate especially around the use of Acesulfame potassium . It is important to note Acesulfame potassium is safe and suitable for all segments of the population. The FDA, which is the governmental agency responsible for ensuring the safety of all foods, has approved acesulfame potassium for use in numerous food products on eight separate occasions since 1988. The agency based its decisions on a large body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the safety of the ingredient.

How many strips should you use?

Following the directions on the package it says:

two strips before and two strips during exercise

I would suggest to best answer the how many strips question it really depends on the duration, intensity of the exercise and your temperature acclimatization (how much salt you are sweating). The following table from “The lore of running by Tim Noakes,MD”  is a bit intense but it shows that fitness and heat acclimation reduce the sodium content of sweat.


 Sportsfood Pros:

  • small easy to carry
  • gluten -free
  • taste is acceptable for product that is essentially salt and potassium

Sportsfood Cons: (one minor one)

  • the strip can be difficult to get out of package while running (or sweating heavily)

I feel everyone who is serious about running should do their own research on water consumption during exercise and look for products like Sportsfood to supplement electrolytes. A balanced intake is critical to healthy exercise and living.

-Happy Running-


Research References

  • Electrolyte Imbalance – Symptoms – Better Medicine. (n.d.). Local Health Home Page – Better Medicine. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  • Lore of Running – Tim Noakes, MD 
  • The Endurance Athlete’s GUIDE to SUCCESS | Hammer Nutrition

Sportsfood did not provide me free product for this review

feature Photo by Robert J. Reese


4 thoughts on “Do we drink too much water when we exercise? and a review of @SportsFoodINC Electrolyte strips”

  1. Nice write up Paul;) Every runner is different with hydration and replacing electrolytes. I think that its each individual level has their own threshold mine is around 2hrs.. I use Clifgels and they work a treat.. Don’t forget the great tasting @therunnerstea;);) a combination of the 2 +h20 with the gels &you’ve a winning team;) interesting piece on the nutrition strips its a shame you had to buy them first before trying them..?!

  2. Very important factor to consider indeed. Why not just salt tablets in conjunction with your tailwind? Not crazy to see a number of sweeteners listed as ingredients.

    1. I find Tailwind is all in one and amazing for long haul events over 2 hours. If you are out for a quick tempo or speed work this type of product fits that need. Thanks Chris for the comments.

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