Pre-Loading Your Electrolytes

One area of hydration that has gotten a lot of attention over the past couple years is the art of pre-loading. Pre-loading (or topping off) your electrolyte stores will play a key function in exercise performance, particularly under tougher conditions such as extreme heat or endurance events. There are three main benefits to pre-loading:

Topping off Magnesium/calcium Stores

Magnesium and calcium are crucial electrolytes that play roles in muscle function, contraction, and relaxation. These two minerals work together to ensure your muscles are functioning properly. Most athletes will have some form of magnesium deficiency but the majority will never realize it unless they get a specific test done. Loading up on these minerals prior to racing may even help prevent the onset of muscle cramps. Your muscles essentially seize up when cramping occurs, so, having nutrients readily available to aid in that muscle contraction and relaxation may play important roles in delaying or preventing the onset of muscle cramps.

Topping off sodium/potassium stores

This is especially important for heavy and/or salty sweaters, and for racing environments that will cause an increase in core temperature at a faster rate than normal. When it’s hotter out, or more humid than you’re used to, your body can bleed through your sodium and potassium stores pretty quick. It’s important to replenish those key nutrients (by having adequate stores, and hydrating!) to help retain fluids.

Peace of Mind

Hydration is one aspect we can control during training and racing. Going into a race or hard work out already properly hydrated will provide several benefits outside of the ones correlating to performance.

Pre-loading Procedure

So how do you pre-load effectively? You’ll need both carbohydrates (in the form of glucose or dextrose) and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium). aim for:

There are a few specialized pre-loading formulas out there, but here at Garmin, we use a combination of nuun active and plus for nuun. nuun active provides the base electrolyte profile, and plus provides the carbohydrates (in the form of dextrose and sucrose to maximize gastric emptying).