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Episode #157: The Death of Gatorade – Should You Stop Using Electrolytes During Exercise?

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Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Do you have a future podcast question for Ben? Call toll free to 1-877-209-9439, Skype to “pacificfit” or scroll down on this post to access the free “Ask Ben” form…

In this August 3, 2011 free audio episodeShould You Stop Using Electrolytes During Exercise?, do oats have gluten?, gluten-free cereal, how hot should you get coconut oil, mysterious leg cramps, is 2% or 1% milk better?, training with osteitis pubis, when should you use glucosamine-chondroitin?, is pulsed electromagnetic field therapy effective?

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Featured Topic: The Death of Gatorade – Should You Stop Using Electrolytes During Exercise?
In this interview with Dr. Tim Noakes, who has written multiple books on physiology, including “Lore of Running”, which you can view more about by clicking here, Ben talks to Noakes about hydration and electrolytes.

What you are going to find out in this interview with Dr. Noakes will shock you. If you enjoy this interview, you may also want to check out my episode #138 interview with Tim Noakes about the central governor theory.

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Listener Q&A:

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Rishon has a call in question about whether oats have gluten.

Craig asks: I’m looking for a gluten free cereal that I can just dump in my cereal bowl in the morning. I am adding blueberries and almonds to my cereal now.

Ben has a call-in question about using glucosamine or Capraflex for recovering from an acute injury vs. using for chronic inflammation, and whether glucosamine chondroitin should be used long term.

Christy asks: I just listened to episode 127 where you interviewed Udo Erasmus. What is the temperature where you start to damage saturated fats? Udo mentioned not heating fats to “frying temperatures”, but I’m not sure what that means. Is it safer to bake meat, what about boiling it? Is the temperature of boiling water too high? Or steam? I believe the temperature of steam is higher than that of boiling water. I think deep fat fryers work at about 350 degrees, which is baking temperature as well, so is baking as bad as frying?

Here is an oil smoke point chart.

Jenn asks: I have a question about night-time leg cramps.

For the past few weeks, I have been wakened several times a night with extremely painful spasms in my calves (mostly soleus), shins, and feet (both the tops and bottoms). They subside somewhat when I get up and stretch, but are a serious disturbance to my sleep and leave me achy and tired in the morning.

I am a fit 38-year-old, and a former marathoner. I’m a daily commuter cyclist (about 45 – 90 minutes daily). I work out at the gym 3-5 days a week at a fairly high intensity, and do 2-3 yoga classes a week. My hydration and potassium intake are good. Other than somewhat increased cycling (clipped in for the first time this season), I haven’t made any serious changes to my training. I have in the last 6 months switched to a diet lower in carbohydrate and have dropped about 10 pounds in that time, but my BMI is still a healthy 20.1.

The only other time I’ve had cramps like this was when I was anorexic and quite underweight a number of years ago, but I’m sure that my caloric intake is adequate now (usually around 1200 – 1400). It does make me wonder, though, if it could be a particular nutritional deficiency that could be causing these cramps? (I don’t think it’s my pedals since I’ve had them since May and only started having these in the last month or so.)

In my response to Jenn, I recommend she check out the magnesium http://www.pacificfit.net/supplements.php#naturalcalm and also this topical magnesium.

Komal asks: Just wanted to ask which milk us better for us? 2% or 1%.

Jeff asks: I’m a keen age grouper triathlete and have recently been diagnosed with osteitis pubis. Initial scans detected a small inguinal hernia but further investigation revealed OP which is what us causing me grief in the groin region. I’ve been advised to lay off running for 2 months but can swim and cycle. Do you have any advice to aid my recovery? Should I avoid kicking drills when swimming? Is walking ok?

Paul asks: What are your thoughts on PEMF?

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46 Responses to “Episode #157: The Death of Gatorade – Should You Stop Using Electrolytes During Exercise?”

  1. Samantha says:

    In your comment about 1% vs 2% milk, you stated that taking the fat out of a food is similar to taking the yolk out of an egg, hence, you lose much of the usefulness of the food. You then said that you would choose the 1% over the 2% which left me a little confused as you seemed to support whole milk rather than lower fat milk. Can you please clear this up?

  2. jeff Hoening says:

    Smoke point comments rocked my world. So, extra light olive oil (smoke point 468) is preferred cooking with than coconut oil (smoke point 350)? For example, pan frying up tilapia or red potatoes and onion.

    • In my opinion, EVOO heated up like that tastes awful. I'd go for coconut.

      • jeff Hoening says:

        light or extra light olive oil (versus extra virgin olive oil that is more rich and flavorful) actually tastes pretty good heated up – actually tasteless and the flavor of the food really shines. Coconut oil tastes great to me, but you can really taste coconut in your food. Cost wise, you can get gallons of light olive oil for the price of small amount of coconut oil.

  3. tririg says:

    So Ben, are *you* going to cut back on fluids and electrolytes now??

  4. Alecio says:

    All I can say is wow!! Ben, you are always very diplomatic while conducting an interview but I would love to hear your thoughts on what the doctor was saying? Should we listen to our bodies while on long rides or runs, and drink when needed, or should we act differently? And dropping sodium all together? I would love to get your opinions on both subjects. Thank you.

  5. HK Sparky says:

    Is there a link to a pdf version of Dr. Noakes Lore of Running book?

  6. jeff Hoening says:

    Just finished the podcast and interview with Dr. Noakes. Absolutely awesome and one of my favorite all time BGF podcasts. Reminds me of the amazing creation the human body is. 'Let thirst be your guide' is great advice and works beautifully for me (4 marathons, numerous half marathons) run in hot, humid Florida. Love this cutting-edge stuff that really challenges conventional wisdom taught to us by those that heavily market their products for profit, not to help us. Do we really think the Gatorade Sports Science Institute is interested in helping us perfom better or are they interested in selling you more Gatorade – about time we woke up. Einstein said "When the solution is simple, God is answering." Thanks for boldly sharing the truth Dr. Noakes and Ben.

  7. @CastleGrok says:

    Cramping: Ditch the low carb diet ;)

    OMG this is weird for me. Great podcast! This guy rocks! You most certainly can drink too much.

    I drank myself into hyponatremia (30oz per hr) after a 6 hour training day in the heat of the Queen K TWO WEEKS AGO! I'd never even heard of it until then. I got really sick. I've almost always drank roughly 20oz per hr by thirst, but it was a little hotter than I'm used to and I had the water with me, so I consciously upped it. I haven't used added salt in food or exercise for the past year (or more) until after this happened. I've been nervously using salt ever since. This has me feeling good about keeping out the salt, because I do not like it in my diet.

  8. vegpedlr says:

    Great interview! I had been wondering about this ever since I switched to Hammer products and their philosophy on sodium. I dramatically lowered sodium intake during exercise and felt better. Now I will try water only and get my carbs from other sources. I always used to worry during the summer when I get most of my miles on the MTB drinking plain water from the camelbak. How do you think coconut water fits in? It's quite low in sodium, but very high in potassium, and revered in the tropics for hydration. Both Noakes interviews were fantastic, bring him back for more!

    • Coconut water = same deal as electrolytes. Great for recovering and giving your body what it needs, but you should be able to power through, say, an Ironman WITHOUT *needing* something like coconut water to finish successfully.

  9. Paul says:

    It would have been interesting to get Dr. Noakes' take on how caffeine affects your hydration level.

  10. James says:

    I am ot totally sold on the working out without salt/electrolytes thing. I am a ridiculously heavy sweater (I lose 4-6% BW through sweat regularly in long workouts) and I take in about 2 litres of fluids per hour drinking to thirst (or maybe just a little more). I really don't know that I believe my body can handle that kind of turnover for an Ironman in 100+ degree temps. I will admit that my stomach does feel a bit water-logged after a few hours of riding or running, but the alternative is a catastrophic performance decline and a dangerous level of weight loss. Anyone else sceptical?

  11. Kian says:

    Really interesting podcast Ben!

    I mastered in Rehabilitative Science and when we went through a unit on hydration during workout I always thought it was fishy that so much research was coming out of the Gatorade camp. Please make an announcement when Dr. Noakes book comes out, I'd be very interested in reading it.

    @James – You gotta remember there's a difference between heat injury and dehydration. So no, not skeptical

  12. rymoholiko says:

    I was training for many years with Isostar and other sport drinks and then switched to pure water. Guess what, I’m still fine. We have to look in past. For how many centuries do we have sport drinks? Ten? Nope ;) In my view sport drinks are way too much overestimated.

    Cheers!

  13. Dave says:

    Ben, The interview with Tim Noakes was great! The one question I would love to have heard him answer is "What about the common practice that when you start cramping, electrolyte tablets ease the cramps and you can get back to racing" Is the reduction in cramping so many people experience after dropping a few thermolytes/lava salts/ endurolytes just a plecebo effect?

  14. Kelcey says:

    I was really glad to hear Dr. Noakes interview. I have always been one to "under hydrate" according to gatorade guidelines during a race and was not very consistent with electrolyte intake. I just did not feel good taking in that much fluid and never really felt a need for a lot of salt. I read an interesting study recently (I can't remember where I found it, but could have been the Stone Hearth newsletter, or possibly Dr. Mirkin's newsletter) that found cramping was not due to inadequate water or electrolyte intake, but due to muscle fatigue. I find that if I am over training that's when I start to cramp (during an intense workout). So now I don't feel guilty drinking to thirst and forgetting my electrolyte tablets! Thanks Ben. Also, hope you are feeling better after your bout in the hospital.

  15. Electrolyte Self-Test Update: I just completed a hot Half Ironman. I was in first place until the last half mile of the run, where I was passed. Won my age group and took 2nd overall. I consumed just 2 electrolytes the entire time, and that was at the 12 mile mark when I knew I was getting chased down and wanted to try everything possible to see if it would help me speed up. Up until that point, all I used was gels and water. ZERO cramping.

  16. Kem Johnson says:

    Best interview ever. Thanks.

    Nice to hear that NZ wasn't sucked into the overwatering idea… I never noticed, actually. Water is everywhere and it's always safe to drink so maybe we don't drink too much. I dunno. My favourite bike race takes about 2 and a bit litres of water over 4 hours, so I guess that's about right.

  17. Kathy says:

    Thanks, Ben. That interview was really eye-opening. It's so funny, as I have noticed that the people I work out with who seem to lose the most salt are those who also eat the least healthy diets. One of the strongest riders in our group who eats a very healthy diet supplements and drinks relatively little on the bike, which I always found surprising. Dr. Noakes' message resonated with my fundamental belief about the human body, my intellectual side that wants to see the research, as well as just what I observe with myself and those around m

  18. Patrick says:

    Great interview. My favorite so far. This is very interesting stuff especially considering the latest research on the idea that muscle cramping has nothing to do with lack of sodium. I must say that Dr. Noakes rocked my world and I've been telling everyone I know about this interview.

  19. Alma says:

    Ben, very interesting interview. I'm curious to know what YOU were thinking the whole time! This is quite a shift from the mainstream thought on sodium intake.

  20. SafeBet says:

    Hi Ben, Great podcast. Does the only drink when thirsty rule apply outside of workouts too? I am assuming yes. It's pretty rare that I am thirsty. I generally follow the drink water if your urine is dark theory. Then there's the 8×8 rule which I guess is is probably pushed by the water bottle companies… And while I am posting. I have heard a few folks say that too much water with a meal can negatively effect digestion… so along the same lines, and assuming that is accurate, could drinking less water (but still satisfying thirst) help improve digestion during a race? Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Yes, drinking according to thirst on a daily basis is fine – although water with a meal really won't inhibit digestion much. The body is pretty easily able to adapt to a bit of extra fluid along with your food.

  21. Tony says:

    So Ben, great interview, this subject, along with the central governor theory were really thought provoking. I use Hammer Endurolytes (advertised as low sodium) and very often find I need them post ride to alleviate a headache I get. I always assumed this to be caused by low electrolytes, do you think the capsules are acting as a placebo? If so, how do I wean myself off that belief? I can also tell when I'm dehydrated as a vein at my temple becomes more prominent, drinking makes it recede, any thoughts on this? Thanks.

  22. Kevin says:

    Excellent interview. I used to see Tim Noakes back in the early 80's. He was the guru then of endurance exercise and very unassuming. No change, he calls it like he sees it. One question is what is his view on carbo replacement whilst exercising. I agree we don't need electrolyte replacement.. Back then we used to mainly drink water and every now and then coke/sprite. And for the real long stuff, bananas or raisins. What is his view on energy replacement gels for a marathon and beyond?

  23. [...] In Podcast #157 I talk about the issue with gluten-free cereals, and basically what I mentioned was that popular gluten-free cereals. [...]

  24. [...] endurance athletes should be using electrolytes, or would you agree more with the philosophy of Tim Noakes that the body does a pretty good job maintaining plasma sodium levels? If we do use electrolytes, [...]

  25. MikeOffroad says:

    Not true about drinking to thirst if you mtn bike hills in the AZ desert in the summer afternoons. Drink as much as you can hold down and then wait until that settles and then drink again and then ride. Then keep drinking from a camel back. If you don't, you aren't going to make it far.

    • Mike, some people have died using this method. I'm going to be releasing another interview with Tim Noakes that specifically focuses on why drinking too much water is a big problem and a serious health issue during endurance workouts and races, so stay tuned…

  26. Mark says:

    "Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports" is the title of the latest book by Timothy Noakes. Released in Kindle format 5/9/2012. I ordered my copy today.

  27. [...] the extra sodium is not because Tim Noakes was wrong in my interview with him. You don’t need extra electrolytes during your workout to keep your muscles from cramping. [...]

  28. [...] concentration in the bloodstream is causing hyponatremia then it completely nullifies your claims on the podcast with Tim Noakes that you do not need to take electrolytes during hot and sweaty [...]

  29. [...] makes sense, since Tim Noakes, among other exercise scientists, has suggested that much of the cramping that endurance athletes [...]

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