Monday, October 13, 2014

Electrolytes

We all know that electrolytes are important for performance, not to mention normal bodily functions. There are plenty of electrolyte drinks and whatnot out there, but I prefer to get them through my normal diet. I usually eat pretty well. I don't eat much processed food and try to eat plenty of veggies and whole grains. Even so, I have had trouble getting enough of various electrolytes at times.

The first issue I had was a few years ago with low sodium. It's pretty unusual for an American to have low sodium, but I think the combination of not eating processed foods (that have a lot of sodium), not adding any to what I cooked, and exercising (and hence sweating) a lot, caused my sodium to drop over time. I started having really bad muscle cramps after exercising and even some mild heart arrhythmia. I got a blood test that showed all my electrolytes in the middle of the normal range except sodium which was barely inside the low end. I started adding a little salt to my food and the problems cleared up pretty quickly.

The second issue I had was with calcium. I was just not feeling well and was having a hard time going hard. I felt like I needed to stop and lie down after about 30 seconds of going hard. I didn't know if I was anemic or what, so I went back for a blood test. The only thing that was off was calcium which was barely inside the low end of normal. Calcium is critical for muscle function. I drink a fair amount of milk so I don't know why it was low. It may have been due to the drug tamoxifen I was on to prevent breast cancer recurrence which also caused me significant fatigue. I started taking calcium supplements and started feeling better, although the medication was still taking its toll.

I've recently had an issue that I believe was due to low potassium. (No blood test this time.) Earlier in the summer I had been feeling great and my time trial results were back up to where they were a few years ago. But several weeks ago my body started feeling (especially my legs) heavy and fatigued and like I wasn't recovering well from my work outs. I didn't have any good reason why I was feeling this way. I tried giving myself plenty of rest and recovery, but the next hard workout set me back again. I started googling "heavy legs" and several running websites suggested it could be due to low potassium. I can't eat things like bananas too frequently because I start having allergic reactions to them so I needed to find a source of potassium I could eat daily. I looked into supplements but they only contained 3% of the RDA and that didn't seem worth the expense and bother. Then I remembered that salt substitutes are made of potassium chloride and thought that I could use that. So I started adding 1/8 tsp (10% RDA) to my oatmeal every day and lo and behold, started feeling great again. Now I can crank out my hard workouts and bounce back like I used to.

The thing that surprises me most is that I could experience such symptoms when the electrolytes weren't that far off of normal and how small the additions to diet it takes to feel better. Food for thought!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Adventures in Northfield

Last Saturday Nate and Craig invited everyone down to their neck of the woods for a long roller ski and brunch at Nate's house. We had a nice group of about a dozen of us. The brunch was great and it was fun to see Nichole as she nears the birth date of their first child.

While it was nice to have a change of scenery from the usual Afton area, I must say that the roller ski session was a bit of an exercise in mental toughness due to the wind that day. The Northfield area has a lot of corn and bean fields and while it's pleasant to be out in the country they, don't do much to stop the wind. Plus it was a rather chilly wind. So after a few hours of fields stretching to the horizon, the beginning of body aches from K upon K of double pole, and the cold wind whistling through your helmet, the mind numbs and begins to ponder the truly great questions of life such as, "Why does the wooly bear cross the road?" Some cross one direction, some the other. Some go diagonally, some straight across, and some down the road. Some just roll into a ball and lie there. Where are they going? It's not like there is any food or cover from predators out there. And then there's the whole stripe width thing. What's up with that? These are the sort of things the mind contemplates on days like that. Yep, it was that sort of day...