Staying Well Hydrated Outdoors with Electrolytes


February 27, 2024


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Staying Well Hydrated Outdoors with Electrolytes

If you’re into hiking, trail running, or winter sports, chances are you have heard of “electrolytes.” However, you may not know exactly what their name refers to, or more importantly, what they are used for. In a nutshell, electrolytes are minerals that help you stay well hydrated, especially during your most intense activities. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you need electrolytes to support your movement and keep you going. Bianca Petri, founder of Peak Secourisme, shares everything there is to know about electrolytes. What is their role? Where can you find them? Why are they so important for active people? Let’s find out together!

This article was written in collaboration with Peak Secourisme

In this article, you will learn everything there is to know about electrolytes:

  1. What Are Electrolytes?
  2. What Are the Benefits of Electrolytes?
  3. What Are the Signals to Replenish Electrolytes?
  4. The Importance of Electrolytes for Athletes
  5. Which Products Contain Electrolytes?
  6. Natural Alternatives for Good Electrolyte Intake

What Are Electrolytes?

By definition, electrolytes are macro-minerals that play a vital role in the body’s proper functioning. Simply put, they help transmit electrical impulses throughout the body (heartbeat, muscle contractions, etc.), which is why we need a large amount of them. They also control acid levels in the body, as well as nerve and muscle functions.

Electrolytes (or “lytes” for short) ensure you maintain optimal hydration. We typically lose about two litres of water every day, even without exercising. Hydration charged with these minerals helps our body restore its balance. So, if athletes consume a lot of drinks and other products with electrolytes, it’s not exactly for their taste!

Whether you’re a hiking, trail running or cross-country skiing enthusiast, think of using electrolytes for your most intense outings. They may not be necessary for a leisurely excursion, but during longer or more demanding sessions, you will need to replenish the minerals lost through sweating (among other factors). Physical activity leads to sweating, resulting in the loss of electrolytes. This imbalance can quickly translate into a lack of energy, cramps, or shortness of breath – exactly the kind of thing you want to avoid!

To maintain a good electrolyte ratio, remember to pack something to “recharge” your body with sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium… “Lytes,” basically!

What Are the Benefits of Electrolytes?

What Are the Benefits of Electrolytes?

Electrolytes (potassium, sodium, magnesium, etc.) work as a team. Together, they ensure the proper functioning of the muscles, the brain and, more broadly, the whole body. Calcium and magnesium, for example, play a major role in muscle contraction. They are one of the reasons you’re able to hike trails for hours on end!

According to Bianca, it’s important to “recharge” with electrolytes as soon as you’ve exerted yourself for more than 45 minutes. This also applies on very hot days, even without physical activity, because they usually cause considerable sweating. The goal is simple: you want to avoid dehydration while maintaining a good balance of minerals.

Another point to bear in mind, according to our specialist, is the importance of “recharging your batteries” before your electrolyte levels get too low. These levels decrease with prolonged effort, so it’s best to take an electrolyte-rich drink well before you start to feel a sudden drop in energy!

Keep all of this in mind no matter what outdoor activity you prefer. A hike may not be as demanding on your muscles and cardiovascular system as a marathon, but that’s no reason to deprive your body of electrolytes. By maintaining stable levels of minerals, you can preserve your energy levels as much as possible.

And what about winter activities? Should you carry an electrolyte drink in your backpack? As you may have guessed, yes. Although not as crucial as in the middle of summer under a blazing sun, they are still important to avoid energy drops and other inconveniences caused by a mineral imbalance. The rule remains the same: even in winter, stay hydrated (and don’t forget your “lytes”!)

What Are the Signals to Replenish Electrolytes?

An electrolyte imbalance can lead to symptoms like weakness or fatigue, irregular heartbeat, and confusion.

During physical activity, no matter how intense, your body will send you signals when your electrolyte levels drop too low. Bianca tells us about a few:

  • Leg pain,
  • Cramps,
  • Above-normal heart rate, and even palpitations (especially when there’s a significant imbalance in potassium levels),
  • Reduced capacity for intense effort,
  • Tiredness,
  • Thirst,
  • Dizziness,
  • Dry mouth.

There are other signs too, but if you notice any of these during your hunting trip or mountain adventure, be sure to replenish your electrolytes. Bianca reminds us of a very important thing in the great outdoors, no matter what you’re doing: listen to your body!

The Importance of Electrolytes for Athletes

The Importance of Electrolytes for Athletes

Remember Bianca’s advice: after 45 minutes of exertion, electrolytes become increasingly important. This means that all hunting, hiking, trail running, or kayaking enthusiasts should make sure to include electrolytes as an essential part of their hydration routine.

Physical activity causes sweating. Large amounts of electrolytes escape from our bodies through sweat, and must therefore be “replaced.” Whether you’re aiming for performance or not, “replenishing your reserves” early on will help prevent electrolyte imbalance.

Drinking a lot of non-mineralized water is not enough. Drinking too much can even have negative consequences on your system and disrupt osmosis within the body. A good mineral intake will help restore the balance of electrolytes.

Here’s an example. For most trail runners, electrolytes are an integral part of a good hydration strategy. Maintaining good levels of electrolytes is essential if you want to cover long distances, no matter the intensity of your cardiovascular effort. Being forced to stop due to an imbalance is unpleasant, especially since the next refreshment point or emergency services may not always be nearby on the trails. If runners don’t keep their “batteries charged,” they risk cramps, muscular convulsions, disorientation… That’s why trail runners should always carry electrolyte gels or drinks in their hydration belt or bag.

Good to know: According to Bianca, it can take up to 45 minutes to feel an energy boost after recharging with electrolytes. Don’t wait until you’re all out of balance!

Which Products Contain Electrolytes?

There’s a good chance you’re already familiar with some drinks that contain electrolytes. These drinks are very useful during exercise because they help keep you hydrated and replenish the minerals lost through sweating. But electrolytes can be found in other forms too.

Bianca shares a few alternative options beyond the liquid form. Capsules, tablets that dissolve in water, gel bars, chews… the possibilities are endless. The choice is yours and will depend on your preferences and the type of sport or outdoor activity you enjoy. There’s also the option of combining different sources of electrolytes, especially to avoid getting tired of any specific kind when you’re out running or hiking for hours on end.

Gels, for instance, are ideal for runners and skiers, as they are easy to ingest. However, you need to bring along a water bottle as well. Bars provide more “chew,” as do gummies (which will give you a small and often short-lived burst of energy).

For your nutrition and hydration needs, check out popular brands like Näak, Xact and Nuun. These brands now offer perfectly balanced, electrolyte-rich products, which are the fruit of extensive research and testing with athletes and adventurers.

Natural Alternatives for Good Electrolyte Intake

Electrolytes are an important factor in staying hydrated, even if you’re not an athlete. After all, these minerals are essential for the body to function properly. That’s a good reason to make sure you consume enough throughout the year, especially if you’re very active.

Before starting any outdoor adventure, particularly one that requires intense effort, it’s always a good idea to restore your electrolyte balance. Bianca suggests fully revitalizing your energy reserves before heading outdoors to replenish both your primary and secondary resources. Electrolytes, calories, “good” fats… these are all elements you should never overlook!

You can start by making yourself a simple homemade electrolyte drink by blending water, a (flavourless) tablet and some fruits! You can also mix your “lytes” into homemade juice and – why not? – add a little maple syrup for sweetness.

When you pay attention to nutrition, getting enough electrolytes is quite simple. They can notably be found in fruits and vegetables. Bianca notes that each variety has its “own” specific electrolyte. Bananas, for example, are rich in potassium. Sweet potatoes pack a healthy amount of calories and also contain plenty of electrolytes. No wonder they’re so popular with the trail running community! Focus on fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, radishes, and strawberries…

Bianca does point out that these natural alternatives are not a perfect substitute for the likes of bars and sports drinks, especially for extended periods of effort. When it comes to electrolytes, brands like Näak and Xact have the advantage of offering elaborated, well-balanced formulas developed through extensive testing. Bianca therefore recommends combining natural sources with “sports-specific” products.

Here are some ideas for naturally “recharging” your electrolytes:

  • Calcium: cheese, lentils, almonds,
  • Potassium: bananas, artichokes, plums,
  • Sodium: salt, shrimp, olives.

As you now know, a good electrolyte intake is key for supporting your most strenuous outdoor adventures. If you’re the type to hike for hours, paddle all day long or run until the sun goes down, it’s hard to do without these essential minerals that your body needs to function properly. Thanks to Bianca Petri, founder of Peak Secourisme, you are now well informed and ready to put them to good use. Time for some outdoor adventures!


1. Why drink electrolytes?

2. How do you replenish electrolytes?


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