At 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity, a Bikram Yoga class will fire up the heat in your body and force you to sweat out valuable water and electrolytes from your system. Exercising for 90 minutes in a temperate climate is hard enough, but crank the heat up and it becomes a serious challenge. To prepare for your next Bikram yoga class, you need to know how to become hydrated and stay hydrated by using electrolytes.
An electrolyte is a mineral that carries an electrical charge in your body and helps you retain water. Some electrolytes have a positive charge and some have a negative charge. They attract water because of their electrical charge which allows them to regulate the way water moves around your body. The electrolytes you have in your body are: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride and phosphorous.
When You Need Electrolytes
When you sweat, water moves out of your body through your skin and takes electrolytes with it. That's why simply re-hydrating with water after exercise doesn't cut it. You need to consume electrolytes at some point, especially if you are doing an activity longer than 60 minutes, according to an article from the American College of Sports Medicine.
Typically, you get enough electrolytes from your food to offset the amount that you lose for exercise. However, if you're doing an activity in the heat for a long period of time, you'll need to replenish electrolytes somehow. Bikram Yoga is not only performed in a hot environment, but the typical class lasts 90 minutes, so electrolyte supplementation is a must.
The easiest way to replenish your electrolytes while working out is to use a sports drink. Most of the sports drinks that you buy in stores have sodium and potassium, as well as some form of sugar which can help keep you energized. Sodium and potassium make up a big portion of the electrolytes that you lose while exercising which is why they take priority in sports drinks. Some sports drinks also have chloride, which is another major electrolyte lost during activity.
Before you get to class, try to drink 16 to 24 ounces of an electrolyte drink. It takes time for the water and electrolytes to be absorbed from your stomach into your blood stream, so try to be one step ahead by hydrating before class.
Typical hydration recommendations are to drink about one cup of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. The goal is to make sure that you don't lose more than two percent of your bodyweight from fluid loss. However, it can be difficult to drink during yoga class, since poses flow into each other and there might not be defined break periods. Try to sneak in drinks whenever you can during practice, but always prepare by drinking the recommended amount of electrolyte-infused beverage -- 16 to 24 ounces -- before class.
If a commercial sports drink is frowned upon in your yoga class, there are other electrolyte drink options. You can purchase electrolyte tablets that dissolve into your water and turn it into a delicious, bubbly drink. The other option is to buy electrolyte-infused water, which has all of the benefits of electrolyte supplementation without the added sugar of sports drinks.
Negative Effects of Dehydration
If you lose too much fluid during class or your electrolyte levels are too low, you will be fatigued and possibly suffer from muscle cramps. A muscle cramp can be caused by low sodium levels, according to a 2008 study in Current Medicine Reports. Thankfully, sports drinks are designed with the correct ratio of electrolytes, so if you drink them you'll get sufficient amounts to prevent muscle cramps and fatigue.