Dr. Rand on the best and worst ways to get electrolytes this summer

Summertime driving in Houston means a new wave of billboards — often for beverages. Many are for alcoholic seltzer, which remains one of the buzziest drinks of the past few summers. But there’s a burgeoning billboard trend for electrolyte-filled sports drinks.

But what exactly are electrolytes, and why do human bodies need them?

Electrolytes are minerals, including potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium, that become ionized when we ingest them in a polar solvent, such as water, said Dr. Rand McClain, a doctor who works with professional athletes and founded LCR Health.

For instance, cells need plenty of stored sodium chloride to help the body stay hydrated.

“With sodium chloride, or table salt, it will separate and become an ion, so there’s sodium ions floating around in the water in your body,” McClain said. “When you ingest them, they go into the cell, which is where the osmosis comes in. They’re called electrolytes because of the whole electron situation going on.”

Electrolytes enter our cells throughout the day. Diets rife with milk and yogurt are sources for the electrolyte calcium, while bananas promote the electrolyte potassium. Watermelon, avocado and coconut and many other fruits and vegetables offer electrolyte boosts when we eat them regularly.

On HoustonChronicle.com: Want to fight fatigue? Start with tweaking your diet.

On days indoors with little to no physical activity, our kidneys excrete unused salt or electrolytes at a natural pace, he added. But on extremely hot days or during exercise or athletic competition, our bodies crave electrolytes because we sweating them out at a faster rate, McClain said.

For runners on race day or athletes before competitions, he recommends upping electrolyte intake, either through a diluted sports drink or by adding more regular table salt with dinner the night before.

“You don’t need fancy electrolyte drinks; I used to make my own,” McClain said. “I would get a liter of water with a quarter to half teaspoon of table salt, add lemon and honey, and voilà — you have a sports drink.”

Gatorade, the first nationally marketed electrolyte-filled sports drink, was developed in 1965 by scientists at the University of Florida hoping to create “synthetic sweat” for the Gators football team.

More than 55 years later, Gatorade has released a sweat patch, which is supposed to scan the body during a workout and relay that information to a cellphone app that will notify the person when they need to hydrate.

Sports drinks work to replenish electrolytesbecause they give you energy through added minerals potassium and magnesium, which are lost during intense workouts, he said. But our cells’ electrolyte balance is important on days when we sweat more than normal.

Sodium in our bodies controls our water balance, and electrolytes such as calcium, potassium and magnesium activate proteinsthat make our cells work properly, said Dr. Michelle Udayamurthy, managing physician at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic’s Berthelsen main campus.

When our cells have an electrolyte imbalance, we can feel nauseated, lethargic and have fluid retention in our hands and feet, Udayamurthy said. Sweat is mainly sodium chloride and water; we lose electrolytes when we sweat, which can leave us feeling wiped out.

“You 100 percent need electrolytes in your body, but it has to be a balanced amount,” Udayamurthy said. “It’s person-to-person dependent, depends on what activity you’re doing and whether you’re out in the hot sun.”

Though sports drinks contain electrolytes, many also contain too much sugar to be considered a healthful option, she said. All that sugar can make dehydration symptoms worse, too.

The American Health Association recommends adults limit their sugar intake to 24 grams a day, but a 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher contains 34 grams. Powerade has 21 grams of sugar, and Vitamin Water has 13 grams. The newer Pedialyte Sport has 14 grams of sugar per liter, and Electrolit contains 12 grams.

When it comes to drinking sports drinks marketed with electrolytes, Udayamurthy recommends diluting them withwater. Halving the sports drink mixed with half water will keep the benefits of the electrolytes while weakening the harmful effects of the sugar.

“Diluting it is better for hydration because you’re diluting the sugar but still getting the good electrolytes in that you’ll need for all that sweating you’ve been doing,” she said.

Katherine Wright, co-founder of Bounce Hydration, says sports drinks are not a long-term solution for people who dehydrate easily or are looking for an electrolyte boost. Her Houston-based company is a mobile IV clinic that services people at their homes or offices when they need additional hydration.

“The average person does not drink enough water in a day, so they feel dehydrated,” Wright said. “Sometimes you feel the effects of that dehydration with a minor headache and feeling low all around.”

Typical IV drips included saline and electrolytes, but additional vitamins are added depending on what the customer wants. The most sought-after drips are geared toward boosting the immune system, slowing the effects of aging and getting over hangovers, Wright said.

Udayamurthy does not recommend IV drips unless they’re prescribed by a doctor.

“If you have any underlying medical conditions that you may not know about, and you pump yourself full of potassium or sodium, it could be damaging to your health,” Udayamurthy said. “With IV hydration, it’s better to stick with a medical professional at a clinic or hospital setting than doing IV services.”

Both McClain and Udayamurthy agree that plain water and some salt packets can work wonders for basic hydration and electrolyte replenishment. The key is to not go overboard and be wary of sugar content and substitutes.

“When you’re sweating and working up a good pace, a little sugar can be good for you, but you don’t want a huge amount,” Udayamurthy said. “Diluting them is the easiest way to go.”

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Dr. Rand Dismisses Theory On How McGregor Broke His Tibia

Another doctor of sports medicine isn’t sold on a theory regarding Conor McGregor‘s broken tibia.

McGregor headlined UFC 264 alongside Dustin Poirier. This was a trilogy fight and the score was even at 1-1 going into UFC 264. Poirier emerged victorious in the trilogy bout, defeating McGregor via doctor’s stoppage in the first round when McGregor suffered the lower leg injury.

There have been many theories when it comes to McGregor’s injury. Some pinpoint preexisting leg issues as the reason for McGregor’s tibia break. Others blame the checked leg kick from Poirier, which “The Diamond” believes is the true cause.

Dr. David Abbassi recently dismissed the notion that McGregor had stress fractures ahead of UFC 264. Abbassi has served as a ringside physician for the UFC, Bellator, and ONE Championship.

One interesting case that has been made is that the “Notorious” one’s shin came in contact with Poirier’s elbow off a kick, which ultimately led to the tibia break.

FanSided reached out to Dr. Rand McClain, who specializes in sports medicine and has treated numerous athletes. He dismissed the idea that McGregor’s injury was the result of his shin coming in contact with Poirier’s elbow.

“With the supposed kick to the elbow, if you look closely, and again you don’t have to be an expert to have a great view. That was a glancing blow and it really didn’t hit the elbow, it’s more of the inside of the arm and it wasn’t enough energy or force, you can see there wasn’t an abrupt stoppage. It’s just so obvious if you look at those two scenarios (the other being a checked leg kick) on video, that’s not what happened.

“He does seem to roll his ankle because the fracture occurs and he loses his balance. And of course, basic physics takes over and he rolls it laterally and probably to jump to the next question you might be asking me: so what was it? It’s hard to tell but it could have been cumulative. These are fighters and there’s a lot of contact with a tibia to multiple body parts that could have led to a weakening.”

McGregor has undergone successful surgery. He’ll be on crutches for a few weeks.

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Dr. Rand on the 3 hardest Olympics Sports

What’s the hardest summer Olympic sport? That question is just as much up for debate as the answer. 

“What’s harder?” Dr. Rand McClain, chief medical officer of LCR Health who treats elite and amateur athletes, rhetorically asked Insider.

“Holding your breath under water while pushing most of your lower body above water? Continuing to bicycle right at your anaerobic threshold for as long as possible? Standing opposite an opponent who just hit you squarely in the jaw … in fear of being permanently injured or dying?” 

At the Olympic level, it’s all superhuman-level hard. But a few sports stand out as the most difficult of them all.

Insider asked six sports medicine professionals to name the toughest sports we’ll see in Tokyo based on the physical, technical, and mental strength needed. 

Water polo was named the most physically strenuous Olympic sport 

Water polo often tops lists of most difficult sports. In 2016, Bleacher Report declared it to be “the toughest sport in the world” based on six parameters: strength, endurance, speed, agility, skill, and physicality. 

On top of treading water for 30 minutes and swimming up to a mile per game, athletes “sneak in blows to each other similar to ice hockey and soccer, while trying to not touch the ground, not drown, and score points all at the same time,” Nandini Collins, a trainer and exercise physiologist who works at Noom, told Insider. “Water polo is played with reckless abandon and is more violent than spectators assume.”

Dr. Naresh Rao, an osteopathic primary care physician who serves as the head physician for the US men’s water polo team, told Insider water polo is strenuous because it requires both aerobic (used for endurance) and anaerobic (used for sprints) capacity. https://c8a3deca1419a2287313b38e913db356.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

McClain was unequivocal about his vote for water polo: It’s “the ‘hardest’ summer Olympic sport,” he said. “Why? It requires the highest VO2 max of any of them.” However, the data on that theory is mixed, with many top swimmers, distance runners, and cyclists all having exceptional VO2 maxes, or a measure of how efficiently your body exchanges oxygen. 

Gymnastics won the most points for technical and mental strength 

Simone Biles.

Four of the seven experts named gymastics the most demanding sport in at least one of the categories: physical, technical, and mental strength. 

“There is a high level of risk with the elements, and gymnasts are required to master balance, strength, flexibility, and endurance of both upper and lower extremities in order to achieve Olympic-level greatness, Dr. Kathleen Davenport, the director of Physiatry HSS Florida who works with dancers, told Insider. 

They also need “power and explosiveness” Nandini said. And mentally, Davenport added, they need “an extreme level of focus” to perform dangerous stunts — even after a crushing fall. ADVERTISING

A few other sports took bronze  

Swimming earned one vote for overall toughness and another for mental strength, since it’s a “sensory deprivation sport,” HSS’s Dr. Tate Greditzer, a former professional water polo player, told Insider. 

Boxers, decathletes, and 800-meter sprinters each got a vote as the most physically challenging sport. 

In the 800, “runners literally have to run at 90% of their full speed for well under two minutes,” trainer Jon P of Stop Crying Studios told Insider. The one time he ran it, he felt “complete numbness, inside and out” afterwards. “My vision blurred, I couldn’t catch my breath, or gather enough oxygen to stand upright for a while,” he said. 

Surfing and pole vault each got a vote for the most technically difficult sport. 

For mental strength, tennis, and the marathon earned a vote, though all Olympians are exceptional in that department, Dr. Kevin Bernstein, the chief medical officer at Peaks Coaching Group, told Insider.

“Most of those that lack mental strength do not get this far solely with raw physical talent, regardless of sport.”

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Dr. Rand on Conor McGregor’s Rehab

Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. and UFC fighter Conor McGregor are rehabbing together in Los Angeles.

The Atlanta Braves‘ chances of winning are always greater when star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. is in the lineup. However, the Braves will now have to go the remainder of the season without Acuña after he tore his ACL during a game against the Miami Marlins just before the All-Star break. Now, Acuna is on the road to recovery, alongside a huge star in his own right. Guillermo Arcay of Meridiano TV posted a photo on Twitter showing Acuña alongside UFC fighter Conor McGregor in Los Angeles rehabilitating their respective injuries.

Braves: Ronald Acuña Jr. rehabbing alongside UFC star Conor McGregor

McGregor, like Acuña, suffered a devastating injury on the very same weekend. During his rematch against Dustin Poirier at UFC 264, McGregor broke his tibia and fibula in the first round, resulting in him losing via technical knockout.

While there is no official timetable for McGregor’s return, Dr. Rand McClain recently spoke with FanSided MMA and discussed when he would clear the fighter if he were treating him.

“Looking at him as an exceptional athlete, I would be more likely to give him the okay to get back in the ring sooner than your average person,” McClain said. “He’s young, he would likely heal. I would probably say he can resume training as long as he’s not jumping up and down, he can start hitting the bag as early as three weeks. And then bicycle work, continuous bag work, and ring work at six weeks, and then again if everything’s going well, he would have full clearance. Most likely by 12 weeks to do everything else he feels like doing.”

Acuña suffered his knee injury when attempting to catch a fly ball hit by Marlins rookie Jazz Chisholm Jr. Acuña attempted to walk off the field, but sat down on the field to wait for a cart to drive him to the dugout. After undergoing testing, it was determined that Atlanta’s star outfielder is done for the season with a torn ACL. It is possible that Acuña could miss the start of the 2022 season due to him being sidelined between 9-to-10 months.

While Acuña’s injury is massive, the team tried their best to fill the void in the outfield by acquiring Joc Pederson from the Chicago Cubs. It remains to be seen what other moves, if any, the Braves will make as the trade deadline approaches this Friday.

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