I feel that adding electrolytes to the water for longer rides is a good strategy for a few reasons. the hotter and longer the event and the more you sweat and the sweatier you sweat then the more importance for including electrolytes (and sufficient water)
- electrolytes and sugars to some degree improve water absorption. this is probably only significant when there is a need. normal day to day we dont need to have an electrolyte in our tea and coffee LOL.
“The inclusion of electrolytes in fluid replacement beverages is important to offset the losses in sweat and urine during prolonged exercise in the heat; but, perhaps more importantly, electrolytes should be incorporated into these beverages because they play a pivotal role in glucose, water, and salt absorption, which, in turn, is essential for the maintenance of plasma volume and osmoregulation. Glucose-stimulated Na+ absorption is a well-accepted biological phenomenon in the human intestine.”
when you drink water alone, it drives the need to pee (blood Na dilution effect - brain perceives that you are too hydrated! and sodium levels are dropping and it wants to maintain ideal sodium levels as sodium is a critical electrolyte for cell function); so you arent hydrating (with only water) as effectively compared to when the water has electrolytes. ie you drink water and you pee more water… in and out… a reason i recommend never drinking water along before a race, you will only need to pee more.
electroytes aid water absorption somewhat, so do carbs; this is why diarrhoea formulation have electrolytes and sugars. albeit in different dosages as diarrhoea and sports dehydration are separate issues. that said, electrolytes improve hydration more (drive absorption across the gut wall due to concentration gradient),
while the theories on cramping may be wrong re electrolytes (or imcomplete), dehydration and electrolyte loss may impact sports performance and I believe, cognitive function. sometimes some salt can be as effective as taking some sugars on board!
better hydration while training = less stress response. also electrolytes are important for adrenal function, stress exacerbates electrolyte imbalance so it is a chicken and egg re stress and electrolytes and training and physiological stress.
depending on the ride and the duration and the temperatures/ humidity we need to tailor our fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrate intakes.
this questionnaire is fun https://www.precisionhydration.com/pages/why-personalise-your-hydration-strategy
hope my morning ramble above makes sense.
there are so many hydration options, sodium and chloride are the most important, some magnesium can be helpful. i think formulation with bs and other vitamins are a nonsense especially as they are usually in a cheap synthetic form. re carbs, glucose/ maltodextrin/ sucrose alone are all sufficient for intakes <60g per hour (maple syrup and “food” falls into this bracket. honey is mostly fructose i believe so not as good. intakes above 60g carbohydrate per hour need 2:1 glucose/ maltodextran to fructose ratio to avail of multiple transporter systems to achieve peak absorption rates in the gut. slow release specialist formulas are another topic.
sugar free options are only worth while if you need no sugar, to be honest i would rather people have a small bit of sugar than an artificial sweetener… makes no sense; you are burning carbs anyhow!!