Eating your electrolytes


A couple months ago @Coach_Theia had Tom Dumoulin (if I am remembering right!) on Chat and Chill and he said he ate his electrolytes instead of drinking them. He mentioned that drinking electrolytes could upset the stomach and suppress appetite making it more difficult to keep fueled on the bike.

I’d been adding a very low sugar electrolyte to my water for longer rides and have noticed that up to 50 miles or so I have no problems but the longer I ride, the more I have to force myself to eat because everything made me want to barf.

Since I heard Tom, I have been experimenting. I stopped adding electrolytes to my water and have made sure my ride food was much more varied and high in electrolytes. Since then I’ve not had any stomach issues, have actually found myself getting hungry at the tail ends of long rides, and have felt generally pretty good.

Does anyone else eat their electrolytes? And, maybe this is an @cullenac question, how do I know if I am not getting enough electrolytes? (I am a moderately salty sweater)


Hi Stefanie- yes, that was a bit of a revelation for me too when I talked to Tom on Chat and Chill (it’s Tom Danielson, the former UCI World Tour pro-cyclist). I have also been experimenting with only water in my bottle, but have yet to try a longer (2+ hour) ride without Skratch in my bottle… I eat quite a bit of salt in my meals.

I also have the same feeling after about 3-4 hours if I have electrolytes in my bottle- I have a hard time eating.


At least I got the Tom part right! :grin:


For me, I went away from all sports drinks and back to plain water quit a while ago. But last year, I got into just electrolytes, not carbs, in one of my two bottles as suggested by the Iron-man guy in group. Keep in mind, my long ride for the week is 55 miles-ish or if extended every third week 75ish with 2,500 - 3,500 ft climbing. On the extended ride, past that 3 hour mark, eating and drinking have a huge impact for me. That is where especially the electrolyte tablets in one bottle and real food come in for me. I make small half sandwiches and a banana so its like, 90 min bar, 60 min later 1/2 sandwich, then banana later, small bar or gel later, during the ride. Of course replenish water bottles mid way for the longer than 3H rides. Again I can wing my regular team rides at 55m/3H with just a bar, water and a banana, but the longer loops with 75 or more miles, I must eat and drink perfectly or I get weak.

So I noticed most others don’t think out eating on our longer loops and die in the last miles where lately I don’t nearly as much as prior. Electrolytes in the bottle not carbs and some protein in my sandwich not just bar carbs has been my key differentiation. If i’m on the bike for 5H I need full nutrition at some point. Now if this were 5 H competitions, not just hard rides, there may be more optimization on what can be carried and digested under hard load but, my 2c. Ps. I put the small sandwiches in a baggie and can manage to eat it while riding just a easy as a bar.


Fully agree- real food on the bike for those long rides is key! To be honest, I am not ready to give up my electrolytes in the bottle for long rides.


Only real food on the bike for me too and I make it all myself so I have control over everything that is in it. Makes a huge difference. I do better eating small amounts more frequently, about every 30 minutes, than larger amounts less often. Even half a sandwich in my stomach does not sit well. So everything I make is basically “bite sized.”


I always wished jersey pockets were lined with plastic so we could just put the bite-sized food in there without a wrapper!


That would be amazing! I will donate to your Kickstarter campaign for that jersey @Coach_Theia!


I have an as yet undiagnosed stomach issue that makes me ultra sensitive to all sorts of foods and drinks. I really struggled with hydrating as I found I would cramp if not properly hydrated but that electrolyte products like a high 5 and SiS could have significant impact and had the potential to give me a Tom Domoulin moment !!! Several months back I discovered a fully natural electrolyte replacement made from distilled sea water (its called Elete) This has been a complete game changer for me :grin:


I cannot ride without electrolytes. I cramp otherwise. I’ve been mixing half a bottle of Gatorade with half a bottle of water. That’s been working well. I am learning to eat more on longer rides but haven’t found a favourite or optimal solution yet. Most of the time I take a gel halfway in and that’s ok for a 2 hour ride, but a longer one I definitely need more fuel and found that out the hard way this summer.

My favourite mid-ride snack on a really hot ride is Sherbert as ice cream seems to really bother my stomach if I’m riding.

My daughter’s dance coach posted a make your own sports recipe drink I haven’t tried yet. I’ll look for the link and post it if I find it. I remember it having coconut water in it.


Ok here’s the link. It’s an electrolyte drink recipe made for kids to avoid natural sweeteners, but I’d think it’d be just as good for us.


Lindsy, what duration of ride causes you to cramp if you don’t have an electrolyte drink? Also, have you tried other drinks besides gatorade? I just ask because gatorade has a bunch of sugar, too. I used to use gatorade, too, but I found that the sugar was just too much for my stomach for long races.


@anon30517170 Unfortunately, the ride duration or intensity doesn’t seem to be the problem. I seem to cramp in my calves on days I’m working only. I think it has to do with the long commute. I even cramped last night on the trainer and I’ve been really good for months. It starts almost right away. One leg will just feel off and I can feel it building to the point where I have to stop and stretch about 30 min in to avoid a full blown cramp or I won’t be able to continue.

I haven’t tried anything other than Gatorade or G2. Do you have any suggestions?


I use Skratch. I don’t have a tendency to cramp, but I’ve used Skratch for years now for rides 3 to 12 hours long with no issues.

You have probably seen this, but in case you haven’t there is a good post about cramping from Andrea: Cramping - resources

And this is a great article about hydration for women- here Dr Sims talks about the time of the month and what should be in your bottle (only sodium and potassium is not enough):


I would look at a couple of things. First, take a look at your setup. Make sure that your cleat alignment, saddle height/angle, or general position on the bike is not causing the problem. If you have not had a professional bike fit, I highly recommend it. Second, take a look at a number of things that @cullenac has posted. This may be a dietary/nutritional issue that is aggravated by your commute. Speaking of that, take a look at your seat position in your car. Make sure that you don’t have any odd angles that are causing a muscle issue. Fourth, have you tried compression socks during the drive?

As for electrolyte drinks, I try to go with the minimal amount of sugar added as possible. Too much sugar not only causes insulin spikes and crashes, but it’s hard on the teeth and the stomach. I prefer to get my energy from food as much as possible, only switching to gels when the intensity is high. I use Skratch Labs like @Coach_Theia, but Tailwind Sports, SiS, Precision Hydration, and others are all good. It just depends on what works for you and your stomach. Again, Andrea is much better equipped to go into detail than I am on the nutritional side of the house.


Thanks so much for the suggestions. I’ve been professionally fitted and I do agree with you that maybe there’s some sort of mineral imbalance. I used to cramp even as a kid swimming. I take magnesium and potassium because I was told by a doctor that despite eating well my tests were showing my body doesn’t seem to be processing those minerals from the food I’m eating.

I don’t have any recovery socks or tights, but I will get some soon and see if it helps. I’m also looking forward to trying out the Skratch labs as it sounds like a much better choice.

Thanks for all the suggestions.


Interesting article. Does Skratch have all the necessary ingredients in it according to what the article says we need?


Yes. Skratch Labs was initially created by Dr Sims (the writer of the article) and another partner. They then separated as Dr Sims started Osmo, focusing on women.


I use a mix of Nuun bottles and Skratch bottles which has worked out well for me. I also take a Magnesium supplement. I have experimented with plain water and 1/4 t salt in bottles. I am ok for ~1 hour rides. After that my feet can cramp. After listening to the chat and chill, I may try increasing salt in my food. I can crave salty potato chips on long rides. Tina


I have to use electrolyte drinks for my longer rides. I keep one bottle water and one bottle skratch or gu roctane drink. The grape gu has a very mild flavor. I bring extra skratch or gu when I do endurance racing. I get migraines when I get dehydrated and when my electrolytes get a bit off. I also drink a bottle of skratch after I finish rides longer than 40 miles.