Bikram Yoga and Electrolytes

Julia H.
(British Columbia)

QUESTION:  

I have a couple of questions concerning Bikram yoga and electrolytes that I am hoping you could answer.

Yoga class

I am a 162 lb, 5'9, 25-year old female. I go to Bikram yoga (hot yoga) for 90 minutes every day.

(Right now I am doing a challenge. Normally I go 5 or 6 times a week).

It is in a room heated to about 39 Celsius and it is very strenuous (lots of cardio, believe it or not).

After my first week I started using the electrolyte supplement "Emergen-c" in my water on the suggestion of my instructor because my face was going numb in class and I was suffering dizziness and nausea.

Right now I am taking about 4 packets a day (it says 2 to 4 in the instructions).

I have been doing research, trying to figure out several things:

  1. How many Emergen-C packets do I really need?
  2. How much water do I need? (I have a 22 ounce water bottle that hangs out with me 24/7 so I drink 2 with 2 packets and 2 without right now)
  3. When is the best time to use the electrolyte supplement - before, during, after exercise?
  4. When should I consume the majority of my water? When I drink too much right before yoga, I get bloaty and nauseous.

Any insights you could lend me would be great! I'm trying to perfect the science of this... On days I am properly hydrated I can feel the difference but I cannot seem to get it right.


ANSWER:

I am familiar with Bikram yoga and know that it is a good way to cleanse and detoxify your body while getting fit.

However, because of the heat and amount of sweating you do, you definitely need to make sure you are replenishing electrolytes (electrically charged alkaline minerals, such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.)

The biggest concern is always the loss of sodium. I am sure you have noticed that sweat is very salty.

In case you haven't already read it, this page Electrolytes in the Body, explains the loss of electrolytes in the body during exercise.

The symptoms you were having (dizziness, nausea and face numbness) during your Bikram yoga are key indicators that you were very low in electrolytes. The numbness in your face was probably due to temporarily impaired nerve function.

Regarding how many Emergen-C packets to take, it really depends on how much you are sweating.

However, because of the symptoms you have already experienced and how often you are doing your hot yoga sessions, I highly recommend that you drink 4 to 6 ounces of some type of electrolyte enhanced water every 30 min. during your 90-min. Bikram yoga session. That amount should not make you feel too bloated.

That means 1 Emergen-c packet in filtered water every 30 minutes, followed by 1 more packet 30 minutes after your class (a total of 4 packets). However, if this much vitamin C gives you loose stools, you will have to cut back to 3 or even 2.

It might be much easier for you to make your own electrolyte enhanced water and take it to your Bikram yoga class in a portable water bottle. I DO NOT recommend commercial sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade, because they are full of sugar and highly acidic.

To make a quart/liter of electrolyte water for your Bikram yoga class, combine:

  • 3 cups fruit juice (preferably organic, no sugar added)
  • 1 cup filtered water (not bottled water or reverse osmosis or distilled water, which are acidic and de-mineralized)
  • 1/2 tsp of Celtic sea salt or Himalayan crystal salt (not refined table salt)
  • Optional: 1 tsp honey for additional glucose and enzymes

However, you might also want to check out Trace Minerals Research Liquimins Electrolyte Stamina Power Pak, Lemon Lime Fizzing Drink on Amazon.com, which is similar to Emergen-C but it contains more electrolytes and is made with stevia instead of sugar. The price is comparable.

Thus, I would add one packet of Liquimins Electolyte Stamina Power to your drinking water and/or diluted juice before and after your yoga session, and it should suffice. This would replace the Emergen-C packets and homemade electrolyte water.

However, I would still add 1/4 tsp of Celtic sea salt per quart of drinking water throughout the day. I cannnot stress enough how important natural sea salt is for proper hydration and electrolyte balance.

My site page on Hydration Basics for Sports also gives guidelines for when and how much to drink before, during and after a workout.

But when it comes down to it, every person is different depending on weight, intensity of your Bikram yoga session, how much you sweat, and so forth. So you will still have to experiment a little.

I would lean toward making your own electrolyte juice/water rather than relying on taking four Emergen-C packets daily.

In general, I wouldn't recommend more than 1 or 2 Emergen-C packets a day because of the other ingredients in the packet that are not that healthy - fructose, flavorings, cystein hydrochloride.

The Trace Minerals Liquimins packet is similar but contains more trace minerals and stevia, a much healthier choice than fructose.

The other thing that will help a lot is if you really watch your salt intake during the day. The less salt you eat in your diet, the more sodium your body will retain when you exercise.

Lastly, normally I would recommend you drink half your body weight of filtered water daily. So if you weight 162, that means you need about 80 oz. of water or about 2 1/2 quarts.

However, with Bikram yoga, you should add another 1/2 to 1 quart to that because of how much you sweat. Total: a minimum of 3 to 3 1/2 quarts daily!!

I highly recommend you check out the articles on my site about filtered drinking water, tap water vs bottled water, reverse osmosis water, and distilled water so that you understand why filtered water is the best water to drink.

It doesn't have to be expensive either - even a water filter pitcher (about $25 will provide at least a base level of filtration).

Bottom line: If you are drinking R.O. or distilled water (which most bottled water is), the de-mineralized water will leach more minerals out of your body, further depleting your electrolytes.

Hope this helps!

Nancy Hearn, CNC


Follow-Up Comments and Questions

I think the reason I ended up with Emergen-C is because I am on a limited budget (I found them for super cheap!) and I haven't managed to stand the taste of any of the make-your-own recipes.

I do buy coconut water and have a glass on the way to class as a treat. I actually have a UV water purifier with filter installed in my house and I'm on good well water so that's not really a problem for me. I think maybe I was drinking too many of the electrolytes before class and not so much during or after.

Chakra centers in the body

It is really not a sport that makes drinking easy. Six ounces in 30 minutes may not make a runner feel bloated, but when you are doing a forward bend and compressing your organs....

I bring a 22-ounce bottle to class with two Emergen-c packets in it and never finish it, but today I gulped the leftovers right before my final corpse pose.

I also eat a yogurt with kiwi, banana and chia seeds about 2 hours before my morning class in hopes of getting some extra dietary potassium and magnesium.

The vitamin C doesn't really bother my bowels, but I see what you're saying.

I was actually also considering switching to some sort of electrolyte tablet. I hear a lot of Bikram yogis just take a tablet that contains electrolytes. Have you have you heard of these?

Thanks for all your help!

Julia


ANSWER:

Sounds like you’ve got your bases covered with mineral intake.

I am also a hatha yoga instructor so I know what you mean about compressing your organs...

I don’t really have an issue with water sitting in my stomach when practicing yoga, because I drink ionized water which absorbed so much quicker than other waters. I never get the bloated feeling.

I wish all yoga instructors would provide ionized alkaline water to their students because it is super hydrating and mineral rich. Thus, it replaces the electrolytes naturally.

However, even with ionized water, I would recommend adding Celtic sea salt to replenish the excessive sodium lost through sweat during a Bikram class.

The water ionizer systems I recommend are relatively expensive, but it is well worth it for most health practitioners and yoga/fitness instructors who want to provide the healthiest water for their clients. Anyway, just an idea if you want to mention it to your instructor at some point.

The electrolyte tablets are not going to be utilized by the body as well as the liquid minerals or even Emergen-C, especially if the person is even mildly dehydrated. But you could try them for a few days and see how they work for you.

Bottom line, if you stick with Emergen-C packets and take 1 pack in water 30 min. before class, 1 during class, and 1 right after class, you should be ok.

Pay close attention to your body and watch out for any signs or symptoms of electrolyte imbalance, as mentioned earlier.

To your health!

Nancy



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