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February 28, 2020 4 min read

Is your Sodium intake right? Salt 101 for athletes and people who workout

Sodium loss can be an important issue to deal with as an athlete or individual who wants to maximize the results of every workout session. Find out if you are meeting your sodium requirements in this article

 

The sodium is an important mineral for your body. It has an important role in your body’s internal balance as well as the transpiration mechanism, which is why you will always need to look out how much salt you need to consume to maintain your overall health.

 

Keeping salt consumption under control might be essential to avoid any blood pressure issues as well as improving your workout performance since sodium helps your body to regulate electrolyte loss.

 

But how to know is your sodium intake is high, low or enough depending on your exercising activity? Well, here there is all you need to know about the subject.

 

Sodium 101

As we told you before, sodium is one of the most important electrolytes of our body. The sodium is a mineral in which primary consumption comes from salt (sodium chloride) in our daily meals but can also be absorbed through sports drinks which are very common in the training field.

 

The sodium is the one responsible for helping to preserve fluid balance in your body, but it’s also the electrolytes that you can lose in your sweat at a much greater quantity than others like potassium and magnesium (1).

 

Specialist and physicians recommend a salt intake for “normal people” which is most adults who don’t workout or workout for less than 60 minutes and belong to age 50 or younger consume at least 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. 

 

On the other hand, if you are 51 years old or older, and African Americans of any age, and/or a person who suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease, the recommended level then is of 1,500 mg per day (2).

 

However and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sodium intake for average Americans is over 3,400 mg per day – which is almost 1 ½ teaspoon of salt every day – the reason why most healthy recommendations aim to reduce sodium intake from processed and prepared foods and drinks.

 

Do I need to put in more salt?

The principle to raise sodium intake comes from the transpiration process: we lose most of our sodium through our sweat. Losing more sodium than consuming can produce hyponatremia – a health condition with many symptoms produced by low sodium levels as a consequence of extreme physical work – (3).

 

Let’s put this very simple: if you are a normal person who doesn’t workout – is sedentary – or exercises less than 30 minutes a day, you don’t need to add extra salt to your daily intake. You might need to bring more physical activities to your daily routine to lose the extra sodium and avoid the risk of developing high blood pressure and/or heart diseases.

In contrast, if you are a professional athlete, a runner, a manual laborer or a person who develops extreme physical work especially in very hot seasons like summer, you might loss at least 5,000 to 6,000 mg per day of sodium every day – which is a lot more than the daily intake – in this case, you need to bring more salt to your daily routine.

 

How to know if I need more salt?

The answer to this question may be a little tricky. Your sodium loss is very particular and different from others since all bodies develop different ways to work their sodium. 

 

For example, everyone sweats differently, and that comes in both terms: how much they sweat and how much sodium do they lose every time. Besides, if you workout intensively around 60 to 90 minutes and you add to these duration/intensity value environment conditions such as hot and humid rooms or seasons or cool and dry ones, these will all affect how you sweat by the end of the session.

 

Specialists agree that if you are a normal person with heavy load training such as hot yoga and also a big sweater, you can stick to sports drinks for any training that lasts under two hours (4).

 

In activities such as a long run, biking and/or any other high-intensity activity you may double your sports drink with a pinch of salt – 100 mg of sodium – for every 8 ounces of liquid; this means 1/8 teaspoon of salt for 32 ounces of your preferred drink to keep you well hydrated.

 

Sodium recommendations for professional athletes 

According to Rice University researchers, most athletes tend to lose between 409 to 1,248 milligrams of sodium per hour.

 

Sometimes, water and energy drinks are not enough to meet sodium loss on training sessions, which is why athletes in the middle of high-intensity routines for contests have a high possibility to suffer from hyponatremia, a condition that characterizes for nausea, headaches, confusion, fatigue, muscle weakness, vomiting, loss of energy, irritability and more.

 

In order to avoid this situation, you may want to try sodium pre-loading before a workout. Pre-load with sodium consists of consuming 600 milligrams of sodium – which is like a 1/4 teaspoon of salt - along with additional electrolytes – sports or energy drinks - during training. In this way, you will maintain your body’s balance in hot conditions, even if your routine lasts longer than 90 minutes.

 

Even if salt recommendations for regular people are to keep it low, in high-performance athletes this may cause the loss of important water levels on their system, and with them, the loss of performance due to muscle fatigue. As you can see, keeping high sodium intake under heavy workout sessions and competition will guarantee high-performance levels on professional athletes and game players.

 

Sodium intake is an important way to maintain fluid balance, keeping your blood liquid while carries the necessary oxygen and nutrients to your muscles when having intensive training thus translating into enjoying better levels of stamina, endurance, and recovery rate.

 

References

  1. https://news.sanfordhealth.org/healthy-living/sodium-101-for-athletes/
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercise-and-sodium
  3. https://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/do-you-need-more-sodium-before-your-workouts
  4. https://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/03/20/is-salt-the-newest-workout-supplement

 

 


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