If you’ve been following my social media, you know I include salt in my preworkout shake aswell as plenty of salt throughout the day for improved performance. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this so let’s get into why salt is so important.
Salts are composed of sodium and chloride, two of the most important electrolytes in the human body.
Benefits of Sodium
Most people know of electrolytes from certain sports drinks like Aquarius but supplementing regular salt can help in many ways:
- Maintain membrane potential. Sodium is essential for the maintenance of membrane potential, which affects muscle contraction and cardiac function.
- Balance electrolytes. Sodium intake can greatly influence electrolyte balance as it is one of the main electrolytes in the human body,
- Influence nutrient absorption and transport. Sodium influences the absorption of nutrients such as amino acids, glucose and water.
- Increases blood volume. Helps deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the cells which repair the cells and remove waste.
- Improves strength and integrity of the joints. Allows athletes to hold more water in the muscles as sodium has the ability to draw water into your bloodstream.
Salt is a mineral that consists primary of sodium chloride (NaCl).
Sodium is essential for the regulation of water levels in and around the cells within your body, as well as the maintenance of blood pressure and volume.
When athletes work out, they gradually release sweat from their sweat glands. Although mostly composed of water, sweat also contains other components such as sugars and salts.
Most fitness enthusiast will know that replenishing your electrolytes is important after a long workout, but maintaining optimal electrolyte levels throughout your training can really increase your performance.
There’s nothing unusual about cramping, as a result of electrolyte imbalance, ruining an athlete’s performance. It happens at the highest levels and it shouldn’t. It is preventable. Sodium intake should be as closely monitored as protein, fats and carbohydrates.
You might ask ”isn’t sodium unhealthy?”. Absolutely not, quite the contrary.
Three of the largest studies ever done on sodium intake all showed that an increase in salt results in a decrease in cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
As a matter of fact, the highest rates of all-cause mortality were found in the groups that restricted sodium intake.
Now there is a small percentage of the population that is sodium sensivity. Just like there are people that are lactose intolerant or have peanut allergies or gluten allergies. But the research suggests that it’s a small percentage that will have adverse effects from increasing their sodium intake. Those athletes should monitor the effects of sodium on their health.
When you initially increase you salt intake you will realize some water retention and so your body acclimates to the increased salt intake.
But it will normalize and you will see all the benefits.
What Kind of Sodium?
Now what kind of sodium should you be eating? Table salt is sodium chloride and only about 40% sodium. You’ll get more out of it if you use seasalt.
Don’t overlook iodised table salt. Iodine is another largely misunderstood nutrient which has important health benefits.
2 billion people worldwide suffer from idione-deficiency which causes:
- Mental retardation (MR)
- Goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland (thyromegaly)
- Thyroid disease
Iodine was added to table salt to reduce the incidense of goiter. Thyroid disease results in a slowed down metabolism, weight gain, fatigue and other symptoms of hypo-thyroidism.
So, before you start popping T3 like candy. Consider that you may benefit from the use of iodised salt.
How Much Sodium Should You Take?
Well I’m very active, train almost daily and sweat alot. So I salt all of my meals. I also eat a couple pieces of bacon with breakfast and include about 1 gram of salt in my preworkout shake. This will result in about 10 grams of salt a day.
Now, I believe athletes should take 4 grams of salt for every half a gallon (slightly under 2 liters) of water that they drink.
A disciplined athlete or those that are dieting tend to not eat fast food or processed foods. So they are already limiting their sodium intake. Adding to that is they drink a lot of water which also tends to further dehydrate them by flushing out valuable minerals and electrolytes. So their performance suffers.
Often times athletes will reduce or eliminate carbohydrates for a period of time. Water binds to carbs in the muscle so when there’s fewer carbohydrates there’s less water and there’s an increased likelihood of cramping and decrease in performance.
Adequate sodium intake can solve all of these problems and drastically improve performance, decrease fatique and increase blood volume for better recovery.
Sodium in Competitions
This is especially true for women who are preparing for shows and trying to lose weight. Don’t restrict sodium. It doesn’t affect body composition. If you trainer has you cutting out sodium a week before a show you need to kick him in the throat. The muscles will deflate and pull away from the skin in addition to being tired as hell, you’ll lose definition and you’ll look skinny fat. Then you’ll suffer from water retention after the show and blow up like a balloon.
If you deplete carbs and salt for a week to fit into your favorite bikini, you’re just losing water, not fat and it will all come back.
Fear of sodium is just one of those pervasive myths that never seems to die. John F. Kennedy said the following, which I believe holds true for so many things in the fitness industry:
The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
- Sodium is essential for the regulation of water levels in and around the cells within your body, as well as the maintenance of blood pressure and volume.
- An increase in salt results in a decrease in cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
- Take 4 grams of salt for every half a gallon (slightly under 2 liters) of water that you drink.
- Don’t restrict sodium. It doesn’t affect body composition. You’re just losing water, not fat and it will all come back.
Are you currently on an effective mealplan that is optimal for your goals? If you’re not sure, go to my Online Coaching page and sign up so we can get the most out of your nutrition and provide you the progress you deserve in either muscle gains or fat loss.
Finally, make sure to FOLLOW me on social media for more free content: