By Nichelle Laus (@NichelleLaus)
In the past decade, health enthusiasts have paid a great deal of attention to sodium due to the increased health problems that can arise from overconsumption. While this may be the case for healthy individuals,the same does not apply to athletes. In fact, among athletes, salt happens to be one of the most important nutrients they can possibly consume.
Salt, for those seeking a more scientific definition, consists of sodium and chloride. These ingredients promote muscle function and regulate fluid balance by keeping the right amount of water inside and outside of your cells and in your blood. Because sodium is lost in sweat and urine, it is essential that an athlete replace the compound at all times.
As with most fluid requirements, the daily sodium intake of an individual can vary greatly from one athlete to another. Some may require a higher amount while others may need less depending on the amount of sweat produced. Simply put: the more a person sweats, the more sodium they lose.
Knowing your sweat rate (which we will get to shortly) can help indicate the amount of sodium that you need to consume. While a recommendation may be given, knowing your own information can ensure you’re consuming the correct amount based on your body and training program.
Know Your Sweat Rate
Weigh and record your pre- and post-exercise weight to get your sweat rate. It’s that easy. A one-pound drop of bodyweight is equivalent to 16 ounces of sweat. Ensure you replace that number with the same amount of fluid to reduce any problems associated with over hydration and dehydration. It is crucial for athletes to remember to take care of themselves properly in order to train and exercise with no negative side effects.
How Much Do We Need?
For non-athletes, the body needs between 500 mg and 2,400 mg per day. Most people, however, consume more than that through both processed foods and other whole foods, especially in North America. As previously mentioned, these requirements are different for athletes because they actually need salt to replace the sodium that is lost through sweat. An obvious way to do this is through eating salty foods. Sports drinks are also known to contain fair amounts of sodium, so the consumption of such beverages can help increase sodium intake as well.
Athletes must always remember the importance of proper sodium intake as well as the amount they require to avoid the risk of developing hyponatremia, which can occur when one drinks more fluid than they lose in sweat, common among marathoners and triathletes. When you’re looking for grub to grab before or after your workout, don’t discount the value of salt. It’s not as bad as you’ve heard, assuming you’re an athlete. Besides, salty foods are delicious, so it shouldn’t be much of a chore!
Nichelle Laus is a competition coach, police officer, and mother of four boys.