All our lives, we’ve been told that the American diet is too high in sodium and it causes high blood pressure.
Everything from Uber eats to frozen pizza and processed foods are all high in sodium. Too much sodium can cause the cells in your body to swell and hold onto fluids.
That's probably why you've heard that sodium is "bad". Well, anything in excess is! That's also why you may feel bloated after having takeout ... your body is holding onto more water!
While it isn’t wrong to “watch your sodium”, it's certainly nothing to obsess over.
Like most things when it comes to our health, it's all about balance! I would also argue that if you are living a healthy lifestyle, watching what you eat, and working out … there's a good chance you may not be getting ENOUGH sodium.
Think about it — if you're eating more fresh foods, prepping meals and forgoing takeout for dinner every night ... you'll be consuming less sodium. In that case, you wouldn't really be the “average” American.
You’re also losing this precious electrolyte when you’re working out and sweating. This can have a big impact on your performance in the gym. Not getting enough sodium can make you weaker, dehydrated, and more prone to muscle cramping.
That’s why it’s so important to replenish your electrolytes around your workout, and why I wanted to talk about the benefits of using salt before your workouts. I hope this article clears up any confusion and helps you maximize your training!
Salt, Sodium … Same Thing. Right?
Are salt and sodium the same thing? Not exactly. Sodium is an electrolyte that falls in the same category as potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphate. The electrolytes sodium and potassium are the key players in maintaining a healthy fluid balance in our bodies. Basically, they help make sure our cells are hydrated and happy.
Your body also needs electrolytes to send nerve impulses throughout your body. This helps your muscles contract and relax while helping to maintain the right pH in your blood.
The salt that we use to season our foods is made of about 40% sodium and 60% chloride. About 1 teaspoon equals 2,300 mg of sodium. So, while you may hear the terms “salt” and “sodium” used interchangeably, they aren’t exactly the same.
Why Should I Take Salt Before My Workout?
I’m sure you’ve probably heard about the importance of getting electrolytes after your workouts to help rehydrate your body. But, by getting sodium pre-workout, rather than getting salt after a workout, you can stay hydrated and reap all the other benefits too!
So, what are the benefits to using salt before a workout?
More blood flow. Sodium can increase blood flow by pulling extra fluid into the bloodstream! This can help you push harder for longer during strength training. Plus, you'll get a better muscle pump!
Improves hydration. Because you lose sodium through sweat, it’s easy to get dehydrated. On average, you lose a little more than 1 liter of water per hour of exercise and your sweat is approximately 0.1% sodium. So, you’re losing 1g or more of sodium per hour of exercising! However, salt before your workout can help you stay hydrated and helps you retain water, keeping your fluids in balance.
Body cooling. With better blood flow and circulation comes better cooling and water retention. This can help you work out for longer. Sodium has also been shown to lower your core body temperature and average heart rate during very strenuous exercise.
Something to keep in mind is that everyone is different. Some people just sweat more than others. Depending on body size, exercise demands, and the temperature you’re working out in … you may need more sodium.
Now, I’m not saying to go pound a salty drink right before your daily walk, but for endurance workouts or strength training, this is an easy decision!
How Much Salt Should I Have Before a Workout?
There's no one-size-fits-all recommendation on how much salt before a workout will help your performance. I recommend starting with around 500mg of sodium pre-workout and increasing from there based on your individual needs! If you live in a warmer climate where you sweat more, you may end up using around 2,000mg of sodium.
So really, how much you should take before your workout all comes down to trial and error. It's always better to start with less and work your way up from there.
I personally like to keep it simple. To fuel my workouts, I normally use hydration sticks that provide a full spectrum of electrolytes shown to help improve exercise performance. That way, I know I'm getting sodium, and every other electrolyte I need to crush my workouts.
If you have any questions about how to properly fuel your workouts, or anything else, we're happy to help! Just reach out to us and speak with one of our several NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches up here at HQ. Your goals are our top priority, and we'd love to help you earn the results you're after.
Plataforma SINC. (2015, March 4). Salt increases physical performance in resistance competitions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150304075220.htmABOUT THE AUTHOR