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Texas Orthopedics, Sports & Rehabilitation Associates

Monday, September 19, 2016

How Much Salt Do Runners Need?

In the Texas heat, we know that physical activity and sweating go hand in hand. Many of the athletes we treat, especially runners, think that added salt/sodium in their diet is necessary to enhance performance, replenish electrolytes, ward off muscle cramps, and prevent exercise-associated hyponatremia--low sodium levels that could lead to headaches, nausea, and even seizures or coma in extreme cases.

Yes, there is ample evidence to the contrary warning that too much salt can have negative impact on your health also, such as contributing to hypertension (high blood pressure). So what's a runner to do?

Researchers recently set out to answer that question in a new study published the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. They looked at sodium levels in the perspiration of a number of athletes of varying ages and health histories. Here's what they found:

  • There was no overwhelming evidence that sodium intake is directly linked to enhanced performance or decreased muscle cramps.
  • It was also determined that sodium intake could not prevent hyponatremia, and that the actual primary cause of this condition is drinking too much water.
  • Drastically decreasing your sodium intake over a short period of time could be dangerous by causing your body to become depleted of many vital nutrients and fluids needed to function healthily.
While it was stressed that further research is needed here, it can be concluded that how much or how little salt your body needs during exercise is entirely up to the individual. And that regular exercise itself is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle in order to keep all of our bodies' systems in balance.

The American Heart Association currently recommends that all healthy adults get 2,000 to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, with endurance athletes--including runners--consuming more as needed. If you have trouble with muscle cramps, any-other running-related issues, or would like to discuss a change in your diet/sodium intake, please contact us for an appointment.

(Adapted from Runner’s World)

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