How much do you know about the role that salt plays in your running?
The fact of the matter is that salt is vital for us not just as runners but also as humans.
So today I want to talk a bit more about salt, why it’s important, and maybe debunk a few misconceptions that you might have when it comes to salt consumption, specifically for us as runners.
Salt is Vital
Salt is vital for a whole bunch of bodily processes, but for our purposes, I want to focus on the role it plays in muscle function.
Specifically, salt is necessary for our muscles to contract/relax.
In case you’re not aware, running is actually a pretty complicated dance between different muscles contracting and relaxing to help propel us forward.
So if the concentration of salts in your body is dramatically decreased, your muscles won’t exactly work like they are designed.
Not ideal, obviously.
Maintaining Your Salt Levels
Seeing as salt is vital for our bodies to function, especially when we are running, how do we go about making sure our bodies are adequately salted all the time?
Thankfully, our bodies are really good at doing so on their own.
Without trying to get too deep into the weeds, our kidneys are always at work to help our bodies maintain the right levels of salt in our bodies by adjusting the concentration of the urine we produce.
Starting to get a bit too much salt in the system? We produce more concentrated urine.
And if the body starts to notice the salt levels dipping a bit lower? We produce less concentrated urine.
The one thing our kidneys, or our bodies, can’t do is create the salt that we need to survive.
We have to consume it in our diets.
What if We Consume Too Much Salt?
This is the concern, right?
We all know that too much dietary salt is a problem, right?
Like a lot of things related to health and fitness, the answer is seldom as simple as we’d like it to be.
Yes, too much salt can be problematic.
You know what else can be problematic? Not enough.
So how do we know what’s enough, what’s too much, and what’s not enough?
We don’t. But again, as long as we are taking in enough salt our bodies are really good at regulating our salinity levels.
So my loose rule of thumb for myself is when in doubt, add a little more salt to the mix and let my kidneys do their job.
A Few Things to Consider…
Is it really that easy?
Just make sure to add a bit of salt to your food and you’re good to go?
Not surprisingly, there is some nuance that really should be considered before you just start going willy nilly with the salt shaker at every meal.
Also, I suppose this is the point where I make the disclaimer that I’m not a guru, not a doctor, and not an expert on the subject in any way/shape/form.
So take the following with a grain of salt then, eh?
Your Needs are Unique
No surprise here, but the amount of salt you need to consume is probably different than the amount that I need to consume.
What about the RDA courtesy of the FDA?
How much do you sweat? How salty is your sweat?
Those are two obvious factors that determine how much you need to consume.
Also, how much training are you doing?
If you’re training twice as much as I am, safe to say you might need more salt, eh?
What is Your Diet Like
Different foods have different amounts of salt already included.
If you eat a lot of processed foods, you may be getting all the salt you need already.
But if your diet is relatively clean, then you might actually need to be pretty heavy-handed with the salt shaker.
Trust Your Body
How do you feel after a workout that leaves you a sweaty mess?
Tired but good to crack on with the rest of your day?
Struggling a bit more? Tired? Lethargic? Maybe have a bit of a headache?
No guarantee, but try upping your intake (both pre and mid-run) and see if that helps.
Adding More to the Mix
If you’re at the point where you’re thinking about adding a bit more salt to your diet, don’t overthink it.
You can lean into some of the manufactured options out there, but you can just as easily use the salt shaker a little more liberally.
And if you’re worried that you might overdo it a little bit and risk negative outcomes?
Unless you’re already under orders from your doctor to limit your sodium intake, you’ll almost certainly be fine.
How Do You Make Sure You’re Consuming Enough Salt to Meet Your Body’s Needs?
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