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The Importance of Salt when choosing a Sports DrinkIn general, your body has more than enough reserves of salt (aka sodium) to fuel the average long sunday ride or short race. There are two times when this is not the case. The first is a long (4hr+) ride on a hot day, the second is in a race such as Ironman.
Often, people use sports drinks that added salt. The ratioanle behind the inclusing on salt in the sports drink is that your body is loosing about 2.25 - 3.4 grams of salt per liter of sweat. However, the average individual has a fair bit of salt that can be readily devote to this task. in addition, virtually all North American diets have too much salt. This extra salt leads to high blood pressue and a host of other medial conditions.
Thus the salt that we loose when excersing hard can actually be a blessing. In 2-3 hours of exersizing, our readily availalble salt reserves aren't going to be depleted. All that will happen is with freuquent exercising, we'll be better adapted to the high amounts of salt that we typically eat in our diets.
The main execption to this rule is in Ironman. In this race, poeple are typically out exercising hard in the sun for 10-17hrs. In this race, it is very convienvable to run into a state where your salt reserves are depleted you may experience hyponatremia and symptoms man include headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, lethargy, restlessness, confusion and disorientation. Without salt supplementation, serious problems can occur.
It is necessary to have some salt in your diet on race day. Prezels and/or chicken broth are commonly given out at aid stations and are reltively high in salt. Unfortunately, both these might be harder to digest than one would like.
This best option is to use a sports drinks that is custom to your needs. If you regurlarily go on long (over 4hrs) rides or races over in hot weather it is useful to ingest a sports drink that has some salt. If this is not the case, then you can avoid this issue altogether and salt your food at the dinner table with impunity.
Another good option is to get custom sports drinks suiting for your own nutrition needs. At www.custom-sports-drinks.com you can get multiple sports drinks made, each with for a different part of your training. You can tailor the formula to your needs.
To solve the "salt in sports drinks" dilemna, just order two packs of sports drink powder. Ask the nice fellows who make the sports drinks to but salt in one and not the other. Then just make sure that you use the drink with salt added on your long rides.
When specifying your salt concentration, it is useful to take into account the amount that you drink per hour. Usually, individuals intake 200 calories of a sports drink/hour as they ride. Based on this rate of consumption, you need xgrams/salt per kilogram of sports drink powder. If you intake twice as much as this, you need half the salt in your sports drink. If you only have 100 calories per hour on your long runs and rides you should really think about eating more. That's a new topic entirely though. In this case, you need more salt, about 2 grams/liter in your sports drink.