We’re firmly in the middle of the week, which means that it’s time for Coach Tip Tuesday!!
Today we’re going to talk about a micronutrient that has been vilified in popular culture: salt, aka sodium. Like anything consumed in excess, yes it’s true that too much sodium may adversely affect both your health and athletic performance. But for anyone who exercises, and especially endurance athletes, sodium is an incredibly electrolyte that needs replacing.
We’re humans (homo sapien sapiens if you want to get super-technical), so our bodies will sweat in an attempt to consistently regulate our core temperature. (Some of you out there may glisten as opposed to sweat; I won’t judge ;) ). When compared with all of the other electrolytes (such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium), sodium is the most important one to consider because it makes up SUCH a significant portion of our sweat. 1% of all of our sweat is sodium, which is rather remarkable. Since muscle contractions require sodium, calcium, and potassium to be present, it’s therefore pretty clear that replacing all of these, and especially sodium, is critical to an athlete’s performance since we rely on our muscles to get us to the finish line.
Many athletes do consume sports drinks during training and racing, which obviously help with fluid replenishment. However, since these products are fortified with electrolytes, they also help with electrolyte replacement. Despite this, many athletes will still be lacking in sodium. This is especially true of “salty sweaters” (those who have salt visible on their skin during/after exercise). How does one do this?? By incorporating additional sodium supplementation into his/her training and racing nutrition plan. There are many products out there that can assist with this. One form is salt capsules that can be taken like a pill. Another is a chewable tablet. SaltStick is one company that manufactures both of these types of sodium supplementation, and these are both generally consumed every 30-45 minutes during an activity or event. Another form is loose salt that one licks every 10 minutes or so; Base Salt in an example of this. There’s no “better” option; like anything else, it requires experimentation in training and racing for an athlete to determine what works best for him/her.
Many of the athletes who I have worked for over the years didn’t supplement with additional sodium prior to hiring me. I have seen this small change work WONDERS for so many of the athletes who I have worked for. While it’s certainly not a magic pill that will fix any/all athletic issues, ensuring proper sodium replacement definitely leads to increased performance and to the athlete just feeling better overall. It makes sense that they would feel better; their bodies are no longer lacking a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to asking their muscles to perform for them.
Like so many things in the endurance sports world, there is a ton of information out there on this and a lot of pathways to try and test out to determine the right recipe for YOU. A good coach can assist with paring down the information and helping you find what works best for you. If you have questions about any/all of this, you all know where to reach me. :)