This is such a hotly debated topic we didn’t even know if we wanted to dip our toe into the ocean of information out there to even attempt to condense it.
But we also know people are looking for answers, so here we are.
Do you need salt? How much should you take?
All these are great questions that have literally had books written on the topic, so in addition to sharing our thoughts, we want to share some resources.
Just know, before almost every statement in this blog it is logical to put, “It depends…” and end with “everyone is different.” So be sure to do testing to find out what your body needs.
Do I need salt?
When you sweat you lose salt (along with other electrolytes) and so it makes sense to think it needs to be replenished. However, there is a lot of research that shows the salt you are losing is simply the extra salt, and you have enough salt stored in your body to last you even through ultratriathlons. (See Waterlogged by Timothy Noakes.)
That being said, you also need to take into consideration the duration of your effort and weather.
Shorter durations you need to replenish less of everything (nutrition, hydration, salt), think about a 5k compared to a half marathon. Intake will obviously be less. And you will of course sweat more in the heat than in the cold.
So do you need salt? For most weekend warriors, probably not until you cross over the 1.5-2hr threshold. The normal American diet is generally high enough in salt to keep you stocked up and loaded up for these durations.
How much salt should I take?
This is going to be very individualized and can only be discovered through either a lab sweat test or repeated testing in training to see what works for you.
The goal of taking in salt is to ensure your sodium to water level within our cells stays in balance. How much you lose of each is different for everyone.
What we can say for sure is the name brand sports drink you are drinking most likely isn’t enough. There is too high of a liquid to sodium level to actually bring balance to your body.
For a great and simple explanation be sure to check out The Consistency Project podcast, “on Electrolytes, Performance, and Misapplied Precision.”
It is easily one of the most accessible desciptions of electrolytes while remaining very well grounded in science. The Consistency Project in general is worthy of your subscription!
Lauren has always been a salt user. I, Jordan, have not been.
We’ve both completed numerous races of varying lengths up to the 70.3 distance with our preferences with great times.
While I’m not entirely convinced scientifically we need salt to train and compete at our best, I am also of the opinion it can’t hurt. (As long as you aren’t over salting!)
So, should you take salt? Really, it’s up to you.
Do your research. Read and listen to experts in the field. Try to stay away from marketing hype.
With the realization that lab results don’t always correlate 100% with real world research, and the best experiment you can run is N of 1, where you are the subject of the study.
How has salt impacted your training?