One very controversial topic in the health and fitness industry is Sodium Intake…
The average Joe Blow doctor will tell you to cut back on your sodium intake and will talk down about sodium like it’s the root of all evil. They’ll tell you about how it will cause high blood pressure, heart problems, kidney problems, etc.
But 99% of the time the doctor is giving this advice to sedentary individuals. Not hard training athletes and bodybuilders. So if your workout routine consists of walking from the fridge to the sofa and the occasional jog to the toilet then keep listening to your doctor’s advice…
However, if you are here reading this article right now there is a good chance that you are NOT the typical sedentary couch potato. And if that’s the case the rules about low sodium intake do not apply!
In fact for hard training athletes too little sodium can cause more problems then consuming too much. Low sodium intake causes muscle cramps, dizziness, and electrolyte imbalances, which can cause neurological problems, or even be fatal (yes you read right!)
Drinking too much water, with insufficient sodium intake, puts a person at risk of water intoxication (hyponatremia) which can cause a seizure or coma.
What Is Sodium?
Sodium is a mineral element and an important part of the human body. It controls the volume of fluid in the body and helps maintain the acid-base level. About 40% of the body’s sodium is contained in bone, some is found within organs and cells and the remaining 55% is in blood plasma and other fluids outside cells. Sodium is important in proper nerve conduction, the passage of various nutrients into cells, and the maintenance of blood pressure.
The body continually regulates its handling of sodium. When a person eats too much or too little sodium, the intestines and kidneys respond to adjust concentrations to normal. During the course of a day, the intestines absorbs dietary sodium while the kidneys excrete a nearly equal amount of sodium into the urine.
The concentration of sodium in the blood depends on the total amount of sodium and water in arteries, veins, and capillaries (the circulatory system). The body regulates sodium and water in different ways, but uses both to help correct blood pressure when it is too high or too low.
If the body has too little sodium (called hyponatremia), the body can either increase sodium levels or decrease water in the body. Too high a concentration of sodium (hypernatremia), can be corrected either by decreasing sodium or by increasing water intake.
Sodium Intake For Bodybuilders & Athletes
If you are doing hard weight training and / or cardio workouts and sweating a lot. Then you need to replace the sodium you lose in order to maintain a healthy electrolyte balance in your body.
And if you are following a fat loss diet or cutting back on your carbohydrates, then you actually need to “Increase” your sodium intake. Carbohydrates will cause your body to retain water and sodium. Generally for every gram of carbs you eat your body will hold 3 grams of water. So if you switch to eating a lower carb diet you will lose a lot of extra water and sodium.
When I’m dieting for fat loss I purposely add salt to my food and even flavor my food with high sodium condiments like soy sauce. It will help you feel stronger and it will replace the sodium that you lose from sweating doing your weight training, cardio, etc.
In fact a lot of the negative aspects people experience from “low carb dieting” such as feeling weak, flat, low energy, etc. is not really due to the carbs at all. But from low sodium levels in the body. If you experience any of these symptoms, increasing your salt intake will generally make you feel A LOT better and more energetic.
I even go so far as to carry salt packets (just like you get at the fast food restaurants) in my gym bag. This way when ever I feel the effects of low sodium during my workouts. Such as muscle cramps, dizziness, etc. I’ll rip open a packet of salt and chase it down with some water and within 5 minutes I’m feeling much better.
For athletes and serious fitness enthusiasts you are more likely to need to increase your salt / sodium intake rather than reduce it. You need to replace what you lose from sweating in order to keep your electrolytes in balance and train hard in the gym.
Now I don’t actually break out the calculator and count my sodium intake, and I doubt that many other people do either. But I don’t shy away from consuming sodium. The best advice I can offer is to keep tabs on how you feel, your energy levels, etc. and if you do feel light headed, dizzy, or experience muscle cramps during your workouts. There’s a good chance that low sodium is causing it.
FB Video Course