Sodium Requirements for Performance and Athletes

Have you ever heard how sweat is salty? Sweat is not only water. it contains the mineral sodium that is excreted from your body through sweat.

Sweating is a natural way to reduce body temperature. When we sweat, our bodies cool down and prevent overheating. If sweating does not occur, the body may become dangerously hot and susceptible to serious health problems.

Athletes need to replenish both their fluid stores and the critical electrolytes sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. This article focuses on sodium. One of the most abundant electrolytes in the body, sodium is also expelled rapidly during exercise. Sodium has been unfairly maligned in the fitness and mainstream media as one of the primary contributors to high blood pressure and health complications. While excessive sodium intake is not ideal for most people, active people need sodium to perform optimally.

Sodium is an essential mineral that can help improve exercise performance and well-being. This article looks at how sodium intake affects these goals, as well as provides a list of foods high in this nutrient.

Sodium's Impact on Exercise Performance and Health

Sodium is an important mineral your body needs for both optimal exercise performance and normal bodily function. It helps nerves and muscles work correctly, maintains the balance of fluids in your body, and keeps you hydrated. Sodium is an electrolyte, which means it carries an electrical charge. It’s found in your blood, urine, and other bodily fluids. As you can tell sodium is critical everywhere throughout the body.

The kidneys help to regulate salt levels in the body. If salt levels are high, the kidneys will expel the excess through urine and sweat. For extra salt to be removed from the body, adequate fluid intake is also required.

If sodium intake is high and liquid intake is low, then the body’s kidneys may not be able to remove sodium at a sufficiently fast rate which can lead to sodium build-up in the blood. This can increase blood pressure temporarily and if left untreated for an extended period may cause chronic high blood pressure.

Sodium is essential for athletes, as it helps to maintain electrolyte balance. When you shun sodium and chug water, you can risk overhydration and negative effects on your health and athletic performance. Since athletes sweat more than the average person, it is recommended that they don’t consume more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. This amount will vary depending on a person’s activity level and other factors.

Research has found that people working in hot conditions for ten hours lose between 4,800 and 6,000mg of sodium which is equivalent to 12,000 to 15,000mg of table salt. If we scale this to an individual performing one hour of intense physical activity, this equates to between 480 and 600mg of sodium or 1,200 to 1,500mg of table salt.

Consuming sodium pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout can help to replace this essential electrolyte lost during exercise. Remember, a balanced diet is important to help fuel your performance. 

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