Wrong. In fact, a study from 2011 actually found that salt-restricted diets made matters worse for people with heart disease.
Why You Need Sodium in Your Diet
When sweat evaporates off of the skin, it provides a cooling effect that helps the body avoid overheating. The majority of what we lose in sweat are fluids (water) and sodium, so replacing these nutrients is key to maintaining proper hydration.
Sodium needs will vary from athlete to athlete based on a few factors:
- Acclimation to weather
- Duration of exercise
- Saltiness of sweat
On the first day of exercise in a hot, dry environment, the volume of your blood plasma increases by about 13%. This means that unless you increase your sodium intake, you will most likely be dehydrated. The same thing can happen on the first day of cool weather after months of training in the heat, so be sure to increase your sodium intake when the seasons change. For me, that won’t be happening until about Halloween.
Saltiness of sweat
Signs You May Need More Sodium
The most accurate way to calculate your sodium needs is to get lab testing done, but this may not be available to everyone. So it may be more practical to estimate your needs through trial and error. If you frequently experience any of these symptoms at the crag, then you could likely benefit from more sodium in your diet or in your sports drinks.
- Muscle cramping
- Muscles weakness
Risk Factors for Hyponatremia (Not Enough Sodium)
- Being a woman – yay!
- Being over the age of 50
- Taking thiazide diuretics, some antidepressants, Ecstacy, or NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen)
- Drinking alcohol (aka having fun)
- Drinking too much plain water (without electrolytes)
- Being a newer climber
- Having Addison’s disease, kidney disease or heart failure
Hopefully you now understand the importance of sodium in your diet. Most Americans get plenty of sodium in their diets from deli meats, canned foods, cheeses, and nuts, but there’s a chance that you could need even more salt in your diet.
If you live somewhere with a hot climate, frequently climb outdoors, and experience any of the symptoms of hyponatremia, be sure to pack a salty snack for the crag or a sports drink with plenty of sodium. Climbing in the heat makes me cranky, so I’m fairly certain that I’m not getting enough… Are you getting enough sodium? Leave a comment below 🙂