Salt and sugar. These are among the two things many people looking to get healthy stay away from. But both are extremely important for athletes. We already know that the body’s preferred source of fuel is carbohydrates, so the body needs glucose (sugar) that is found in carbs in order to perform. Many might not already know why sodium is so important for athletes.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the daily recommendation of sodium is less than 2,300 mg per day. Americans actually consume about 3,400 mg per day—way over the recommendation. To put this into perspective, we should only have about one teaspoon of salt per day or less.
But all this goes out the window when we are talking about endurance athletes. While too much sodium can be harmful to health, it is crucial for athletes’ performance. Restoring sodium when working out is key when it comes to athletes’ performance and to prevent health issues.
The body does need at least 500 mg of sodium a day in order to function. In just one hour, a runner can lose up to 3,00 mg through their sweat. In fact, athletes who end their workouts with white residue on their face and skin lost too much sodium and need to replenish. It’s best for these athletes to take salt tablets or energy chews like Kramp Krushers that are known for its sodium content—and electrolytes.
Let’s further break down why sodium is so important. We actually can do it with that very same word: electrolytes.
Electrolytes are minerals that create an electric charge when mixed with water. They play a major role in hydration, preventing muscle cramps, regulating muscle function, repairing damaged tissue and balancing blood pressure.
Electrolytes are important for athletes because they are easily lost from the body via sweat— especially sodium and potassium. When electrolyte levels are low, the athlete can suffer from symptoms like a fast heart rate, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.
The best sources of electrolytes are sodium, chloride (table salt), potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Sodium is one of the most important electrolytes for athletes. When we sweat out too much sodium, dehydration can occur. Blood pressure can also drop.
This mineral helps keep water inside the cells and blood. What happens when we work out is that too much water dilutes sodium on the outside of cells, which causes more water to get into the cell. The swollen cells then cause fatigue, incoherence and more. And since even the brain cells can swell, in extreme cases this could lead to seizures, coma, and death. This condition is called hyponatremia, and while rare, has occurred in marathoners, ultra runners, and triathletes.
This is why it is important to pay attention to sodium intake when working up a sweat.
Yes, athletes can include more sodium-rich foods in their diet like pickles or pretzels as a pre- workout snack, but they need to replenish their electrolytes (and thus sodium) for exercise over an hour. This is especially important for those who live in a hot climate (think when running outside in the summer) or are a heavy sweater. Having white residue on the skin post workout means the athlete need more sodium.
How To Replenish Sodium When Working Out
Sports drinks are hydrating since they include electrolytes. However, there may not be enough sodium in these drinks compared to its water volume. In general, sports drinks only have about 440 mg of sodium per liter. It’s a good idea to have a sports drink paired with some pretzels as a pre-workout snack.
During the workout, athletes need to consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates an hour with 500 to 700 ml of sodium. Sports drinks alone might not cut it, so here is where energy chews or gels come in.
Kramp Krushers are an ideal option for athletes because it contains sea salt electrolytes for optimum cell hydration. These energy chews also have other elements and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. This option prevents muscle cramps, dehydration and boosts performance.
Make sure to drink water post workout to continue to stay hydrated.