from Nutrion and Wellness Solutions by Heather Fink, MS, RD, CSSD
Sodium is a mineral that elicits mixed reactions in the health and sports performance communities. For health, sodium is often considered a villain, contributing to an increased risk of hypertension and possibly heart disease. For endurance sports, sodium is heralded as a life saver and performance enhancer. In general, moderation of sodium intake is a wise practice. However, individuals who are exercising for long periods of time will need to consider sodium intake as part of their fueling and hydration regimen.
For health and the prevention of high blood pressure, current recommendations suggest an intake of 1,500-2,300 mg per day (heart.org, health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines, nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dash). Most Americans are consuming sodium well above this target range, and therefore, should reduce their intake.
Table salt is certainly one source of dietary sodium. One teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium – the maximum recommendation for one day! Therefore, minimizing the use of table salt will help to reduce sodium intake. However, a majority of sodium in the American diet comes from packaged, processed and fast foods. Making an effort to replace processed foods with whole, fresh foods prepared at home will make an enormous impact on sodium intake! For example, check out the difference between the sodium content of the following whole foods, compared to their processed counterpart:
Three tips to lower sodium intake:
Information on low sodium diets can be found:
For endurance sports performance, sodium has several roles:
Sodium is lost in sweat during exercise. If losses are excessive, without replacement, a life-threatening condition called hyponatremia can ensue. Low sodium levels are mainly a concern for individuals who are exercising for four hours or more. Daily intake of sodium, even for ultra-endurance athletes, does not necessarily need to be increased; changes in intake happen mainly during exercise. Below are general recommendations, which need to be tailored to the individual athlete:
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