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  1. #1
    Senior Member Syscrush's Avatar
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    Hypertension and Ride Fuel

    Hey all.

    I've been riding a fair bit (100-200k per week) in preparation for a 6 day, 600k bike trip in about 5 weeks. I've also been eating horribly for a couple of years, and have hypertension as the apparent result. Yesterday I measured 165/105 in the doctor's office on a machine that takes 6 measurements over 5 minutes and averages them out.

    I was actually there for a full physical, and absolutely everything else checks out fine (all bloodwork looked good, RHR is OK, ECG test results are pending), so given that and my awful diet (think food court Chinese food 5x/wk, and eating out or ordering in 3-4 nights/week), the doc recommended that we start with getting my diet improved before considering meds. I have a follow up in a month to see where we're at.


    I'm following the guidelines of the DASH diet, which is basically the same as what I'd do to cut weight, so I'm also aiming to shed some pounds (I'm overweight but the doc didn't consider that on its own cause for alarm given my activity level and the other results). I would like to be a lean 165 pound cycling machine, but the immediate goal is to be a slow chubby clyde with healthy BP.

    For other reasons, I cut out booze almost 2 months ago, and for years I've limited my caffeine to 1 cup of tea every morning. That 1 is going down to 0 for the next month or so.

    My off-bike diet is low sodium (cutting out all prepared foods for a month), fruits & veggies, and whole grain foods (I don't eat much meat).

    What I'm wondering about is what's appropriate for ON the bike? I do want to keep my sodium intake as low as possible, but if I'm out for a 3 hour ride, I know I'm sweating out a ton of salt - we all know the experience of tasting salt during the post-ride shower. I've never used Gatorade for rides under 2 hours, but I do usually switch from water to Gatorade after that point. I also usually bring some granola bars. But in my quest to get those BP numbers under control, I'm wary about anything with added salt, and about prepared/packaged foods in general.

    My question is, how much (if any) salt is appropriate on a long (3-6 hour) training ride of moderate intensity for someone on a low sodium diet to deal with hypertension?

  2. #2
    Senior Member GeorgeBMac's Avatar
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    That is a good question -- but that does not mean that it has a good answer...

    Sodium in your body needs to stay within a range of 135-145. When you lose a lot of fluids through any means (be it sweat or diarrhea) you tend to lose electrolytes such as sodium along with the fluids. So, the answer is: "replace the electrolytes you lost through sweat -- but only if you need to". I suspect that the amount you need to replace is far smaller than what you probably think it is... Plus, your body has multiple means of maintaining that balance for you. And, your body will use the good nutrition you take after the ride to replenish any discrepancy from that optimum 135-145 range anyway.

    So, I would advise to sip the GatorAid slowly and with caution (if at all) and focus mostly on taking in simple water to replace the fluids. If you are sweating a LOT, yes, a little GatorAid might help. But don't use it as an energy drink.

    But mostly: CONGRATUALTIONS ON STARTING ON A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE!

    You will find that it is a journey rather than a destination. And the journey has many twists and turns and blind corners. But, the journey has its own rewards -- both immediate and long term ones...

    Keep us posted on how your diet and exercise affect those things that are easily measured (like your blood pressure).

    And, again, Best of Luck to You!
    ... And may the wind always be at your back...
    --------------------------------------
    bikes: 1992 Cannondale R500, 2012 Trek DS 8.5, 2008 LeMond Poprad

  3. #3
    Senior Member GeorgeBMac's Avatar
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    Also, after looking at the title of your post:

    Sodium not a fuel. It, along with a host of other vitamins and minerals enable your physiology to function -- but it is not a fuel.

    Do not think that replacing it will provide any energy or strength. A deficit of any of the vital nutrients will slow you down -- but none of them are energy.

    Actually, the 'energy' in Gatoraid comes from all the sugar in it -- not the electrolytes. And, during a long, hard ride you will need to replace the carbs long before you need to replace electrolytes.
    --------------------------------------
    bikes: 1992 Cannondale R500, 2012 Trek DS 8.5, 2008 LeMond Poprad

  4. #4
    Senior Member Syscrush's Avatar
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    Thanks very much.

    To be clear, it's not that I think of salt/sodium as a fuel itself, but my 2 preferred on-bike sources of carbs (Gatorade and granola bars) both contain enough sodium that I'd avoid either of them off the bike. Given the amount of salt lost as sweat on a 3+ hour ride, I thought that I might get some additional leeway where a higher-sodium food might be OK.

    My other favorite ride fuel (although slightly less convenient than granola bars) is Nutella sandwiches made with my own home-baked bread (which is much lower in sodium than store-bought bread) - I'll focus on that instead of the pre-packaged bars. I think I'll still use Gatorade for rides longer than 3 hours.

  5. #5
    Senior Member GeorgeBMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Syscrush View Post
    Thanks very much.

    To be clear, it's not that I think of salt/sodium as a fuel itself, but my 2 preferred on-bike sources of carbs (Gatorade and granola bars) both contain enough sodium that I'd avoid either of them off the bike. Given the amount of salt lost as sweat on a 3+ hour ride, I thought that I might get some additional leeway where a higher-sodium food might be OK.

    My other favorite ride fuel (although slightly less convenient than granola bars) is Nutella sandwiches made with my own home-baked bread (which is much lower in sodium than store-bought bread) - I'll focus on that instead of the pre-packaged bars. I think I'll still use Gatorade for rides longer than 3 hours.
    And another alternative -- that I like -- is Peanut Butter & (a little) jelly on whole wheat. If you buy the bread from the store, it has all the sodium one could probably want. Actually the stuff I eat has 125 mg in a slice -- which is more than the 107mg in a cup of Gatoraid. Plus, one tablespoon of Peanut Butter (which is half of a 'serving') has another 65mg.

    So add it all up: a typical P&J gives you a 300-400mg of sodium which is a lot more than the 160mg in a 12ounce Gatoraid -- but you get a lot more 'good stuff' from the P&J (including protein).

    ... But, you lose the 'cool' factor ...

    But, if your main goal is to keep pumping carbs into the boiler as you ride, then there are a bunch of other alternatives. I don't use them -- so I won't comment. But a lot of riders here do use them and have a lot of knowledge of them...

    In short, if you mainly want carbs, you have a ton of options. Don't limit yourself to Gatoraid and so called energy drinks. I suspect if you pooled the contributors to this forum you would find a fairly small percentage that use Gatoraid.
    --------------------------------------
    bikes: 1992 Cannondale R500, 2012 Trek DS 8.5, 2008 LeMond Poprad

  6. #6
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    I can tell you what I do when I ride long distance: pretty much what George said. Details: I don't like to mix my food, hydration, and electrolytes. I like to have each of these as separate as I can manage, so I can control the amount of each as necessary. I use a liquid food which delivers 40mg sodium/hour at a 250 cal./hr. consumption rate. Pretty hard to find a food with no sodium, but that is quite low. Besides the liquid food, I drink plain water, and supplement electrolytes using Hammer Nutrition's Endurolytes, which contain 40mg sodium/capsule. I usually take 1 capsule/hour on long rides, or up to 3/hour in extremely hot conditions, but that's very rare for me.

    Hammer also makes a sports drink called HEED that delivers 40mg sodium/100 calories, so with a 200 cal./bottle mix, that'd be about the same sodium that I usually get per hour. You don't need to replace the sodium lost during the ride. Eating after the ride will take care of it. In general, I like to take in enough sodium so that I'm thirsty enough to make myself drink enough water so that I pee every 2-3 hours, no more. That seems a bit convoluted, but it works for both electrolytes and hydration.

    I'm don't have BP problems, so I'm not specifically trying for a low sodium diet. However, since I eat mostly plant based natural foods, it's easy for me to actually get too little sodium and have to work at it a little to get enough.

    One Clif bar contains 170 mg sodium.

  7. #7
    Senior Member carnivroar's Avatar
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    Salt does NOT cause hypertension.

    Salt may aggravate the problem but it is NOT the cause.

    Cut the problem by the root. Sugar and excess carbs (among other unhealthy habits, of course) are what causes high-blood pressure.

    It is well documented that salt excretion is highly optimized on a low-carb diet. SOURCE.

  8. #8
    Senior Member GeorgeBMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carnivroar View Post
    Salt does NOT cause hypertension.

    Salt may aggravate the problem but it is NOT the cause.

    Cut the problem by the root. Sugar and excess carbs (among other unhealthy habits, of course) are what causes high-blood pressure.

    It is well documented that salt excretion is highly optimized on a low-carb diet. SOURCE.
    Well, sorta true...

    Salt is not the ONLY trigger for hypertension. But, high sodium intake increases fluid volume -- and an increase in fluid volume in a closed system increases pressure. Conversely, losing volume (say from profuse bleeding) decreases volume and blood pressure (but that method for reducing blood pressure is not generally recommended).

    In our culture, about the only way to maintain a low sodium diet is to eat non-processed foods. That is: food as it came from nature. But then you gotta "process" it yourself -- and cooking takes time and is quickly becoming a lost art.

    As for increased carbs causing high blood pressure: I increased my carbs to 70% of calories and my unmedicated blood pressure dropped from above 160/90 to below 120/70.
    --------------------------------------
    bikes: 1992 Cannondale R500, 2012 Trek DS 8.5, 2008 LeMond Poprad

  9. #9
    Senior Member carnivroar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeBMac View Post
    Well, sorta true...

    Salt is not the ONLY trigger for hypertension. But, high sodium intake increases fluid volume -- and an increase in fluid volume in a closed system increases pressure. Conversely, losing volume (say from profuse bleeding) decreases volume and blood pressure (but that method for reducing blood pressure is not generally recommended).

    In our culture, about the only way to maintain a low sodium diet is to eat non-processed foods. That is: food as it came from nature. But then you gotta "process" it yourself -- and cooking takes time and is quickly becoming a lost art.

    As for increased carbs causing high blood pressure: I increased my carbs to 70% of calories and my unmedicated blood pressure dropped from above 160/90 to below 120/70.
    Chronically full glycogen stores (I.e. someone who eats a lot of carbs and doesn't exercise) is what causes water retention, which in turn causes salt retention. Glycogen requires a relatively large amount of water to be stored along with it. Again, cut the problem by the root.

    I eat low-carb. Once I heard that salt is harmless on low-carb I started eating a lot of it over night. I noticed no ill effects or bloating whatsoever. My performance increased and my food tasted better.

    I'm not saying you have to eat low-carb to control blood pressure. I'm only pointing out that the lower the carbs, the more efficient your body becomes at removing excess salt. Salt is not the problem.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Syscrush's Avatar
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    Thanks for the different perspectives and the info on this. My plan is to start by cutting caffeine, alcohol, salt, refined sugar, and to significantly reduce starches and animal fats. If that gets me down to a healthy number, I'll experiment with adding some of those things back in and seeing how my BP looks.

  11. #11
    Senior Member carnivroar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Syscrush View Post
    reduce animal fats
    Why? There is no reason to reduce fat, especially animal fats which have an ideal ratio of saturated/monounsaturated/polyunsaturated.

  12. #12
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Hilarious, carnivroar. Great idea! Get better at cycling by reducing glycogen stores . . . That's like . . . well, I can't think of a family-suitable metaphor right now, but you get the idea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Syscrush View Post
    Thanks for the different perspectives and the info on this. My plan is to start by cutting caffeine, alcohol, salt, refined sugar, and to significantly reduce starches and animal fats. If that gets me down to a healthy number, I'll experiment with adding some of those things back in and seeing how my BP looks.
    Sugar is the worst of that list, with alcohol being a supercharged version of refined sugar. There's nothing inherently wrong with complex carbohydrates, just as long as it never exceeds what you burn.

  14. #14
    Senior Member carnivroar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    Hilarious, carnivroar. Great idea! Get better at cycling by reducing glycogen stores . . . That's like . . . well, I can't think of a family-suitable metaphor right now, but you get the idea.
    Yes, get better at cycling by reducing glycogen dependency:
    1. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance: Jeff S. Volek, Stephen D. Phinney: 9780983490715: Amazon.com: Books
    2. Steve Phinney ? Low-Carb preserves Glycogen better than High Carb | Me and My Diabetes

  15. #15
    Senior Member GeorgeBMac's Avatar
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    The Phinney article pretty much validates one of the criticisms of the high fat diet:
    "The fat you eat is the fat you wear"

    And, his anecdotal evidence that using fat as an efficient fuel is unconvincing to me.
    --------------------------------------
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    Senior Member carnivroar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeBMac View Post
    The Phinney article pretty much validates one of the criticisms of the high fat diet:
    "The fat you eat is the fat you wear"

    And, his anecdotal evidence that using fat as an efficient fuel is unconvincing to me.
    Only if your definition of "anectodal" is something like "PhD in nutritional biochemistry from MIT with 35 years of academic research in ketogenic diets".

  17. #17
    Senior Member Syscrush's Avatar
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    FYI, I went for another measurement today, and after 3 days of living on the straight & narrow, I measured 155/98, which to me looks significantly better than Friday's #'s. The highest single measurement on Fri was 179/115, taken on a day when I had not had any breakfast (today's measurement was taken ~4 hours after breakfast).

    I've started a spreadsheet to track those 2 numbers and my HR, and will check it every 2-3 days at the same time, under similar circumstances.

  18. #18
    Administrator CbadRider's Avatar
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    Please keep this thread on the OP's topic of blood pressure and don't turn it into a high carb/low carb debate. Any future posts like that will be deleted.

    Thanks for you cooperation.
    Quote Originally Posted by toddles View Post
    So Tom only hires people that are nutty? Is part of the requirement to be a moderator on this site is that you have to be nuts??
    Forum Guidelines *click here*

  19. #19
    DBA
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    I'm not a dr. so check what I tell you with your dr.
    1) Fish oils, especially the concentrated versions that contain about 50% or more of EPA/DHA are your friend. O3 fatty acids will help to make the cell walls more fluid, and as such will help with reducing the excess water.
    Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements: Benefits, Side Effects, and Uses


    2) reducing carbs is a good idea. Too many carbs result in too much insulin secretion, which triggers several cascades, one of which results in higher angiotenson levels. This results in higher blood pressure. This hormone is the same one targeted by ACE inhibitors to lower the blood pressure.
    Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease (same link as a post above)


    3) try to get more potassium in your diet. Potassium helps to relax the muscles, and as such helps to reduce the blood pressure by relaxing the smooth muscles an allowing the arteries/veins to not be so constricted.
    Potassium lowers blood pressure

    4) Moderate cardio exercise helps to reduce blood pressure as well: Moderate-Level Physical Activities

  20. #20
    Senior Member Syscrush's Avatar
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    Also, others reading this thread may be interested in some context and/or counterpoint to the posted Taubes article from Science:

    Scientfic American Blog

    Thanks to carnivroar for citing specific articles and papers as he makes the case for a low-carb diet - especially the Taubes article, which is very interesting reading. It's a refreshing change from my past experience with Atkins and Paleo zealots.

    In a funny bit of timing, just a few weeks ago I had my first exposure to the notion that BP and Na may not be related via this article:

    Today I found out: Sodium & BP

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Syscrush View Post
    FYI, I went for another measurement today, and after 3 days of living on the straight & narrow, I measured 155/98, which to me looks significantly better than Friday's #'s. The highest single measurement on Fri was 179/115, taken on a day when I had not had any breakfast (today's measurement was taken ~4 hours after breakfast).

    I've started a spreadsheet to track those 2 numbers and my HR, and will check it every 2-3 days at the same time, under similar circumstances.

  22. #22
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Syscrush View Post
    ...
    In a funny bit of timing, just a few weeks ago I had my first exposure to the notion that BP and Na may not be related via this article:

    Today I found out: Sodium & BP
    Likewise, I was a bit shocked to hear that serum cholesterol has little to do with dietary cholesterol, and that our body makes its own cholesterol out of carbohydrates when we don't eat enough. Turns out it's an essential nutrient!

    I have friends who stopped eating packaged foods and it helped, that should help your numbers. I would keep nuts or very dark chocolate handy as a substitute for vending machine food.

    And biking will help of course!
    I am riding 175 miles so kids with cancer can go to summer camp for free. You can help:
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  24. #24
    Senior Member Syscrush's Avatar
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    Since this thread started out as being specific to on-bike fuel, I'll note that I made a point of keeping away from high-sodium foods for my 3 rides this weekend (75k on Fri, 65k on Sat, 60k on Sun), as well as for post-ride meals.

    I felt no ill effects.

  25. #25
    DBA
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    bananas are excellent on-bike fuel, low in Na, and high in K.

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