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Cyclists and Salt?

Old 08-09-15, 01:26 PM
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MinnMan
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Cyclists and Salt?

We all read stuff about cardiac health and the dangers of a high salt diet, but does it apply to us? I have a very high salt diet, but I figure it doesn't matter because I pour out quarts of sweat on a regular basis. On very long rides, of course, I take electrolyte supplements, but apart from that, I enjoy my pickles and quite a few other salty foods.

So, my operating assumption is, I work up a serious sweat several times a week, some times for hours at a time, and therefore I can eat as much salt as I want. But am I mistaken?
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Old 08-09-15, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
We all read stuff about cardiac health and the dangers of a high salt diet, but does it apply to us? I have a very high salt diet, but I figure it doesn't matter because I pour out quarts of sweat on a regular basis. On very long rides, of course, I take electrolyte supplements, but apart from that, I enjoy my pickles and quite a few other salty foods.

So, my operating assumption is, I work up a serious sweat several times a week, some times for hours at a time, and therefore I can eat as much salt as I want. But am I mistaken?
Consult your local PCP, but I would still think moderation is still advisable then supplement during exercise.
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Old 08-09-15, 02:53 PM
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You are probably mistaken, in that I very much doubt that there is a simple relationship between salt intake, perspiration and sodium levels in cells/bloodstream.

However, when last I looked - some time ago, so I may be out of date - a high salt intake tended to exacerbate hypertension, but not cause it. In other words, if your blood pressure is high you should cut down on the salt. If it isn't, your pickles etc. are probably fine.
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Old 08-09-15, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
However, when last I looked - some time ago, so I may be out of date - a high salt intake tended to exacerbate hypertension, but not cause it. In other words, if your blood pressure is high you should cut down on the salt. If it isn't, your pickles etc. are probably fine.
My blood pressure is typically 110-120/80, so that's perhaps a good sign that my salt intake isn't a problem. But the question is meant to be general- are recommendations for salt intake for endurance athletes different from the standard advice?
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Old 08-09-15, 03:20 PM
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Most people get several times over the sodium they need from food. What it does is help your body retain fluids - too little and you sweat too much away. It doesn't hurt to tasked in extra electrolytes from sports drinks or supplements as you exercise but you likely don't need extra in your diet.
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Old 08-10-15, 06:14 AM
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Just about the only electrolyte lost in sweat is sodium, and you can lose a lot. If you sweat a lot, you lose a lot of sodium. It varies between individuals and with training. It is advisable to replace sodium as it's lost when sweating profusely over extended periods or it can dip to dangerously, and certainly performance degraded levels, even if you get the recommend amount in your normal diet. Something like 250mg/hr is generally appropriate.

Potassium, on the other hand, is not lost in consequential amounts in sweat, so if you get enough in your general diet, you're good and don't need supplementation during exercise.

Last edited by Looigi; 08-10-15 at 06:18 AM.
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Old 08-10-15, 08:30 AM
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My body tells me when I need salt. I literally crave it when I am depleted. Usually, I either eat a few pickles or make me a cucumber & tomato salad with a few shakes of salt when that happens.
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Old 08-10-15, 08:44 AM
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I read somewhere that the salt-hypertension link only occurs in about 5% of the population. The rest of us simply pee excess salt out (assuming we drink enough fluids).

Over a period of a few days, I can usually tell when I'm low on sodium. I tend to have problems on long, warm rides; if I'm not paying attention, I can run low on water AND salt, and that sucks the joy out of a ride really fast. It's hard to process enough water and salt through the digestive tract in a short time. I should mention that I sweat heavily, and I sweat lots of salt; I'm the only person I know who can have salt rings on a high-vis jersey when it dries.
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Old 08-10-15, 09:03 AM
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Blood test are the only way to monitor Sodium Levels in your body. I can drink 6 Twnty Ounce Bottle of H2O in 3 hour of cycling, come home like a wet rag. But have zero idea of what my blood chemistry is.

Only way to tell is blood tests.
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Old 08-10-15, 09:36 AM
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I read somewhere that for those for whom sodium exacerbates hypertension, it isn't really only your sodium intake that counts ... it's the relationship between sodium intake and potassium intake.

I use MyFitnessPal to monitor my diet now and again. What I learned:

1. My diet is very low in fat (a surprise to me).
2. It is very easy to eat more sodium than is recommended.
3. It is very hard to eat as much potassium as is recommended.

Here ya go:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Condit...43_Article.jsp
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Old 08-10-15, 01:15 PM
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Salt has the tendency, so THEY tell me, to roughen up the blood vessel linings. Too much isnt good but youll get scurvey without it. I learned at school that sailors used to get scurvey in the days of the sailing ships.
No, I cant figure it out either. . .
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Old 08-10-15, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by peterws View Post
Salt has the tendency, so THEY tell me, to roughen up the blood vessel linings. Too much isnt good but youll get scurvey without it. I learned at school that sailors used to get scurvey in the days of the sailing ships.
No, I cant figure it out either. . .
Scurvy is vitamin C deficiency. It has nothing to do with salt.
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Old 08-10-15, 04:18 PM
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the bigger question is "does anything make you suspect a sodium deficiency?" there is plenty of info from Dr. Internet on hyponatremia symptoms, but it's pretty rare in western diets, even big-biking-western-diets. if your blood pressure is fairly normal and you don't exhibit any other symptoms, keep calm and carry on.

i have problems with highly variable blood pressure ("labile BP") and my cardiologist told me to get more salt, which I found hilarious. I use Nuun tablets in my water bottle and that pretty much covers it. good stuff, highly recommended.
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Old 08-10-15, 05:57 PM
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I think I wrote the original post wrong, b/c I simply meant to use myself as an example to raise the question as to whether cyclists need to moderate their salt intake or whether they get a free pass.

I have a high salt diet because I *LIKE* that stuff (pickles, briny olives, etc.) and I tell myself that it's not a problem because I drink a ton of fluids and then sweat by the gallon. So I am not trying to ward off a sodium deficiency.
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Old 08-10-15, 06:27 PM
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I normally don't add much salt to my cooking, but during the summer when I tend to sweat a lot, I've started adding a little to my cooking.

Sodium Chloride tends to be extracellular, and thus would show up in blood chemistry.
Potassium Chloride tends to be intracellular, and thus more difficult to estimate.

I'm not sure if it makes much difference, but I've started adding a little Potassium salt when I use regular salt. (No Salt).

As mentioned, your kidneys are very good at regulating body salt. So, strict salt regulation is probably only important in a few people in which the kidneys aren't effectively regulating the blood levels.

I'm not sure why urine salt tests aren't performed more frequently. I suppose due to the high variability in the levels. But, that would be one of the tests for hyponatremia.
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Old 08-10-15, 06:29 PM
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Interesting thread. Anyone remember back in the 70s, when people doing intense exercise in the summer heat actually took
"salt pills"? Do they still make those?
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Old 08-11-15, 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by trackhub View Post
Interesting thread. Anyone remember back in the 70s, when people doing intense exercise in the summer heat actually took
"salt pills"? Do they still make those?
I remember those!

Feeling old now ...
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Old 08-11-15, 09:16 AM
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I remember a general rule of thumb being for every 2 pints of water you want to take in a pinch of salt. Obviously that is not very scientific, nor do I have any idea where it came from, but it does seem to have enough value in it to maintain a sense of validity.

In general though, if I am riding in a lot of heat, I will supplement with an Emergen-C packet for every two pints of water I drink.
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Old 08-11-15, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
I remember those!

Feeling old now ...
Salt pills? Yep, they still make them. I bought some on a tour when I ran out of Endurolytes.
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Old 08-11-15, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
I'm not sure if it makes much difference, but I've started adding a little Potassium salt when I use regular salt. (No Salt).
I went to that a while ago ... as much to get a little more potassium as to reduce the sodium. You can taste the difference, but I've actually come to prefer it.
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Old 08-11-15, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Biker395 View Post
Salt pills? Yep, they still make them. I bought some on a tour when I ran out of Endurolytes.
I guess most of us have been sold on the idea that we need balanced electrolytes (K, Mg, Ca, etc.) rather than just NaCl, to ward off cramps and such. but on the other hand, if you are needing a ton of fluids, you had better be taking salt wherever you can get it.

I've never heard of the problem occurring for cyclists, but there are cases of fatalities when marathoners drink too much H2O

Marathon Dilemma: How Much Water is Too Much?

(edited text follows here, after a closer reading of the article): It seems that electrolyte intake is important, but that other factors also can cause significant problems when water intake is high. A complicated business. You'd think that people doing double centuries and the like might have to be careful about this, but again, I've never heard of it happening to a cyclist - just marathoners.

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Old 08-11-15, 12:10 PM
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My school days left a lot to be desired. . . .
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Old 08-11-15, 05:15 PM
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I've heard salt is in lately.
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Old 08-11-15, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by peterws View Post
My school days left a lot to be desired. . . .
You and me both.
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Old 08-12-15, 04:16 PM
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I take SaltStick, every hour or two depending on how much I'm sweating. I notice a big difference in stamina on hot days esp at the end of the ride.
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