Image Credit: http://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/02/01-over-60-ways-to-use-salt-table-salt.jpg
There’s a natural dietary dilemma when it comes to the topic of salt. After all, salt consumption has been linked to high blood pressure, stroke, and even heart attacks. At the same time, salt is essential to sustain life.
What makes this perhaps even more problematic is that runners often use ‘salt’ and ‘electrolytes’ interchangeably – but it’s crucial to know that they are different and necessary things by themselves!
Conflicting, isn’t it? It’s okay; we’re here to help you navigate this conundrum.
We’ve all heard about electrolytes – they have been marketed as the core ingredients in any sports beverage. But do we really know what electrolytes are and what they do for our bodies?
Salt consists of sodium and chloride, which comprise two of seven electrolytes needed by the body. They are called ‘electrolytes’ precisely because they are minerals in bodily fluids that have the ability to carry electrical energy to sustain body function. We lose these precious minerals, together with water, each time we head out for a run.
We must mention from the outset that salt alone will not suffice! Consuming a range of electrolytes, e.g. potassium and magnesium, will ensure that we achieve proper electrolyte balance that will give you optimal runs and health.
Balance Is Key
As mentioned previously, salt is a necessary mineral to sustain life. But excessive consumption leads to a host of health issues that everyone should steer clear of.
For us runners, a higher intake of salt is necessary as we are constantly losing fluids and minerals. Common symptoms of inadequate consumption are cramps, side stitches, and general fatigue.
If you have been religiously avoiding salt in your diet, perhaps because of some health poster advising you to do so, then you may even experience darker urine colour, dizziness, and nausea. These problems are the body’s way of letting you know that your electrolyte tank is empty!
To say that these problems compromise our runs would be a complete understatement – they can be life-threatening if ignored for a significant time. Our advice? Find your own balance to achieve optimal runs and health.
SoS: Sources of Salt
Now that we know salt is vital to our body, does it mean that should start chugging down salt shots before our runs? Remember: Balance Is Key.
We can modify our diet slightly to increase our intake of salt. Here are some suggestions for you:
Thanks, Captain Obvious! While this sounds like a redundant tip, some runners are so health conscious to the extent that their actions do them more harm than good. Adding extra – but not flooding – salt into your food after an extended period of sweating is beneficial for hydration. This is because salt helps to retain fluid in the body to maintain hydration levels.
The humble banana contains an abundance of potassium, magnesium and phosphorous, as well as a smaller amounts of calcium and sodium. Coupled with the fact that it is easily digestible, this fruit makes for the perfect pre-run fuel!
And what about the perfect post-run fueI? In addition to being a delicious carbohydrate, potatoes contain high amounts of potassium and phosphorous to aid rehydration. Be it baked, mashed, or boiled (but not fried), potatoes are a versatile carbohydrate loved by professional and casual runners alike.
As much as water is vital for hydration (duh), and that we definitely should be consuming it, one should note that water alone is not sufficient. As previously mentioned, we do not just lose water whenever we run. Precious electrolytes lost during prolonged periods of sweating cannot be replenished with water because water does not contain them.
“What makes this perhaps even more problematic is that runners often use ‘salt’ and ‘electrolytes’ interchangeably – but it’s crucial to know that they are different and necessary things by themselves!”
As with everything in life, moderation is key. The only person who knows your body best is yourself! So play around with your dietary options – both before and after your runs – to find that optimum for yourself as a runner. Whoever said trial-and-error ended after Math class in primary school?
Do you like what you read?
Tell us below or through our contact form. We love to hear from you.
Also, have you registered as a member on LIV3LY yet?
Don’t know what’re the benefits? Fret not. Find out here.