We’re constantly reminded that salt is bad for our health, but getting enough salt can actually improve your performance in the gym, especially if you’re training for strength. Your body needs sodium for muscle contractions and to maintain an acid-base balance. If you’re not consuming enough sodium, you may actually find it harder to make gains in strength and size!
Note: Salt and sodium aren’t the same thing, but salt does contain sodium. Salt is the term used to refer to the chemical sodium chloride (NaCl), which is regular table salt (40% sodium, 60% chloride).
How Salt Affects the Body
Salt is a major dietary source of iodine, an essential chemical involved with regulating the metabolism. If you aren’t getting enough iodine, you may experience bouts of fatigue, depression, and even weight gain! An iodine deficiency can also create thyroid problems, which will have a knock-on affect on your metabolism. Therefore, when you’re trying to boost your metabolism through both training and diet, you need your thyroid to be functioning at its best.
If you train intensively — to the point where you are sweating for most of the workout — you will experience some degree of sodium depletion. Whether this is the cause of muscle cramps and fatigue is still open for debate, but you may be able to ward off muscle cramps during that strenuous run just by adding some salt to your diet.
Health Benefits of Salt
Your body needs a certain amount of salt for operate at its best. The Dietary Guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which equates to approximately 1 teaspoon of salt. Try to stay below this limit, since too much salt can lead to serious health issues.
Some of the top health benefits of a moderate salt intake include:
- Activation of digestive enzymes
- Improved muscle contractions
- Prevention of sunstroke
- Maintenance of water balance in the body
- Regulation of blood volume and blood pressure
What are Best Ways to Add Salt to Your Diet?
Before we start on adding salt to your diet, we recommend cutting out processed foods as much as possible, as these are often loaded with salt to enhance the flavour (some have more than your recommended daily intake of salt in just one serving!). This might also mean you need a strategy for maintaining some salt in your diet.
If you tend to sweat a lot during your workouts, consider drinking a post-workout recovery drink that replenishes electrolytes, including sodium and potassium. Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes and can help you stay hydrated after an intense workout (and we also think it’s rather tasty!). You can increase your potassium intake naturally by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables every day.
When you’re taking care of meal prep and want to add some flavour to grilled chicken breast, steak, or even eggs, don’t be afraid to cook with sea salt. Himalayan or organic sea salt are two healthy, unprocessed choices that can add plenty of flavour to your food
There really is no need to eliminate salt from your diet but, as with everything, moderation is key to better health. If you are noticing a decline in performance or get easily fatigued from your workouts, low sodium levels may be to blame. If this is the case, try introducing a little salt into your diet to improve both your health and performance.