Happy Friday! I have been invited to write a guest post for the SaltStick #30SaltyDays campaign! They have some amazing recipes, training tips, and general nutrition information to keep you at the top of your game. Read here, and head over there!
How to Tell if You’re a Salty Sweater
1. Look in the mirror.
Are you wearing a jaunty eye patch, standing on a peg leg, with a large hat complete with feather, and sporting a parrot on your shoulder; all while dressed for cold weather?
2. Throw on your favorite race shirt, and go move.
Q: Anyone know any jokes about sodium?
Sodium is often misunderstood in the running community. People become runners for a variety of reasons, but “to be more healthy” is often among the top three. Runners, and endurance athletes in general, are a health-conscious bunch, and we would not be surprised to hear you already know the USDA recommended daily amount of sodium. (Pat yourself on the back if you knew it was 2,300 mg for adults.)
However, when the season changes and the temperatures rise, running is usually accompanied by the body’s top cooling mechanism: sweat. We became hairless to shed heat, after all. Some runners live in climate suitable for heat training during the summer months. Others have to simulate it, running around in warm temperatures wearing puffy parkas, looking very much the part of a lunatic… Regardless of whether or not you are heat-adapted (in fact, one part of heat-adaptation is an increase in sweat rates), you will sweat a lot in the heat. And this sweat contains salt, most of which is sodium. To maintain the ability to perform at peak level, you have to replace these salts, along with water. Otherwise, you run the risk of dehydration and low plasma electrolyte levels.
Which brings us back to sodium. Depending on your unique physiology, your sweat can contain anywhere from 300 – 1,100 mg of sodium per 500mL (16 oz) of water. If it’s extremely hot, and you’re on the upper end of the scale, this can result in nearly 3,000 mg of sodium lost every hour — more than the entire day’s recommendation from USDA. If you’ve ever finished a hot run and felt like reaching for the potato chips, that is why. (oh those amazing little boiled salty potatoes….ya….you know the ones)
When running, you’ll need to replace some of this sodium, but 300 – 1,100 mg is a pretty big range. You don’t want to under-consume or over-consume sodium. How can you tell where your own body falls on the scale?
There are laboratory tests you can take to get an exact amount, and if you are very concerned about getting the perfect amount of sodium, this may be a good idea. However, for the casual runner, they are not necessary. Instead, you can use a few tell-tale signs to see if you are a salty sweater….
Four signs you are a salty sweater:
- The sweat stings your eyes or burns when it touches cuts and scrapes. (This is why you see my winged headband or banana in many of pictures. It isn’t just for fashion.)
- Your sweat tastes salty when it runs into your lips. This is often obvious during the first few seconds of a shower when the sweat runs down your face. Dogs and cats may also want to lick your legs after a run. (My cat does….it’s weird.)
- Your skin feels grainy or gritty after a run.
- You can visibly see white streaks, which are known as “caking.” These often appear on your forearms and face, or even on your clothes (I am notorious for this.)
All of these signs indicate high amounts of sodium in sweat.
Fun fact! One of the side effects of heat-adaptation is lower salt levels in sweat. If you track these signs, you will likely notice your sweat tastes very salty in the spring, as the weather warms up, but is less salty in the summer, after you’ve adapted to the heat.
What to do if you’re a salty sweater:
During a workout: As above, heavy sweaters can lose as much as 3,000 mg of sodium per hour. While you don’t have to replace all of this sodium during a workout, you will need to supplement with electrolyte tablets (like SaltStick Caps!*) and sports drinks to stay hydrated.
Note that you will need more than just sports drinks when replacing electrolytes. SaltStick recently published a blog post about a study in Spain that examined the effects of electrolyte supplementation on endurance performance. Check out the original blog post for greater detail, but the bottom line is this: Athletes who used electrolyte capsules — in addition to sports drinks — finished a half Ironman race on an average of 26 minutes faster than athletes who only consumed sports drink.
This is because most sports drinks do not contain the same sodium-to-water ratios as sweat. In fact, if sports drinks contained similar sodium levels as sweat, they would taste like sea water. This is why extra electrolyte supplementation, such as SaltStick Caps, helped boost the performance of these athletes.
Before/After a workout:
During the summer months, your body will lose a lot of sodium each time you complete a workout. During the day, there is no need to fear adding a little salt to your food. Sprinkle a pinch of salt into your post-workout smoothie, and feel free to liberally add salt to your hot meals. Soups and broths are great sources of sodium as well.
Of course, it is still important to eat a balanced diet with a variety of fruit and vegetables to replace the full spectrum of electrolytes. Check out more posts here to see some of the best sources of nutrients such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Salt Stick recommends 1 – 2 per hour for light sweaters and 2 – 3 per hour for heavy sweaters. (I take 2 an hour, and keep them in a plastic baggy tucked in my vest. Works like a charm.) For more information, check out their usage guide here.
The Winged Ling