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Salt intake and your workout: What you need to know

Thanks to instructional materials like the recently revamped Food Pyramid, most people have a general idea of the dietary compounds they need and the ones they should avoid. However, the nutrition guidelines designated by the National Institutes of Health are intended for average Americans, not women in the midst of rigorous bikini or figure competition prep. With that in mind, in can be difficult to figure out the nutrients you need to fuel your efforts.

For instance, the NHI states that that Americans should only consume about 1,200 milligrams of salt a day, but most people get at least twice that amount. Though this can pose significant health risks for the general population, for athletes, eating more salt may not be such an issue.

First, it's important to note that salt performs an important function in the body - namely, moderating the amount of water in our cells. As certified sports nutritionist Nancy Clark explains on Active.com, athletes typically need more salt, since a lot of the sodium they consume leaves their body via sweat.

Plus, long-distance runners and other endurance-based competitors are typically diligent about hydrating themselves, to the point where they may actually dilute the amount of salt in their systems. This is why so many athletes opt for sports drinks infused with electrolytes - which are minerals in the blood that carry an electric charge. Sodium just happens to be one of them.

There is no set amount of sodium for athletes, as each individual processes the mineral differently. For instance, Clark points out that some people release more salt in their sweat than others, leaving white marks on their exercising gear.

In contrast with most Americans, some athletes have to make a conscious effort to eat enough sodium. If you're unsure of how much salt to include in your bikini or figure competition diet, consider consulting a local nutritionist.

Extract: Thanks to instructional materials like the recently revamped Food Pyramid, most people have a general idea of the dietary compounds they need.

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