Salt, Sodium, and Summer Sweat

Posted on 03-06-2015 , by: Nancy Clark , in , 0 Comments

It’s summer sweat season! If you will be exercising hard for more than two or three hours in the heat and losing a lot of sweat, you might be wondering how to best replace the water and electrolytes lost along with the sweat. Here are a few tips to enhance your sports nutrition knowledge and guide your choices.

  • A pound of sweat contains about 16 ounces of water and 500 to 700 milligrams (mg) of sodium. Sodium is a part of salt.
  • Sodium is a mineral that is also called an electrolyte (electrically charged particle). It is one part of salt; chloride is the other part.
  • Sodium helps retain water in your body. If you drink plain water, it goes in one end and out the other. But adding a little bit of sodium (or drinking water with a food, most of which contains sodium) enhances fluid retention.
  • In hot weather, eating salty foods before you do extended exercise gets sodium into your system and invests in your ability to stay better hydrated.
  • In a 2-hour hard aerobic workout, you could potentially lose 1,000-2,000 mg sodium. After two hours, you goal is to replace about 500 mg. sodium per hour.
  • The body of a 150-lb person contains about 92,000 mg sodium.

You do not need to buy expensive electrolyte products to get adequate sodium, even in hot weather. The typical sports diet offers more than enough! Yet, if you are craving salt, you should consume salt.


Food                                        mg Sodium      Comments

Chicken noodle soup              2,350               Campbell’s, 1 can

Salt, 1 tsp.                               2,325               Sprinkle on food pre-exercise

The Right Stuff                       1,780               $$$ sports supplement

Ramen Noodles                       1,660               Mauchan, 1 block

Bacon, egg & cheese bagel       1,340               McDonald’s

¼-pounder w cheese               1,100               McDonald’s

Chicken bouillon cube             1,100               Low cost “electrolytes”

Salt packet                                   270               From a fast food restaurant

Chocolate milk                            150                8 ounces

Gatorade                                      110                8 ounces

The bottom line:

If you are an athlete who sweats heavily, you want to eat salty foods before you embark upon your exercise program. During sweaty exercise that lasts for more than 2 hours, you want to drink plenty of water with sodium-containing snacks (muffin, beef jerky, bagel, cheese stick or endurance sports drinks), and eat extra salt afterwards if you are craving salt. No need to purchase “electrolytes” because you can get plenty in processed foods. If you eat only “all natural” foods with few wrappers, bring out your salt shaker!

For more information: Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook

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