For decades, eating less salt has been a common bit of dietary advice. Our supermarkets are flooded with “low-sodium” and “sodium-free” foods, and we’re told that excessive sodium will lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney disease. Since excessive sodium intake can trigger sensations of thirst, we often believe that salt will dehydrate us. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Salt, when taken in moderation, actually helps our body maintain its fluid balance and stay hydrated. Our body is constantly using and losing salt through natural processes like sweating. So when we feel thirsty, it is important to not only drink water, but replenish our body’s salt store. In this article, learn how our body naturally loses sodium and how to best replenish it.

How Do We Lose Sodium?

Sweating is one of the most common ways our body loses sodium. According to research, a person will lose at least 3 liters of sweat in a single day. Since one liter of sweat contains an average of 800 milligrams of sodium[i], we can easily lose 2,400milligrams of sodium in a day. Thus, even with a sedentary lifestyle, it is important to maintain healthy salt intake.

Prolonged Exercise

When we exercise, we lose more sodium through sweat. For example, Depending on environmental factors and athletic conditioning, athletes and occupational athletes like firefighters can lose a liter of sweat in an hour or less[ii]. During intense exercise or work lasting more than an hour, the body loses sodium so quickly that it becomes difficult to replace with foods and beverages, which is the way we normally take in electrolytes.

Athletes can also develop low blood sodium, by drinking too much water. Overhydrating dilutes the amount of sodium in our bloodstream. For instance, one study found that of 669 ultramarathoners, 15 percent were experiencing low blood sodium.[iv] In these cases, added sodium can benefit athletes.

Illnesses

When we’re sick, we’re also losing sodium very quickly. From nausea to excessive sweating, our bodies lose even more salt than when we are healthy. During severe and prolonged episodes of illness, it can be difficult for patients to maintain sodium in the body.

When is Sodium Supplementation Necessary?

When we lose sodium in our bodies, eating table salt, as well as fruits and vegetables will often be the perfect sodium boost for the average person. However, athletes and sick individuals are at a higher risk for losing sodium.

Intensive, prolonged exercise or work causes the body to lose a large percentage of sodium through sweat. This can cause a sodium imbalance and actually dehydrate our bodies. According to the Institute of Medicine, athletes should keep pace by consuming sodium supplements.

One sodium supplement is salt tablets. Common with long distance endurance runners, a salt tablet and some water to holistically rehydrate the athletes. Another popular option are sports drinks. The Institute’s stated guidelines[iii] for sodium content in hydration drinks is 460 and 690 mg of sodium per liter. Thus, most sports drinks include less than 300 mg sodium per serving.

Additionally, when we’re sick, we are losing more sodium from our body. To offset the additional loss of sodium, it is important to rehydrate and replenish your body’s water and sodium.

Sodium + Sugar = Maximum Hydration

Although salt is beneficial for hydration, it works much better when combined with a precise ratio of sugar. When both are present in the small intestine, the body absorbs water 2-3 times faster.

When sugar attaches to the small intestine and absorbs salt, water is drawn into the bloodstream. Thus, proper hydration takes a proper ratio of salts and sugars.

Replenish Your Salts with DripDrop

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[i] American College of Sports Medicine. (2007). Exercise and fluid replacement. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc,39(2), 377-390.
[ii] Montain, S. J., Cheuvront, S. N., & Lukaski, H. C. (2007). Sweat mineral-element responses during 7 h of exercise-heat stress. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 17(6), 574.
[iii] Nesheim, R. O., & Marriott, B. M. (1994). Fluid replacement and heat stress. National Academies.
[iv] Hoffman M, Hew-Butler T, Stuempfle K. Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia and Hydration Status in 161-km Ultramarathoners. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2013;45(4):784-791.

Are you dehydrated?

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Extreme Thirst
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Exercise
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Are you dehydrated?

Extreme Thirst
Extreme Thirst
Exercise
Exercise
Not Enough Sleep
Not Enough Sleep
Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol Consumption