Colorado is hot. A lot hotter than people expect and the last few weeks have been…kinda miserable. Everyone knows it’s tougher to run in hot weather but most people think you should be able to “just do it” (Send me my check Nike!). Well, that is half right. Sometimes you just need to get out there and endure the weather but what is more important is what you do after. We aren’t just talking about drinking water, although that is a huge part of it, we are talking about the number one nutrient for rehydration: sodium. That’s right. Sodium!
Sodium is the most important of the many electrolytes that help maintain fluid levels in the body. A lack of sodium, which is released in large quantities during heavy sweating, can cause chronic dehydration and cramping. Not good! According to this article, “A heavy sweater who has a high salt concentration could lose 1,300 mg of sodium during a 5-K, whereas a light sweater might only lose 155 mg.” But for the most part, sodium is easy to come by. There is plenty of it to be found in processed foods and of course fast food. But that’s just the problem. Many runners, myself included, are health conscious and warned that sodium should be avoided- which leads to an overall decrease in sodium intake. The decreased sodium consumption, combined with high activity and high sweat levels can lead to chronic dehydration. While chronic dehydration can have significant and serious consequences the most common result is simply a decrease in performance.
Most runners avoid as a result of studies that suggest in increases blood pressure or an experience of feeling bloated after heavy sodium intake. The problem with most studies is that they aren’t you! What I mean is, the study was not done on high mileage runners- which happens to be a pretty significant variable!
This doesn’t mean that you should just gorge yourself on double salted salted caramel popcorn. But it doesn’t mean that you should be afraid to salt your food a bit at breakfast lunch and dinner. If you start eating processed foods you will have other problems than high blood pressure so the take away is to keep eating clean but don’t afraid to supplement with salt! Use the guidelines of sweating and sodium during a 5k to inform how much sodium you should be taking in. If you are considered a heavy sweater (or maybe you just glisten a lot =D ) then you want to aim for at least 1,500mg of sodium during your rehydration process. Scale down from there.
Higher salt meals should occur after training so it can have the greatest effect on rehydration. My favorite is a box of spanish rice with a side of salt and pepper tofu. Extra salt please!
So the next time you don’t run the race you think you should have ask yourself “Am I getting enough salt?”