Salt has been demonized throughout over the past few decades alongside many myths in attempts to attract people towards buying products. As someone who has studied most of the current scientific literature in nutrition, I’ve found the answer: “it depends” to be what I resort to answering often. Is X (food) healthy? Well, it depends. It also depends what you are comparing it to. Is a protein bar healthy? Sure, compared to a chocolate bar. Compared to a wild caught piece of salmon, the answer is likely no. This is exactly why salt has been so confused to be unhealthy by many. Sure salt is not a great choice for an obese individual with a blood pressure of 170/110. As for an athlete that trains 7-12 hours a week, its a different story. Let’s examine the scientific literature regarding athletic performance.
1. Sodium increases blood circulation – Research has shown that increased sodium intake opens up blood vessels more so that oxygen and blood can better travel through the vessels.
2. Sodium helps prevent overtraining – Exhaustion is a key indicator of overtraining which is a sign of lactic acid built up throughout the muscles. This causes issues like restless leg syndrome, muscle cramping, and spasms. These issues are most likely a sign of nutrient deficient, more specifically, electrolyte imbalances such as potassium, magnesium, and sodium.
3. Promotes proper kidney function – Without key electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium, the kidneys are overwhelmed with the functions it is made for. Energy production and proper hydration are negatively affected.
4. Increases the absorption of calcium – When sodium is lacking in the blood, the body will pull magnesium and calcium from the bones resulting in lower bone density which is likely to lead to a slew of issues for endurance athletes.
5. Promotes Healthy Stomach Acid Levels – Low stomach acid is extremely dangerous whether an athlete or not. Low stomach acid decreases absorption and digestion abilities. When micronutrients cannot be absorbed, the body cannot function at an optimal level.