WHY DO RUNNERS NEED SODIUM?
Have you ever noticed that after a long run, you might have those white lines on your face or skin? That’s sodium from your sweat (when your sweat evaporates, the salt can be left on the skin)!
Sodium is one of several electrolytes that play an important role in the body, involved in hydration status, muscle function, and heart function. Plus, sodium intake actually stimulates your overall thirst mechanism during exercise, which can help you stay hydrated on your long runs. Generally, for exercise under an hour, you can hydrate with water – but once you get past an hour, it’s time to add in electrolytes (aka sodium) along with that fluid.
What are Salt Tablets?
Salt tablets are concentrated sodium in a tablet or capsule.
Should Runners Take Salt Tablets?
Runners are more likely to need additional sodium replacement (via salt tabs or another electrolyte option) in the following situations:
Hot weather: High temperatures can increase sweat rates. Sweating is the body’s defense mechanism to prevent overheating and therefore, the hotter it is, the more sweat your body will produce.
Higher altitudes: Being at high altitude can increase fluid loss. If you have a race or are training in a new area with higher elevation than you typically are used to, you may need more fluid and electrolytes.
Very long workouts: The longer your workout, the more fluid and sodium you’re losing. Marathoners and ultra-marathoners need to pay more attention to sodium intake compared to a 10K or half marathon runner
Sodium Imbalance and Cramping During Long runs:
When sodium levels are too low: The body's ability to send signals is interrupted so the brain overcompensates and sends too many electrical impulses. Eventually, these signals overwhelm the muscle, preventing it from relaxing and manifesting in muscle twitches or cramping. Typically experienced by runners doing long runs beyond 15 miles!
Sodium and Potassium needs during a FM:
The below is an awesome chart that shows the sodium requirement and what we typically get in a regular Gu or sports drink. As you can see there is clearly a sodium deficit during a FM that needs to be supplemented with a salt tablet
Recommended Salt Tablets:
Salt stick caps have been around for a while and are a favorite among many old school runners, as they were one of the first products on the market in this realm back in 2006. They recommend taking one capsule every 30-60 minutes.
GU ROCTANE ELECTROLYTE CAPSULES
GU Roctane Electrolyte Capsules are produced by GU, one of the largest manufacturers of endurance nutrition products. This product is formulated with the addition of a little ginger root, which is thought to help prevent GI upset associated with salt tab use.They recommend taking 1-2 capsules per hour along with at least 3-4 ounces of water.