It’s common knowledge that drinking salt water when you’re dehydrated is dangerous. Yet in the days before sports drinks, the first thing we got for dehydration during football practice was salt tablets with water. What’s the difference?
—E.S., Knoxville, Tenn.
The main difference is the amount of salt. When you’re dehydrated, you need water, all right, but you need electrolytes (the scientific term for various salts) to survive too. Seawater has way too much of these salts, which can cause you to become more dehydrated than if you hadn’t drunk anything at all. But if you’re both dehydrated and low on salts—which is common in extreme physical activity, especially when you’re sweating heavily—and you drink only fresh water (which has very little salt), you will develop an electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes are necessary for basic cell functions, and symptoms range from mild to severe. You can die from a lack of these salts; hence the old-fashioned salt tablets to prevent this from happening. They’re not used much today because they typically provided only two of the necessary electrolytes (sodium and chloride), and they could easily provide too much of them if not enough water was drunk at the same time. For extreme exercisers, modern sports drinks do the job much more safely.
My 3-year-old granddaughter was born and lives in London with her parents, who grew up in the U.S. She has an English accent. She does have English friends, but she still spends nearly all her time with her parents. Why doesn’t she sound American?
—M. D., Chicago
Young children sound like their parents only until they start to socialize. Then they acquire the accent of their peers and forever sound different from mom and dad. If your granddaughter’s friends were mostly Americans, she would sound American. Or if the family had lived in the U.S., then moved to England when she was a teen-—around puberty, one’s homegrown accent is ingrained—she would always sound like them.
- Salt Tablets for Runners: Everything You Need to Know
- What Do Salt Tablets Do For Runners?
- Why You Should Seriously Consider Salt Tablets
- The Downside of Salt Tablets for Runners
- Balancing the Salt Equation
- SaltStick Caps Plus – 100 Capsules
- The advantages of salt pills for hunting
- Using salt pills for hunting
- But isn’t sodium a bad thing?
- In conclusion
Salt Tablets for Runners: Everything You Need to Know
Jan 16, 2020 Author: Edward Cambro
Salt and health have a strange relationship. We’re warned about our sodium intake with food, excising it from our diets could be just as hazardous. Most people struggle with having too much salt in their diets, but athletes–particularly runners–have a different struggle. Runners tend to have lower sodium levels, requiring them to take salt tablets to supplement the loss.
What Do Salt Tablets Do For Runners?
Sweating is usually a good thing for runners–especially those who use running to help them lose weight. But your sweat contains sodium, which you need to maintain your blood pressure–the way water travels through the body. When used as an ingredient, salt tends to make food taste better. Of course, too much sodium in your diet increases the likelihood of high blood pressure. In turn, high blood pressure can lead to diabetes, heart attack, blood clots, kidney damage, and stroke.
While many people struggle with high blood pressure, most runners struggle with the opposite–they struggle with low blood pressure. You see, sodium is an electrolyte. They’re comprised of sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and chloride. Electrolytes not only regulates the movement of fluid in cells, but also nerve and muscle function. When runners run, they sweat. And sweat is filled with salt. Your daily sodium intake should be approximately 2,300 milligrams. Not accounting for factors like hot weather and the different amount people tend to sweat, runners can lose approximately 3,000 milligrams in a one hour run.
What are the effects of low electrolytes?
The lack of sodium has unique effects. Streaks of white salt deposits can find their way onto your skin and workout clothes. That means you’re losing a lot of salt. You may have a sudden hankering for salty foods–potato chips, pretzels, french fries, etc.–along with other physical effects.
During your runs, you should always remain hydrated. Water, believe it or not, may not be the best source. Too much water in your body and not enough salt creates a dangerous imbalance. You’re not only avoiding replenishing necessary electrolytes, but the increase of water in your body will dilute the electrolytes you still have, decreasing their efficacy and enabling fatigue to set in faster. When you’re losing a heavy amount of salt you’ll notice the streaks on your skin and clothes, as well as puffiness in your fingers, toes, and around your joints.
For long-distance runners and those preparing for marathons, you’ll likely be sweating more than most. Those doing speed-play exercises will also have high exertion levels. Your electrolytes will literally be pouring out of you. When your electrolyte levels drop too much, you’ll experience premature fatigue in your muscles, and likely have to stop your run early. That’s why sports drinks advertise heavy doses of electrolytes–to help you sustain your run longer.
Over time, if you don’t replenish your sodium to an optimal level, you might develop hyponatremia. Symptoms include vomiting, confusion, dizziness, and muscle spasms. In extreme cases, it can cause seizures, coma, and even death.
Why You Should Seriously Consider Salt Tablets
Take a look around any fitness supply store. Besides creatine and powders and a lot of different forms of snake oil, you’ll find many brands of salt tablets. Athletes often use them to retain the sodium levels they need to keep moving forward. Hell, there’s a great line in King of the Hill, where sour Coach Sauers glares at his players and tells them to take a salt tablet whenever they complain about pain and fatigue. It was dismissive, yes, but it was a reasonable method of keeping his players in the game. Sure, chasing after them in his car wasn’t the best method of making them run faster, but that’s a different argument entirely.
While each brand is different, salt tablets generally contain chloride, potassium, phosphate, bicarbonate and along with sodium and assorted other electrolytes to keep you moving and to keep your levels under control. Potassium is also key in helping your body stave off cramps. While that might be a cue for some of you to buy your weight in bananas, you’ll probably get more results from the concentrated potassium in a tablet than a handful of bananas.
Of course, the biggest question surrounding salt tablets is, unfortunately, the most complicated one.
Do salt tablets actually work for runners?
Well, yes. They do. But you don’t always need them.
As a rule of thumb, if your run is less than an hour, you probably don’t need salt tablets. A bit of Gatorade or one of its many equivalents should do the trick.
As we said earlier, long-distance and marathon runners tend to have low sodium levels. They’re the best candidates for salt tablets. But they shouldn’t be taken in a vacuum. They’re a supplement after all. And they pay dividends.
Electrolyte-heavy sports drinks alongside salt tablets can improve your marathon performance. In 2015, the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports conducted a double-blind study. One group of athletes were given sports drinks and table salt before and during an Ironman 70.3. The other group was given a placebo.
Those given the electrolytes and salt before and during the triathlon improved their race times by approximately eight percent. They also experienced less of a drop in body weight. The salt stimulated thirst, which in turn, led to greater hydration during the 70.3. The salt allowed them to retain more of their fluids, making rehydration easier.
The Downside of Salt Tablets for Runners
Well, there had to be one, didn’t there? Moderation is key with salt tablets, and moderating them can be difficult. Remember how we said the athletes who were given the salt during the triathlon were thirstier? Well, let’s say you take your salt tablet. You’re going to be thirsty. You can have an electrolyte-heavy sports drink, but electrolyte tablets, powders, and gels are more effective and concentrated than the drinks. You’ll still be thirsty. The sports drinks will only give you more of what the salt tablet has: electrolytes.
That means you could end up having an abundance of sodium in your system. That’ll cause bloating while the water in your body tries to dilute the overabundance of salt in your body. To avoid this, you should drink water. Of course, too much water can then dilute the sodium too much and since you’re so thirsty from the heavy dosage of salt, you drink an increased amount of water, causing stomach discomfort as you continue to run.
In short, if you underdose your sodium, your performance will suffer; if you overdose, your stomach will be in tatters.
Balancing the Salt Equation
This is a tough one. There are too many personal variables we can’t account for. People sweat at different rates. Age, gender, diet, and weight are all contributing factors in determining the correct sodium dosage you should take.
But we do have some suggestions.
The first is trial and error. Like we said, too much will cause stomach discomfort and too little will see your results falter.
Second, you can use your time as a baseline. Let’s say your run is going to be two hours. You need a gram of salt for every hour you plan to run. Of course, this is just a baseline. The aforementioned factor may need you to increase or decrease the tablets as you go, which brings the whole trial and error thing back into it. You can add more sports drinks into the mix, but they usually only contain a small portion–roughly 220 milligrams of sodium per serving, so you’d be spending money and filling yourself with empty calories with little return.
If you have time, there are more precise methods. If you can track down a sports lab in your area, they can offer you a sweat test. During the test, the technicians will measure how many electrolytes you lose during an average run. They can use that information to create a custom hydration/electrolyte plan.
A more convenient method might be going through Leven™. They provide individual sweat test kits that can be shipped to your door. You fill up the packets with sweat, send them back for testing, and in return, Leven will provide you with a hydration/electrolyte plan that will work best for your body. They take different sports and athletes who engage in multiple sports into account and provide different types of sweat tests to accommodate that.
Of course, both going to a lab or ordering a sweat test kit will cost you money, more money than trial and error, but you would be paying for the specificity, accuracy, and convenience.
Salt tablets are a benefit to distance runners. If you’re considering giving them a try, remember, as it is with anything, moderation is key.
And there you have it: everything you need to know about salt tablets.
Let us know if you have any questions or concerns in the comments below.
- Triathlon Hacks
- Womens Running
- Trail Runner Mag
SaltStick Caps Plus – 100 Capsules
SaltStick electrolytes come in a capsule form so you can take them as needed based on the intensity of your workout as well as the climate conditions. SaltStick offer a full-spectrum electrolyte profile that include, Sodium, Chloride, Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium. They also add Vitamin D3 to improve Calcium absorption. SaltStick Plus comes with 30 mg of caffeine for that extra kick as well sodium citrate which is smoother on the stomach than sodium chloride if you have any sensitivity. Many of us like the simplicity and effectiveness of SaltStick caps. You can also get one of their convenient handlebar or belt dispensers.
IN SALTSTICK’S OWN WORDS*
SaltStick capsules are crucial to minimize muscle cramping, heat stress and fatigue due to unbalanced electrolyte blood levels. SportStick Plus adds caffeine to increase energy levels and sodium citrate to sooth the stomach!
- The ONLY electrolyte capsule that was formulated to closely resemble the electrolyte profile lost during activity: sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
- Only 1 capsule per serving
- Buffered salt composition that helps digestion and absorption
- Sodium citrate soothes the stomach
- Each capsule contains: 190 mg sodium, 53 mg potassium, 14 mg calcium, 7 mg magnesium, 100 IU Vitamin D plus 30 mg caffeine
- Vegetable-based non-GMO capsule composition; Bio-available active ingredients. GMP production in a facility registered NSF Certified for Sport®.
- Fully soluble ingredients allows option of easy preparation of a custom caffeinated electrolyte beverage with a pleasantly mild salty taste
- Contains only WHAT YOU NEED. No: herbal, trace, questionable components added. Vegetarian and Gluten free.
- No sweeteners- no high fructose corn syrup, no sweeteners of any kind
- Does not contain any World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) or International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned substances
- Unique formulation is patent pending; Engineered by a Ph.D. chemist who is also a pro triathlete
- Saltstick® Caps uniquely includes vitamin D that helps the body absorb and utilize calcium.
- Great for effective rehydration during international travel, hiking and effects of alcohol and unfamiliar foods.
Pre-training: No specific supplementation is necessary. Maintain adequate hydration with sufficient electrolyte content in the days leading up to a major training block to maintain your weight. For long distance training under extreme conditions, take 1 SaltStick capsule (non-caffeinated) the night before your activity, and one capsule with breakfast before your activity.
During training: Most athletes will find that normal training less than 2 hours should not require too much in the way of electrolyte supplementation, and water alone will suffice. Riding or running longer than about 90 minutes, or shorter in hot or humid conditions, should consider taking a SaltStick capsule every 30-60 minutes along with sufficient fresh water to stay hydrated. A mixture of sports drink, water and SaltStick Caps can also be a successful combination. Many athletes find that carbohydrates in the form of gels and energy bars is a good match for water-SaltStick Caps, eliminating the need for a sports drink.
Post-training: Maintaining proper hydration and electrolyte balance during hard training can be nearly impossible, and proper post-workout recovery is facilitated by ingesting fluid with electrolytes. This can take the form of a balanced electrolyte supplement along with carbohydrates and protein. A simple strategy to ensure adequate electrolyte replenishment is to take 1-2 SaltStick Caps after a hard workout. Excess electrolyte ingestion will simply be excreted in the urine.
Serving Size: 1 Capsule
|Amount Per Capsule||%DV*|
| Sodium 190mg
(as 810 mg sodium citrate)
| Potassium 53mg
(as potassium citrate and potassium chloride)
| Calcium 14mg
(as calcium chloride and calcium gluconate)
| Magnesium 7mg
(as magnesium citrate and magnesium gluconate)
| Chloride 50mg
(as calcium chloride, potassium chloride)
| Vitamin D3 100 IU
*Daily value not established
Other Ingredients: Vegetable cellulose (capsules), L-leucine (flowing agent, sodium copper chlorophyllin (natural green color)No gluten, soy, nuts. Vegetable capsule.
Why do many athletes need electrolyte supplementation?
Hyponatremia, a medical condition marked by low blood sodium levels, can lead to nausea, fatigue, cramping, vomiting, weakness, sleepiness, and in rare severe cases, even death.
Five electrolytes in particular play a pivotal role in maintaining normal human muscle function: sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride. A shortage of any of these electrolytes will affect athletic performance through a range a subtle to serious side effects.
Sweat typically has about 1000 mg sodium/liter, a typical sports drink has 440 mg sodium/liter. If, during the course of training, you ingest nothing but sports drinks (or worse, water), you will become hyponatremic at some point. Many sports drinks also do not address any form of supplementation of the other key electrolytes, potentially causing yet further cramping and muscle issues.
A popular and simple solution to electrolyte shortage due to sweating is supplementation using electrolyte capsules.
Why do I need more than just sodium? Table salt is easy to find and cheap to add to my drink mix…?
While sodium is the predominant electrolyte lost in sweat, a quartet of other electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride) performs crucial roles in muscle contraction, relaxation, and performance. Loss of these electrolytes over time will impair your muscles to function normally. Table salt only contains sodium chloride. Furthermore, adding too much salt to a drink will make it unpalatable and you will be less likely to actually drink it. A capsule delivers the electrolytes you need without tasting bad.
If I take salt capsules, where will I get my carbohydrates?
A strategy that has worked for countless pros and age groupers is to separate your electrolytes from your energy sources so that you can customize the dose of each group. This means to obtain electrolyte supplementation through capsules alone, and an energy source through solid or gel foods and/or complex carb drinks (e.g. maltodextrin).
Isn’t it important to maintain a low sodium diet?
Scientific research maintains that the average Western diet is already too high in sodium and would benefit from a reduction in sodium intake. As sodium consumption increases, output in sweat also increases to maintain a healthy level in our body. Your body become acclimatized to this intake, and “needs” more sodium to maintain this level of function. However, athletic performance drives up the loss of sodium through sweat. If your diet already contains a lot of sodium, you’ll need to maintain a higher level of sodium in your body to keep homeostasis (balance) and your ability to function under athletic stress. This can be accomplished by higher doses of electrolyte supplementation. If your diet is lower in sodium, you will still lose electrolytes through sweat, but you can maintain your appropriate blood electrolyte level with less supplementation. In many respects, the ideal situation is to live a low-sodium diet and supplement during heavy training and racing as needed. Using SaltStick Caps electrolyte capsules will allow you to do this easily, and to customize your dose based on individual need.
What is the science behind SaltStick®Caps?
Simple: What is lost in sweat should be replaced by your electrolyte capsules in a quantity and form which your body can absorb. SaltStick® Caps have been formulated to provide your body with a balanced electrolyte content in the suggested serving of 1 capsule per 30-60 minutes. Two SaltStick Caps in an hour equate to 430 mg sodium, 126 mg potassium, 22 mg magnesium, and 44 mg calcium per hour: The ideal ratio to keep you moving.
|Average Sweat||SaltStick® Caps|
|Electrolyte||per 11oz / 315 mL||per capsule|
If you want to dig deeper into the science and math beyond electrolytes, read Jonathan Toker’s (the owner of SaltStick) article on slowtwitch.com.
What is bioavailability and why does it matter?
A nutrient’s bioavailability is the proportion of the nutrient that, when ingested, actually gets absorbed by the body. Absorption rate is important because even when a drug is absorbed completely, it may be absorbed too slowly to produce any effect. SaltStick® Caps contain water-soluble chelated potassium, calcium and magnesium citrates and gluconates that have high bioavailability and fast absorption rates. Sodium chloride present is also bioavailable and quickly absorbed. This is in contrast to some supplements that use forms of these minerals that have lower bioavailability, are insoluble, or require high stomach acid to digest.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
When you exercise in hot weather, you sweat and lose a lot of salt. That doesn’t mean that you need to take salt tablets. The use of salt tablets is recommended only if their benefits exceed their side effects.
If you lose more salt than you take in, your muscles will start to hurt and cramp. You will feel tired and sick and develop a headache. You can even pass out. Taking salt tablets would replace the lost salt; however, they have side effects. They can irritate your stomach lining and make you throw up, and they can thicken your blood enough to cause clots in your arteries.
If you exercise regularly in the heat and your body starts to run out of salt, your sweat glands will produce sweat that is extremely low in salt. Americans eat way too much salt anyway. Almost all prepared food is loaded with it. Manufacturers know that salt makes food taste good, so they add large quantities to foods. The average American needs only about 200 milligrams of salt per day but takes in more than 3,000.
If you become weak and tired when you exercise in hot weather, stop exercising and check with your doctor. If you’re low on salt, add some to your food and don’t resume exercising until you feel good again.
Q: What do you think about the recent reports that pesticide residues are harming children?
A: A 1992 Food and Drug Administration report found that 40 percent of grains, 51 percent of fruits and 32 percent of vegetables contain pesticide residues. These values are all within federally allowed limits, and there are no reports that children have actually been harmed by them. Still, the size of children’s bodies increases their risk for nerve damage and cancer by even a small amount.
The panel appointed by the National Academy of Sciences recently recommended that the government develop tests to see how harmful thepesticides are and to set more severe limits on the amount of pesticide residues that should be allowed in produce.
For now, you can reduce the concentration of pesticides in produce by as much as 99 percent by washing and peeling fruits and vegetables before you eat them. The Clinton administration has promised to try to reduce the use of high-risk pesticides and legislate the development of safer pesticides.
Incidentally, a study done by the attorney general of New York state found higher pesticide levels in so-called “organically grown” produce than in much cheaper non-organic produce sold in most supermarkets.
Q: I was told that my chronic fatigue might be caused by Lyme disease. What can I do?
Lyme disease is curable when treated early, but it may not be curable in its late stages. The classic early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease are fever, muscle aches and a “bull’s eye” rash at the site of a tick bite. If you have Lyme disease at this stage, you can be cured by taking antibiotics, ampicillin or doxycycline for three weeks.
However, more than 10 percent of people with Lyme disease may not develop the telltale rash, and their symptoms may not be distinguishable from most other summer infections. Furthermore, the most commonly used tests for Lyme disease )) are not standardized enough to be completely dependable. The fever and muscle aches may go away, only to return months or years later as a chronic-fatigue-like syndrome. The symptoms can include joint and muscle pain, weakness, lethargy and nerve and brain damage, which may be characterized by loss of feeling or muscle control, unexplained pain or even bizarre behavior.
The treatments for late-phase Lyme disease often do not cure the muscle, joint and nerve symptoms.
Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.
Many doctors recommend increasing salt intake to help combat the symptoms of lightheadeness, low blood pressure, fatigue and brain fog that is often seen in dysautonomia patients. Dysautonomia patients often buy salt pills, or expensive supplements and electrolyte drinks to get their salt, but there are easier, more affordable ways to increase salt in your diet.
Salt vs. Sodium – what’s the difference?
Common table salt is about 99% sodium chloride, a naturally occurring mineral. According to the USDA, 1 g of typical table salt contains 387.6 mg of sodium.
Hypothetically, if your doctor says “aim for 8 grams of salt per day,” how much sodium do you need to equal 8 grams of salt per day?
8 grams of salt pr day x 387.6 milligrams of sodium per gram of salt
= 3101 mg of sodium per day
This means that you’ll need 3101 mg of sodium per day to meet your doctors recommendation of 8 grams of salt. You can do this!
Let’s say you aren’t used to a high salt diet yet and you can only tolerate sprinkling 1/4 teaspoon of salt on your food throughout the day. Overtime your taste buds will get used to a higher salt diet. Our trusty table below tells us that 1/4 teaspoon of table salt equals 590 mg of sodium.
3101 mg of sodium required to meet your doctor’s advice
– 590 mg of sodium you will sprinkle on your food throughout the day (1/4 teaspoon of salt)
2511 mg of sodium from other sources
Obtaining 2511 mg of sodium a day from foods and beverages isn’t that difficult (unless you have severe gastroparesis, as some dysautonomia patients do). In fact, according to the CDC, the average American adult consumes 3,300 mg of sodium per day. The NHS says that, on average, people in the UK consume 3,200 mg of sodium per day.
This being said, here are some common food items and their sodium levels to help our hypothetical patient find their 2511 mg of sodium. Please note, we’re not recommending specific brands. These are just examples.
|Food Item||Serving Size||Sodium|
|V8 vegetable juice||8oz||420 mg|
|Morton table salt||¼ tsp||590 mg|
|Boar’s Head Cold Cut Turkey||2oz||330 mg|
|Board’s Head American Cheese||2 oz||700 mg|
|Breakstone Cottage Cheese||4oz||340 mg|
|Athenos Feta Cheese||1 oz.||340 mg|
|Kikkoman Soy Sauce||1 tsp.||307 mg|
|Swanson Chicken Broth||2 cups||1720 mg|
|Swanson Veggie Broth||2 cups||1600 mg|
|Swanson Beef Broth||2 cups||1600 mg|
|Knorr Chicken Boullion Cube||1 cube||1270 mg|
|DelMonte Creamed Corn||1 cup||480 mg|
|Vlasic Kosher Dill Pickles||1 oz||210 mg|
|Kalmatta Olives||1 oz.||429 mg|
|Goya Manzanilla Olives||2 tbsp.||330 mg|
|Rold Gold Pretzel Rods||6 pretzel rods||1220 mg|
|Heinz Ketchup||1 tbsp.||160 mg|
|Goya Capers||1 tbsp.||380 mg|
|Oscar Mayer Fully Cooked Bacon||3 pieces||340 mg|
|Hebrew National Quarter Pound Franks||1 frank||1070 mg|
Here are some salty items you can find in popular American restaurants. Please note that many of these restaurant items contain obscene amounts of calories and fat, with the exception of the Hot & Sour Soup, which is surprisingly low calorie compared to other items on the list.
|Panera Bread – ½ sierra turkey, half greek salad||1790 mg|
|Arby’s Large Mozzarella Sticks||1940 mg|
|Denny’s Buffalo Chicken Strips||2780 mg|
|Olive Garden – Chicken Parm Entree||3380 mg|
|PF Chang’s Hot & Sour Soup||5000 mg|
|PF Chang’s Beef & Broccoli||3752 mg|
|Baja Fresh Chicken Tortilla Soup||2760 mg|
|Dunkin Donuts Salt Bagel||3420 mg|
|Applebee’s Weight Watchers Chipoltle Lime Chicken||4990 mg|
Shake It Like A Salt Shaker…
Once you’ve acquired a taste for salt, you can begin to sneak more salt into your foods with a good old-fashioned salt shaker. Some food items can hide the taste of excessive added salt better than others. Here are some examples:
mashed or baked white potatoes
baked homemade sweet or white potato fries
almost any steamed or olive oil sauteed veggie
almost any meat
Another trick is to mix salty and sweet flavors. A little sprinkled salt goes well with brownies, vanilla ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, and watermelon. Carmel dipping sauce and dark chocolate taste great with lots of salt. For sweet treats, large grain salt adds a nice crunch and gives you more sodium for less of a salty taste, since your tastebuds won’t come in to contact with as much of the salt compared to smaller grained salts.
Salt pills – worth it?
Salt pills often come in 1000 mg (1 g) tablets. Some people find these helpful, but most people find that they upset your stomach. If the salt pill causes vomiting or diarrhea, you can end up losing more salt than you consumed. Some patients use other electrolyte supplements like Thermotabs.
For comparison, one Thermotab contains 180 mg of sodium and a 1 gram salt pill contains about 388 mg of sodium. Looking at the table above, you can get this same amount of sodium fairly easily with a one or two pretzel rods. If salt supplements help you, then by all means use them, but you don’t have to purchase supplements to get your salt needs.
Salt to Sodium Conversion Table
If your doctor has recommended another amount of salt, here’s a handy salt to sodium conversion table. This is a rough approximation, because each type of salt has a slightly different sodium concentration.
1 gram of salt = 388 mg of sodium
2 grams of salt = 775 mg of sodium
3 grams of salt = 1163 mg of sodium
4 grams of salt = 1550 mg of sodium
5 grams of salt = 1938 mg of sodium
6 grams of salt = 2326 mg of sodium
7 grams of salt = 2713 mg of sodium
8 grams of salt = 3101 mg of sodium
9 grams of salt = 3488 mg of sodium
10 grams of salt = 3876 mg of sodium
11 grams of salt = 4268 mg of sodium
12 grams of salt = 4656 mg of sodium
13 grams of salt = 5044 mg of sodium
14 grams of salt = 5432 mg of sodium
15 grams of salt = 5820 mg of sodium
16 grams of salt = 6208 mg of sodium
17 grams of salt = 6596 mg of sodium
18 grams of salt = 6984 mg of sodium
19 grams of salt = 7372 mg of sodium
20 grams of salt = 7760 mg of sodium
21 grams of salt = 8148 mg of sodium
22 grams of salt = 8536 mg of sodium
23 grams of salt = 8924 mg of sodium
24 grams of salt = 9312 mg of sodium
25 grams of salt = 9700 mg of sodium
26 grams of salt = 10088 mg of sodium
Don’t Forget the Fluids!
Increasing salt intake really only helps when you also increase your fluid intake. Most dysautonomia experts recommend consuming 2-3 liters of hydrating fluids per day. Everyone is different, so ask your doctor how much salt and fluid intake is right for you.
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The advantages of salt pills for hunting
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Reducing muscle fatigue and replenishing electrolytes. Photo credit: Brady Miller
While hunting, we extend an exorbitant amount of energy. That energy expenditure starts when we step foot out of the truck and doesn’t end until the last gamebag full of meat is in the cooler and through all of that hiking, we are sweating. Sweating results in the loss of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium). That loss of electrolytes can lead to muscle fatigue and cramping over the duration of a long hunt.
Over the years I have tried several methods for replenishing lost electrolytes (mainly different powder drink mixes). And this year I started using salt pills made by SaltStick on all my scouting and hunting trips with great results. Salt pills are used by many endurance athletes, and if they are good enough for high-intensity mountain races, I feel they are perfect for hunting.
Using salt pills for hunting
SaltStick caps for replenishing electrolytes.
For my style of hunting, popping a few salt capsules is way more efficient than trying to mix electrolyte powders. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the powders can help, but for me, I don’t like to pack around a bunch of powder in a Ziploc bag. That bag could tear in my backpack, and involves dirtying up a collapsible water bottle, bladder or Nalgene bottle. Some people might like the added taste boost to water with powders, but remember that I do go by the “food is fuel, not fun” mentality on most hunts, so I don’t really feel the need to flavor up my water while hunting.
During days when I am expecting a big hike, I’ll pop two capsules with water roughly every 60 minutes of strenuous activity and then a capsule after I stop a big hike. This method greatly helps replenish essential nutrients lost to sweat and works very well for me. Keep in mind that according to SaltStick’s website, they don’t recommend taking more than 10 capsules a day. I’ve been using their regular SaltStick Caps, but you can also get the SaltStick Caps PLUS that have an added caffeine boost. I haven’t tried the PLUS caps yet, but for me, the higher amounts of electrolyte in the regular caps were my deciding factor in which one to purchase. SaltStick Caps have the following ingredients: 215 mg sodium, 63 mg potassium, 22 mg calcium, 11 mg magnesium, and 100 IU Vitamin D.
A little side story in my search for something to use while hunting, in 2014 I was routinely putting on 25-30 miles of hiking in a 1.5 day period scouting for a mule deer hunt. The trips were very physically demanding. I’d drive all night after work on a Friday, then go right into hiking in the dark to avoid the blistering hot sun at high elevations. Well… one of those trips finally caught up to me. I was hiking down after scouting and my legs completely cramped up. This was the type of cramping that lasted a long time and made it very difficult to keep hiking.
The cause of the muscle cramps I feel was due to exerting so much energy and sweating a bunch, but I wasn’t replenishing what I was losing due to all the sweat with just water. In some sense, I was getting very dehydrated due to the limited water that was available at higher elevations. I was eating well, but that wasn’t doing everything for me. The problem with my cramping was most likely due to me only consuming straight water. I needed something more from my water with the amount of energy I was burning.
But isn’t sodium a bad thing?
I often hear people talking about the high level of sodium in certain freeze dried foods, but what they might not realize is that sodium can be a huge asset on a grueling hunt. The day-to-day foods I eat when I am not hunting are already low on salt, so this added salt pill boost seems to reduce the impact of cramping. It is fairly obvious that when carrying a heavy backpack and hiking up and down mountains all day that anyone will start to sweat. According to SaltStick (and research papers I’ve checked out), sweating causes the average athlete to lose roughly 11 oz of sweat during 30-60 minutes of activity. Plus you are losing 220 mg of sodium, 63 mg of potassium, 8 mg of magnesium and 16 mg of calcium. This means that you want to find something that can closely resemble the electrolytes lost through sweat.
When I was younger, my dad had me drink pickle juice throughout the week to help replace lost sodium due to sports practice. It must have worked because I rarely had cramps. Some of the options like pickle juice would be a little difficult to consume on hunts, which is why salt pills have always intrigued me. There are definitely other options you can use for alleviating muscle fatigue and replacing electrolytes, but for the price per capsule of salt pills and their ease of use, so far this is my favorite system for electrolyte replacement. My system is fairly simple when I’m in the mountains. I really don’t enjoy mixing hydration type powders into my Platypus water bladder as it leaves a bunch of residual taste. If you like using powders, I would highly suggest a collapsible water bladder or a Nalgene if you’re not concerned about the added weight. As always, definitely test out how your body responds to any supplements before you go head first on your next hunt. I’d love to hear your thoughts on other methods you’ve tried.