worth your salt

I just had an ‘Ah Ha’ moment. When I was riding Sunday (Sunday was not part of the Great 2011 H2O Experiment), I was losing water through sweat but I was also losing salt. I could tell because my shirt was white when I wiped my brow, and I could see it on my arms and legs. Though I don’t know the rate of salt loss (somewhere between 250-400 mg per 1/8 gallon of water/per hour), I’m fairly confident about the maximum amount of water loss (1/8 gallon of water per hour). I think the reason that I started to get tunnel vision toward the end of the ride is because I had an electrolyte imbalance. No amount of water would have solved that problem. I could have stopped for a Gatorade and sipped it over the course of an hour or two to get the electrolytes back in me (long before I needed it). Had I gotten one and just chugged it, my body 1) couldn’t have processed the liquid that quickly (I already was consuming the maximum liquid my body could process) and 2)the excess amount of  sugar would spike my insulin which inhibits the release of growth hormones and cause my body to use glucose as fuel and store the sugar as fat (that was a mouthful…and sort of a bellyful) and 3) my body couldn’t ‘push’ the sodium through my kidney any quicker and what was lost, was lost for good. I’ll be continuously working from a deficit 4) there was not nearly enough sodium in the drink to replace what was lost. (it would have been good for fluid replacement, but not sodium replacement)

The next long (more than two hours) workout I’m going to be conscious about replacing lost salt. Since I can only lose 1/4 gallon of water through sweat (in the course of two hours), and the only way to lose salt is through sweat, I want to ingest an amount of sodium (if it is sodium, and/or potassium, I’ll try baking soda too) to replenish what was lost. Just like with thirst, if you’re thirsty, it’s too late. I have to take it right before I start to lose it, which is at least two hours after I start exercising.

Just because I’m sweating doesn’t mean I’m losing salt and certainly not in a short two hours (unless I’m going like a madman, then I won’t last much longer than two hours so it won’t matter). If a workout is less than two hours, my after workout meal can consist of salt (if I lost salt exercising) so I see no need for Gatorade (or equivalent) at all in a short workout. The extra calories and sugar will just turn to fat. Think about it. You start working out. Twenty minutes later you start to sweat. You start drinking Gatorade (or it’s equivalent). It takes at least 20 minutes for the fluid to go through your kidneys and you spike your insulin. Now unless your stomach is empty, and you have no stored carbs, the excess sugar you just ingested will cause you to use stored glucose for the fuel you were going to use anyway and the new sugar will be converted to fat. Did that mean you will get fat if you exercise and drink Gatorade (or it’s equivalent) when you don’t need it? You decide.

How did this become about sugar? OK, back to salt (or it’s equivalent)…. In some of these endurance events, athletes use salt tablets as a way to replace lost salt, but salt is very difficult to metabolize and rough on your stomach when you don’t want or need it to be. Oh, and there is potassium too. Sodium and potassium work together to support the water content of each cell in your body. The best and easiest digestible form of potassium is a banana.

To sum it up, if you lasted this long: at about the hour and a half mark of a longer that two hour workout, I need to ingest sodium and potassium in an amount equivalent to the projected loss within the next half hour. I have to do some more research on that amount. That being said (written), I’m also going to test baking soda as an electrolyte replacement.

For workout purposes and workout purposes only, you are worth your salt.

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