Expert, Ph.D. and scientific editor Chrissy Kendall answers the question related to the consumption of salt and its influence on the health of the athlete.
Author: Krissy Kendall, Candidate of Science, Certified Sports Nutrition Specialist
Question. Is salt harmful to the athlete? Do I have to limit myself if I am completely healthy?
For years, we were told that excessive consumption of edible salt (sodium chloride) could lead to an avalanche of problems. The more sodium in your body, the more water it retains. For this very reason, salt has long been considered the main trigger of hypertension – a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke and kidney disease.
But numerous studies have shown that salt restriction is of little use when it comes to preventing morbidity and mortality from vascular pathology. Reducing sodium intake can actually lower blood pressure, but changes are minimal, and they are unlikely to have a significant effect on your health. If an average person cuts salt intake from an average level (about 3,5 grams per day) to the recommended figures, he will get a drop in blood pressure from 120 / 80 to 118 / 79 – not too impressive changes!
Understand correctly, I do not encourage you to absorb salt in batches every day. But I agree with the opinion that to date there is no convincing justification for the existing recommendations. According to these recommendations, you need to get no more than 2,3 grams of sodium per day (about 1 teaspoon of salt), and no more than 1,5 grams per day to people older than 50 and with an increased risk of developing hypertension (blood pressure higher or equal to 120 / 80).
In 2013, the US Institute of Medicine concluded that there is no evidence that existing recommendations to limit sodium intake improve health and prognosis. It remains to add that the available evidence does not confirm the negative or positive effect of reducing sodium intake below 2,3 grams per day on the risk of cardiovascular disease.
There is no doubt that control of salt intake is necessary in certain cases, but I strongly doubt that it is necessary for healthy people. Your body needs sodium. It helps regulate blood pressure and volume of circulating blood, is involved in the work of the nervous and muscular system, and it improves the taste of food healthily.
For active people, sodium is the most important electrolyte that helps maintain the balance of intracellular and extracellular fluids. It also helps maintain the difference in electrical potentials on the surface of cell membranes, which is important for the transmission of nerve impulses and muscle contractions. In athletes, low sodium intake may result in seizures, and in more serious cases – hyponatremia, a very dangerous sodium deficiency.
Finally, if you work hard and work hard, you have a higher risk of sodium deficiency. In this case, it is especially important to consume enough salt every day.