By Jeffrey Nagle, Personal Trainer
I remember the first time I ate raw salt straight from the salt shaker. I was thinking the same thing you are at this exact moment, “That’s weird!”
It was the middle of summer, hot as anything, and I just completed a workout that kicked my butt. I ate a good meal an hour before, and I was taking down more water than I ever have — but I couldn’t shake this feeling of being slightly…out of it. There was no rhyme or reason that I could come up with to explain this strange feeling. The next day things felt just as bad: muscle spasms, exhaustion, and grogginess.
To be honest, this was the first time something like this had really happened, so I thought maybe I was sick or just overthinking things. I began looking up my symptoms to learn what I could do to feel better. After reading through a few posts, I came across an article that recommended eating a three-finger pinch of sea salt and washing it down with a big glass of water.
Well, no more than an hour later the spasms were gone, and I felt good enough to get moving for the day. I even got a work-out later on that same day.
So What Was Going On and How Did the Salt Help?
Well, to start: It was hot, I was sweating, and I was not prepared for it. I didn’t have the fuel or the electrolytes to get me through the workout, let alone recover enough to feel good the next day.
The salt helped to replenish the electrolytes I lost during my workout. It also allowed me to hold onto some more water and hydrate, allowing myself to ease those muscle cramps and feel good enough to jump into another workout.
Salt has gotten a bad rap over the years for being an “unhealthy” substance. I guess if you have certain medical conditions or are having 500x the normal daily dose, yeah, it can be quite unhealthy. On the other hand, salt is a substance our body needs and utilizes — something I think I was missing during that summer workout.
The Bottom Line
If you exercise regularly, like to push yourself, and are looking to maximize your overall health, salt is NOT something you should be avoiding.
Sodium is a natural electrolyte, and your body needs electrolytes to not only feel good, but to function at its best level. Electrolytes are just ions in our blood that carry a charge. Without these electrolytes, we begin to impair our body’s ability to function. Low levels of electrolytes in the body can cause muscle contractions, blood clotting, and acid imbalances.
Now if we look at ourselves during a hard exercise routine, sodium is the #1 lost electrolyte while we sweat. We can’t just lose these substances and think that we are going to replenish them easily or feel good enough to keep pushing.
Now as we said above, because of salt’s reputation, people tend to avoid foods with a higher sodium reading or even skip using natural sea salt to season foods. The good news is that someone eating a relatively healthy diet rich in whole natural foods (that avoids processed foods) is more likely to have a low sodium intake than someone who doesn’t.
Don’t Leave Potential on the Table!
Maintaining a healthy level of salt in your diet can help:
- Allow for better blood circulation
- Increase the amount of oxygen in your blood
- Increase cardiovascular output
- Increase stamina
- Increase endurance
- Aid in recovery
So if we look at this list and avoid adding proper amounts of salt into our diet, then we are just leaving potential on the table. Not just potential but limiting our body’s natural ability to function properly.
Like we said above, sodium is the number one lost electrolyte when we sweat. If we do not replenish this, we are relying on other electrolytes to do double the work. We are also missing out on all the benefits we just listed above.
Hydration is Key
Another job salt has in our body is to retain more water. Now I don’t want to create another list of benefits for hydration because I think we get the idea behind that, but, more hydration leads to greater output. On top of having more in the tank, we are also able to recover faster, and as we know, recovery is #1.
Unless you are supplementing with a salt product, most clean eating habits will lack the adequate amount of sodium to reap the potential benefits. Now I am not saying we should switch our diets around to intake heavily processed foods just so we can get enough salt. Not even close. What I am trying to get across is the fact that we can supplement a healthy diet with sea salt to give us that extra boost we need for our health and performance.
To help my body stay hydrated, I mix up a salt blend drink to use during my workout. You probably have all of the ingredients already, and it takes no time to whip it up!
My favorite salt blend hydration Drink:
- ½ tablespoon natural sea salt
- ½ squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of cane sugar (or stevia)
- 16-24 oz of water
Now this drink tastes great chilled and is ideal to have right before or during a workout. As you get more comfortable you can add in one every day. During the summer months, I add a second serving on my workout days to make sure I stay hydrated.
Now the Question Arises: Does the Salt I Use Matter?
Yes, salt matters! It is possible to use regular iodized salt for your hydration drink, but sea salt is a superior choice because of its overall better taste, and higher minerals and nutrients. Plus, the processed table salt that comes out of your salt shaker can be hiding additives, chemicals, or bleaching agents, and who wants to add those to their diets?
You can get locally sourced sea salts at SalterieOne in Duxbury, Ma to know what type of salt you are getting and how it is made. Don’t leave potential on the table!
My name is Jeffrey Nagle and I am a local fitness coach. I started in fitness as a sports performance coach training mostly high school athletes. Over the past few years the focus began shifting to the general population. There are some things that carry over from sports performance to the general population but for the most part these things stay quite separated, reasons why I made the switch away from the sports performance side of things recently.
I thoroughly enjoy working with people and building a real relationship with my clients to get a deeper idea as to what I can do to help them. Everyone has different goals, different obstacles, and different circumstances which keeps things moving at all times. There is never a dull moment and always room for growth and improvement. As we learn and grow we can translate those things over to our clients and do everything we can to get people where they need to be.
I am fascinated not only in the exercise portion of fitness but also the nutrition, health, and behavioral sides as well. Everything has a role and everything has its place along the way. I really just enjoy doing what I can to help people move closer to the life they want to live.