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Salt when You Exercise

A study from Switzerland shows that when you exercise for more than three hours, you should take in salt as well as fluids.

During a four hour run, female competitive distance runners took in drinks with different concentration of salt. Ninety-two percent of those who took in plain water with no additional salt developed low blood levels of salt, which could kill them. Taking in fluid without also taking in adequate amounts of salt dilutes the bloodstream, so that the concentration of salt in the blood is lower than that in brain cells. This causes fluid to move from the low-salt blood into the high-salt brain causing the brain to swell which can cause seizures and death. Taking in extra salt during prolonged exercise increases thirst so you drink more fluids, and prevents blood salt levels from dropping so low that you become tired, develop muscle cramps, and can even die.

More on salt replacement for exercisers

Effects of different sodium concentrations in replacement fluids during prolonged exercise in women. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2003, Vol 37, Iss 4, pp 300-303. R Twerenbold, B Knechtle, TH Kakebeeke, P Eser, G Muller, P vonArx, H Knecht. Knechtle B, Swiss Parapleg Ctr Nottwil, Inst Sports Med, CH-6207 Nottwil, SWITZERLAND

Checked 1/31/12

May 11th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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