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Many doctors tell their patients to restrict salt, which can harm them, particularly if they exercise regularly. The only mineral that you need to replace when you exercise is sodium, found in common table salt. If you exercise regularly and don't take extra salt with your meals, you will take a long time to recover from hard exercise, and you will be at increased risk for muscle injuries and muscle cramps.

If you do not take extra salt when you exercise for more than an hour, you will not take in enough fluids and will tire earlier. You need to take in extra salt during exercise to be able to exercise for a long time. Sweat contains far less salt than blood, so during exercise, you sweat and lose far more water than salt in your sweat, causing the concentration of salt in your bloodstream to rise. Certain cells in your brain called osmoreceptors tell you when you are thirsty. These osmoreceptors do not signal that you are thirsty until you have lost considerable amounts of water to raise blood salt levels considerably.

So during exercise, you will not feel thirsty until you have lost at least 2 to 4 pints or pounds of fluids. Therefore you will not take in enough liquids and will become dehydrated which will tire you earlier when you exercise. Taking salt during exercise increases blood levels of salt which make you thirsty. So you drink more and have greater endurance.

A recent study from St. Georges Hospital in England shows that reducing salt intake markedly reduces the amount of urine that you produce. The authors state that the National recommendations to reduce salt intake in the general population from 10 to 5 grams per day would reduce fluid intake by approximately 350 cc per day per person. This would markedly reduce the sales of soft drinks, mineral water, and beer. Worse, it would cause more dehydration, thicken the blood and make it more likely to clot, and therefore increase the rate of strokes and heart attacks.

Effect of salt intake on renal excretion of water in humans. Hypertension, 2001, Vol 38, Iss 3, pp 317-320. FJ He, AND Markandu, GA Sagnella, GA MacGregor. MacGregor GA, Univ London St Georges Hosp, Sch Med, Blood Pressure Unit, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE, ENGLAND

Checked 8/31/05

May 21st, 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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