THE CLINIC: Am I Consuming Too Much Salt?

Thu, 27 Sept. 2012 - 12:42 a.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association

QUESTION:

 I am 53 years old and have been running for 25 years. Currently I run 35 miles per week, as I am training for a marathon. I am a 5’ 5” female weighing 120 lbs. My 5K time is 24:30, marathon about 4:15. I do tempo runs, long runs, and speedwork. 

 

I am concerned about the enormous amount of salt I ingest. It isn’t so much that I have a taste for salt, but I sweat profusely and crave salt, especially in the summer months. I have a history of hypertension in my family. My blood pressure is still very good (120 over 75), although slightly higher than 10 years ago (110 over 60). Recently two female running buddies, ages 58 and 60, have developed hypertension. They are both really good athletes, and I am surprised by this.

 

If I don’t ingest a lot of salt when I am heavily training, I become very lethargic. I consume a great deal of Gatorade, Succeed, and salty food. Can all the salt I take in be harmful? My doctor has told me not to worry unless I actually develop hypertension. How frequently should I check my blood pressure?

 

I do have a somewhat stressful lifestyle and might be classified as what was once called “type-A personality.” I drink a moderate one to two glasses of wine daily, have gone through menopause, but do have trouble sleeping and experience hot flashes. I do not want to develop hypertension; my friends have had to take medication that has hampered their training!

 

Grace Sutcliffe

Joliet, IN

 

ANSWER:

 With a blood pressure of 120 over 75, you should not fret. You are a “salty sweater” and are therefore doing the right thing. Your doctor was on target when he said to continue your current training and diet until hypertension actually manifests. The fact is, recommendations on salt intake for the general public and for athletes sweating for hours in the sun are different. The latter group risks insufficient salt intake, which can lead to cramping and exhaustion. Some Oklahoma University football players I treat can lose up to 5 teaspoons of salt a day.

 

Be sure to monitor your fluid intake, taking care to never drink more than you sweat. Simply weight yourself nude before and after a workout. If you sweat 2 lbs of fluid in one hour, drink 32 oz of fluid, no more. This would be about 8 oz every 15 minutes. Monitoring your fluid intake will help attenuate your need for salt. You should never weigh more at the end of a workout than when you started.

 

If you see salt on your skin, experience burning sweat in your eyes or sweat that tastes salty, suffer heat cramps, or feel dizzy when you stand up, you are in need of salty foods regularly and should not worry about consuming them. Some popular choices include pickles, tomato juice, pretzels, and canned soups.

 

E. Randy Eichner, MD

Oklahoma City, OK

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.

The American Running Association (ARA) and its Clinic Advisory Board disclaims responsibility and shall have no liability for any consequences suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site. ARA does not endorse specifically any test, treatment, or procedure mentioned on this site.

 

 

(RUNNING & FITNEWS® November / December 2009 • Volume 27, Number 6)




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