Should Active People Replace Salt Lost in Sweat During Exercise?

Americans consume an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, while the recommended intake is only 2,300 milligrams. Consuming excessive sodium increases blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. However, salt— composed of sodium and chloride— helps regulate body water and is critical for sending electrical signals in nerves and muscle, in addition to being crucial for temperature regulation and cardiac output capacity. Intense exercise promotes sodium loss, which can decrease exercise performance. A review of literature by Australian researchers Martin Turner and Alberto Avolio concluded that replacing sodium lost in sweat during exercise improves exercise performance— but might reduce the long-term health benefits of exercise such as reduced blood pressure, improved endothelial function, reduced arterial stiffness and improved brain function. (International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 26: 377-389, 2016)

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