Dr. Kyle: Debunking the Salt Myth

Do you pay attention to how much sodium you take in?

Maybe you should!

It turns out that sodium may not be as bad as we previously thought. In fact, sodium is essential for many metabolic processes. Sodium is responsible for regulating blood pressure, maintaining blood volume and is required for neuron function and signal transduction.

Many believe that high (or adequate) salt intake will lead to high blood pressure. Most cases of hypertension are actually a result of genetics or stress. A small percentage of the people who are sodium sensitive may experience an increase in blood pressure, but an overwhelming benefit for the rest of the population cannot be ignored.

Sodium has several benefits including:

• Increased performance
• Increased stamina / endurance
• Increased blood volume
• Increased recovery

During high intensity exercise, the body actually responds better to a higher blood volume. This improves delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the working cells of the body. High blood volumes are also optimal for kidney filtration and removal of toxins and metabolic waste products.

Low dietary sodium and elimination diets can have detrimental effects for high performance athletes. Low salt intake will decrease overall blood volume, making the blood thicker. This can cause muscle weakness, cramps and lethargy.

What Type of Salt?

I recommend iodized salt. Iodine helps with thyroid function and regulates metabolism. Unbleached, pure Himalayan salt is also a good option.

So if you are hitting a wall during your workout it may be due to sodium depletion. Bottom line, make sure you are drinking plenty of water, eating sufficient carbs for your training needs, getting a balance of micronutrients from a variety of whole foods, and don’t be afraid to sprinkle a little salt on your meals every once in a while!