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Salt and fluid replacement in sport
In sport, salt enjoys a reputation as an important ingredient in sports drinks. On the other hand, health campaigns constantly warn against excessive salt consumption in everyday life. The question therefore arises as to whether the addition of salt or sodium chloride to sports drinks is sensible, harmless or even useless.
Due to the biochemical functions that sodium performs in the body, the addition of sodium is intended to improve fluid and energy absorption, because glucose is transported from the intestine into the blood depending on sodium. However, it is controversial whether additional sodium from the sports drink is really necessary for the latter. On the other hand, it seems clear that taking a sodium solution before exercise (pre-hydration) increases the blood plasma volume linearly compared to pure water.(1) The blood becomes, so to speak, thinner. This increased fluid volume in turn can have a performance-enhancing effect, as it optimises blood flow and thus also oxygen and nutrient transport. Pre-hydration with sodium-containing drinks carried out before performance can therefore lead to a performance advantage during exercise.
Sodium in a hydration solution, which is taken during or after exercise, also supports sufficient fluid intake or complete rehydration as quickly as possible by not prematurely preventing the feeling of thirst. This is due to the concentration ratio of water and sodium. If only water is taken in a dehydrated state, this causes a "dilution" of the water-sodium ratio, whereby the urge to drink is stopped before complete rehydration is achieved. Pure water also has a greater diuretic effect compared to sodium solution by lowering the hormone vasopressin. This means that more urine must be urinated, which in turn extends the time to complete rehydration of the body and thus the recovery time.(2) No sodium or too little sodium results in a higher urine output and cannot maintain a balanced fluid balance in the long term.
A lack of sodium in drinks or too little fluid intake also promotes muscle cramps. For athletes who are susceptible to cramps, we recommend four to five days of sodaloading with LACTAT BUFFER before long endurance exertions.
In summary, it can be said that where efficient fluid replacement or rapid recovery are the main priorities, drinks with at least 500-1000 mg sodium per litre should always be taken. Sodaloading is recommended for persons susceptible to seizures or sportsmen before very long endurance strains in the heat (from about 3 h duration). Fruit juices are unfavourable because they are hypertonic and contain no sodium. Diluted fruit spritzers with the addition of table salt are already more suitable. Ready-to-drink, sodium-containing and hypotonic sports drinks such as COMPETITION® or LONG ENERGY are ideal. SALT CAPS can also be used in addition or alternatively in combination with other drinks. If energy is supplied from sources other than a drink, ELECTROLYTE TABS effervescent tablets can also be used.
For example, 80 g COMPETITION® in 1000 ml water plus two SALT CAPS together provide 855 mg sodium and an energy requirement of about one hour. A comparable combination would be 60 g COMPETITION® in 750 ml water plus one HIGH ENERGY BAR SALTY&NUTS, which together gives 550 mg sodium.
1) Mora-Rodriguez und Hamouti, Med Sport Sci, 2012
2) Shirreffs und Maughan, Am J Physiol, 1998
Author: Remo Jutzeler
Head of R&D SPONSER SPORT FOOD
Ing. Food Sciences FH
MAS Nutrition & Health ETHZ