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Sodium - The right amount to consume

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

Most people don’t know this, but the anti-sodium campaign actually began primarily as a commercial movement for companies to sell their low-sodium food products as a “healthy alternative”.

In much the same way that low fat foods are promoted, the average consumer will tend to just accept what they’re told by advertisers without realizing that most of it is based on selling products as opposed to being scientifically accurate.

The reality is that, contrary to what nearly everyone believes and repeats, sodium itself is not inherently “bad”.

The bottom line is that there’s no reason to avoid sodium, especially if you’re training hard in the gym and are sweating a reasonable amount. In that case you’ll actually require even more sodium than the average person in order to maintain a healthy electrolyte balance.

I don’t recommend going to extremes and consuming huge quantities of sodium every day, but the problems with water retention and negative health effects are not necessarily related to the objective amount of sodium in your diet, but rather:

  • The ratio of sodium to potassium that you consume.

  • The consistency of your sodium intake from day to day.

As a general guideline for reducing excessive water retention and lowering heart attack risk, you should aim to consume at least as much potassium as you do sodium. When it comes to potassium, I’d recommend making an effort to get in a few servings of potassium-rich foods in your diet if you aren’t doing so already.

Benefits of Sodium for Athletes

Here are a few examples of food sources high in potassium - Beans, apricots, dark leaf greens, yogurt, bananas, potato, avocado, squash, mushrooms, salmons, etc.

Obviously your sodium and potassium intake will fluctuate, but just do what you can to keep things relatively balanced in the big picture.Keep in mind also that the ideal ratio of sodium to potassium is not known, and the the 1:1 figure is just an estimate. Some people may require more or less depending on their body, and more research is needed here.

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