General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Salt Pills... What do ya know about them? Rss Feed  
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2011-10-17 3:11 PM

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Subject: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?

I am training for my first marathon and the mileage has definately increased. A guy I was running with this weekend asked me if I took any type of salt pills. I do not. He offered to give me a pill or two, but I really did not know what they would do or what to expect from them. I understand that they replace elctrolytes and all, but what else could I expect to gain from them.

 

Is is something that many runners or triathletes benefit from? And if so, which ones do you think are the best?



2011-10-17 3:18 PM
in reply to: #3727193

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Payson, AZ
Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
Are you having an issue you are trying to solve?  If not stay away from them.  Folks who take them generally take them to prevent cramps.  I won't argue the if it works or not, but I personally never get cramps while doing any sbr activities so I personally do not take them.  I would take gels I was going to be near the 2 hr range or more total.  I have had long runs where I haven't and still been fine, but usually ending with a bit of a drag to my step
2011-10-17 3:30 PM
in reply to: #3727193

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Roswell, Georgia
Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
I only take them on long (3hr+) workouts or races in hot weather (90deg+).

Edited by lisac957 2011-10-17 3:31 PM
2011-10-17 3:38 PM
in reply to: #3727193

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Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?

It's important to understand how sodium and electrolyte supplementation affects the rest of your digestive system.

Using an electolyte supplement like "salt tablets" may help in some environmental conditions depending on your level of acclimation. It may also shunt fluid toward your digestive tract in an attempt to process the sodium making you even more dehydrated.

The only sure way to know if you need sodium and electrolyte supplementation is to be tested for it. Urine and blood analysis while exercising in heat will reveal this. Everything else is either a shoot from the hip experiment or guessing. You can test the affect of sodium supplementation in training on hot days but do so with caution and moderation and carefully monitor your results.

In many cases electrolyte supplementation is fixing a problem that doesn't exist.

2011-10-17 4:02 PM
in reply to: #3727251

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Sensei
Sin City
Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
I think they are a waste of money.  I seem to do just fine with my basic nutrition plan.  I also live in the desert so most of my training is in the 90's -100's so I go through a lot of water and sweat a lot (even though it's hard to tell, since it evaporates so fast).
2011-10-17 4:15 PM
in reply to: #3727193

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Expert
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Wendell, NC
Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
High likelyhood of causing greater dehydration unless you're drinking LOTS of water - not sports drinks which also contain salt.  Some likelyhood of giving you the squirts.  I'd stick w/ the sports drinks and water, maybe some gu kinda fuel that has salt as well. 


2011-10-17 4:45 PM
in reply to: #3727193

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Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
I know I've never needed them, even during HIM runs in 95-100 degree weather.
2011-10-17 5:03 PM
in reply to: #3727193

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Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?

I get GI issues EVERY TIME that I try even one.  I take in a ton of electrolytes through sports drinks and my infinit 10x homemade gel.

2011-10-17 6:21 PM
in reply to: #3727193

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Regular
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Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
If you haven't had any cramping issues so far then don't take the pills.  Keep training as scheduled and see if it ever becomes an issue.  Then if you do have a problem, revisit the issue and start experimenting.  Generally, if I cramp at all, I don't cramp until I reach 5+ hours.
2011-10-19 10:20 AM
in reply to: #3727193

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The Natti
Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
There is no hard science that says that salt pills prevent cramping that I have seen. The science is all over the board. Joe Friel is now saying that you don't need ANY salt at all.

Salt moves water, hydration is the key to preventing cramping and performance.

As long as you are taking enough electrolyte to move the ammount of drink that you need to hit your hydration target than you should be fine. Most people can get enough salt through their sports drinks with no additional salt.

For most of our athletes, men target around 375 mg of sodium and woman 325. It should be a mix of sodium, potas, calcium and mag.
2011-10-19 4:22 PM
in reply to: #3727193

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Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
I'm not the OP but I'm desperate to find a solution.  I am cramping constantly.  At night, during swims and on the very verge on bike and run.  I have tried Cytomax and Perpeteum and even got some electrolyte tablets (by the Perpeteum guys) and always follow a bike/run with Electrolit (like Pedialyte).  Our water here has no minerals at all - it is highly processed and purified (I live in Mexico).  The other day I hopped out of the water and grabbed a salt shaker from the restaurant (twice) and downed some salt but I couldn't say it helped.  I'm getting desperate though.  Hot season is winding down (but normal is still 30c and 80%+).


2011-10-19 4:31 PM
in reply to: #3727193

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Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
I used them for a HIM run four years ago, but haven't used them since.  When I was a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy in the early 1970s, we took them to avoid night calf/leg cramps during basic training (first summer).  I used to get those cramps in the middle of the night, and they were pretty bad - seemed like they could have broken your bones if you didn't work them out quick.  That was before all the attention to Gatorade type drinks.  Occasional use of salt pills for avoiding leg cramps can't hurt, can it?
2011-10-19 4:43 PM
in reply to: #3730593

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Runner
Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
kathy caribe - 2011-10-19 5:22 PM

I'm not the OP but I'm desperate to find a solution.  I am cramping constantly.  At night, during swims and on the very verge on bike and run.  I have tried Cytomax and Perpeteum and even got some electrolyte tablets (by the Perpeteum guys) and always follow a bike/run with Electrolit (like Pedialyte).  Our water here has no minerals at all - it is highly processed and purified (I live in Mexico).  The other day I hopped out of the water and grabbed a salt shaker from the restaurant (twice) and downed some salt but I couldn't say it helped.  I'm getting desperate though.  Hot season is winding down (but normal is still 30c and 80%+).


Eat more bananas.
2011-10-19 4:52 PM
in reply to: #3730629

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Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
more than 1 a day? 
2011-10-19 5:02 PM
in reply to: #3730653

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Runner
Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
kathy caribe - 2011-10-19 5:52 PM

more than 1 a day? 


I'd say yes. If you're getting cramps like that at random points, I'd say you're either not getting in enough electrolytes (beyond sodium), or you've got something else going that would suggest a trip to the doctor
2011-10-19 5:06 PM
in reply to: #3730629

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Payson, AZ
Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?

Scout7 - 2011-10-19 2:43 PM
kathy caribe - 2011-10-19 5:22 PM I'm not the OP but I'm desperate to find a solution.  I am cramping constantly.  At night, during swims and on the very verge on bike and run.  I have tried Cytomax and Perpeteum and even got some electrolyte tablets (by the Perpeteum guys) and always follow a bike/run with Electrolit (like Pedialyte).  Our water here has no minerals at all - it is highly processed and purified (I live in Mexico).  The other day I hopped out of the water and grabbed a salt shaker from the restaurant (twice) and downed some salt but I couldn't say it helped.  I'm getting desperate though.  Hot season is winding down (but normal is still 30c and 80%+).
Eat more bananas.

funny, that was exactly what I thought when I read her post. 



2011-10-19 5:09 PM
in reply to: #3730671

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Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?
Scout7 - 2011-10-19 6:02 PM
kathy caribe - 2011-10-19 5:52 PMmore than 1 a day? 
I'd say yes. If you're getting cramps like that at random points, I'd say you're either not getting in enough electrolytes (beyond sodium), or you've got something else going that would suggest a trip to the doctor
Calcium?
2011-10-19 5:13 PM
in reply to: #3727193

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Subject: RE: Salt Pills... What do ya know about them?

I'd venture to say it's a lot less about the cramps and more about fluid retention.

 

Ingested water in the body is held there by the salt (osmosis). Your blood plasma is very salty. That's what keeps the water there - water wants to move toward the salt (to 'dilute' it). 

 

Without salt to match water intake at large volumes (like for long 3=hr efforts) , ingested free water will go to the bladder instead of the blood plasma. The more salt you lose, the less total body water you can maintain. Fortunately, nature has adapted us so that we've got enough salt to go for hours, but if you're going long enough to lose pounds and pounds of water (like those 5+ hrs bike training rides in the heat), ingested salt with water to match is essential to keeping your plasma volume up. 

 

An extreme example of this gone haywire is in people with poorly functioning kidneys, like advanced diabetics. They have to carefully watch their salt intake, because if they take too much salt in food, they'll get very thirsty and then drink so much water that they can actually overload their heart or even get some severe leg swelling. Healthy people don't have as much an issue with this since our kidneys can dump extra salt, but you can see how the water clearly follows the salt in these people.

 

Note that for efforts even as long as typical marathons (3-4.5hrs), salt isn't really a performance limiter. Ask this question on an ultramarathoner forum (like 100 mile races), and you'll get a lot more answers as to how essential it is.



Edited by agarose2000 2011-10-19 5:15 PM
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