Salt in Diet

News & Results

02/7/2003| 0 comments
by Peter Sleight

Salt in Diet

Please pass the Veggies and the Salt

Being properly trained and tapered are no doubt the two most important factors in performing at peak levels during races. However, there are several smaller details that athletes can look after to gain a competitive edge over an equally trained competitor.  Some of these include; mental state or psychological training, well maintained equipment, fast starts and transitions, as well as good race nutrition and hydration.    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>


We have all heard of ?bonking?.  Bonking is when you start to lose the ability to concentrate and ultimately feel disoriented and overly fatigued.  It occurs because glycogen stores within the body have reached an extremely low level, and since the sole source of fuel for our brain is carbohydrates, our brain starts to shut down.  Avoiding it is both simple and difficult.  The simple solution is to have enough glycogen in your system at all times.  The difficult part is keeping enough glycogen in your system at all times.  Bonking occurs because the rate of ATP demand (workload) in the muscle exceeds the ATP production (energy).  The body produces ATP by breaking down glycogen stores in the body.  In other words, energy intake is not meeting energy expenditure.  Therefore, to combat bonking, CTS recommends taking in 1-2 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight per hour.  This can be accomplished by drinking 4-8 ounces of a 6%-9% carbohydrate solution every 15 minutes and eating energy bars, or gels.  There are several types of drinks, bars, and gels on the market that effectively meet the demands of endurance athletes.  It is best to try a couple types to determine what works best for you in training and once you have it figured out you can feel confident about your nutrition and hydration in a race.


While much research has been done and volumes have been written about salt (sodium) in the average person?s diet, only recently have the requirements for endurance athletes been considered in scientific journals.  For ultra distance athletes, those who are pushing the body for multiple hour events like the ironman distance triathlons, 24-hour events, or multiple day stage races, there is more than just glycogen that needs to be replaced!  Studies are showing in events lasting greater than three hours, our bodies are also in need of sodium!  The balance between water and salts in the body becomes altered through loss of salt during perspiration, and it also becomes diluted because we hydrate to compensate for the loss of water, but not for loss of electrolytes.  This can be very detrimental to performance and lead to fatigue, cramping, and, in extreme cases, can be life threatening!  Therefore, we need to take a serious look at the amount of fluid, fuel (carbs) and sodium we take in either by food or drink during an endurance race.


What many people fail to realize is that when you are hydrating with only water, you are taking in much needed H 2O, but you are diluting the amount of sodium in the bloodstream.  By using sport drinks, juices, or taking sodium with


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