Salt Intake during rides

Aug 20, 2010
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Minato-ku
#1
On recent rides, I've been adding High5 Zero salt/electrolyte tabs to my water bottles - usually 1 tab per 700ml. I drink around one bottle per hour and sometimes drink plain water in addition too. Of course, it's important to stay hydrated, but does drinking too much plain water leach salt from the body? I have been experiencing headaches on rides in the heat, so have ensured that I stay well hydrated (5-700ml fluid intake per hour). Over the weekend, I experienced such a headache and normally I would take NSAIDs, but this time I had none so finished ride and drank over 1.5litres of sports drink (which I know some people on this Forum have advised against). I noticed on train home that my headache had vanished!

How much salt should I intake per hour, and how should I ingest this (e.g. drink + salt candy, salt granules)? Also, how important are so called "electrolytes" during rides?
 

j-sworks

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Feb 5, 2012
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#2
It seems that your learning on-the-fly.

Indeed last summer I experienced the lack of salt intake, so I've done something similar to what you have but my mix is one to one.

I drink one bottle of water per hour at the very least, and when I'm fully done that I switch to the electrolyte bottle. And I continue this throughout the day.

If I get tired of drinking that stuff, usually on the way home, then I grab an ice cold can of coke. You'd be surprised how excellent that feels on an über hot day, after drinking warm water and stuff all day.

This has made the biggest difference in my summer riding
 

FarEast

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May 25, 2009
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#3
The headache might not have been due to lack of salt, but the classic bonk (hunger knock) and the sugar in the drink kicked in and brought you out of it. Also heat exhaustion could have been a culprit and only till you stopped exerting the body and down in the cool environment of the train did you start to recover from it.

In regards to salt loss everyone is uniquely different but one way to train the body to retain salts is to do 10 minutes of anaerobic exercise in the heat. This will train the body to retain salt and thus fluids, it normally takes about 7-8 days to acclimatize to the heat and the changes in the body to take effect.
 
Aug 20, 2010
76
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Minato-ku
#4
Thanks for feedback. I had eaten a fair amount of sweet stuff - chocolate, karinto etc before headache and felt pretty energetic. Heat exhaustion could be a factor, but it was relatively cool on Sunday, and I generally follow the principles set in the "coping with heat" post of using no AirCon etc, so believe myself to be fairly well-adjusted.

But will try the 10-min anaerobic suggestion although I do regularly climb hills in anaerobic zones which, come to think of it, sometimes result in headaches later-on in ride even if my body feels fine. Perhaps I should intake sugars immediately after anaerobic period.
 

FarEast

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#5
I generally follow the principles set in the "coping with heat" post of using no AirCon etc, so believe myself to be fairly well-adjusted.
Not using aircon and conducting physical activitiy (intense or not) in the same conditions are very different. Remember 75% of your bodies energy expenditure is on core body temperature regulation, so when you add the heat and excersise to the fact you body is going to burn a lot more calories to maitain core temps, however during excersise your bodies digestive system is seriously comprimised and often shuts down to a trickle - thus why we crave sugary drinks as these are absorbed faster and thus hydrate and fuel the body (although this also comes with its cons)

Basically after anaerobic activity you should be taking in carbs, protien and liquids (water)
 

leicaman

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#8
I found that adding salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice to filtered water after a workout (I think it was FarEast that suggested it in another thread a few weeks back) has really helped me retain more water. A few weeks back I was just drinking water or mugi-cha after a workout and I found that I would be going to the toilet (for a number 1) pretty often. Since adding the salt I don't go as much. Not sure how much salt I actually add. I use the Costco sea salt that comes in a grinder. I give it about 6 or 7 turns. The taste is just about bang on. When in the middle of a workout I tend to just drink water, unless it's an all day ride at the weekend with riding meister Pete (stupid iPhone auto correction actually tried to change it to "riding molester Pete"). I might grab one or two evil sports drinks or a coke in that case.
 

trad

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Dec 4, 2006
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#9
I sweat a fair amount and cramp for a few weeks when weather gets hot/stickly, and I echo FarEast... best to acclimitizate quickly. for me... I also keep one bottle with high concentration of gatorade mix, bit of salt, and and touch of citrus juice. I use this as an "elixir" bottle and sip on it every 1/2 hr or so. As back up I bring along a few endurolyte pills, but find that I'm handing these out to thers in the group that are starting to cramp. I also like to get a nice bowl of ramen and add a splash of white vinegar on long rides - seems to help rebalance my fluids and keep cramps at bay....

on the point of the headaache.. if it feels like an "hangover" that's probably dehydration, but if not, I've got to think its heat exhaustion or another ailment... and I'd watch that carefully. Combo of dehydration, and diruetics (alcohol, coffee) can turn blood a bit sludgy and accelerate heat exhustion/stroke, but in any case, this is not something to dink around with....
 

GSAstuto

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#10
1) Don't confuse mild dehydration with glycogen depletion. (FE touched on this)
2) Your body will regulate it's osmotic balance as long as it has sufficient hydration more so than salts replenishment.
3) Sports drinks are junk marketing. in FACT, most will cause MORE osmotic imbalance than help it!
4) If you feel dizzy, faint, headaches, vomiting or otherwise severely uncomfortable when exercising in the heat , then JUST STOP DOING IT! Let your body cool down before continuing. This is a FAR MORE RATIONAL AND SAFE approach than ANY supplemental ingestion of whatever.
5) Acclimatization is a good thing. Spend no more than 2hrs each session in MILD to MODERATE exertion - each DAY for about 10-15 days to get to a stable , acclimatized, state.
6) For acclimatized riders, consumption of more isotonic liquids makes sense. And just plain water in addition to any food / carb supplements required for the duration of the session. (Refer to #1)

Bear in mind if you just tie one on and go out non-acclimatized, poorly hydrated and over exert from the beginning, you will overheat, dehydrate get sick and do considerable muscle tissue damage. Period. And it will take you several days (if not weeks) to recover the micro-cellular damage.

Whether you feel it or not in subsequent rides - you've done the damage.

Think about it.

This is why I drink Tomato juice (as an example) , it's a natural, isotonic liquid that is pretty heavy on the natural salts and also a good source of anti-oxidants which help to clear the free radicals (the real reason you feel pain when you hit the hard stuff).
 
Aug 20, 2010
76
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Minato-ku
#11
if it feels like an "hangover" that's probably dehydration, but if not, I've got to think its heat exhaustion or another ailment...
Actually, it is more the latter. Also, GSAstuto I don't experience any dizziness or faintness. I'm pretty careful to be well-hydrated from day before the ride and continue fluid intake. In the past, I've experienced dehydration headache, but have since been more careful with fluid intake.

GrantT Miso is a good thing. Come to think of it, I picked-up a miso-konnyaku at Chichibu station the other day - the salty miso felt great after a long day's riding.

Will try out Tomato juice and/or salt lemon combination and cooling down. Thanks everyone.
 
May 9, 2010
23
2
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Tokyo
#12
Does anyone have any views on vinegar as a supplement? I cramp very badly and my wife generally makes a vinegar based concoction and it seems to work. There was a fruity vinegar drink in Lawson for a month or so recently which was also pretty refreshing; but like a lot of things I rather enjoy (coolish ice cream for example) as soon as you get a taste for it they withdraw it for yet another tea drink (27 different varieties in one conbini I counted the other day).
 

joewein

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#14
Fear of salt loss and the need to replace it is mostly overrated. A study in 2006 found no evidence that cramping in Ironman triathletes was directly related to lack of sodium:
The notion that sodium depletion during exercise causes muscle cramps is clearly false. A 2005 study found no difference in blood sodium levels between athletes who suffered muscle cramps and athletes who did not during an Ironman triathlon. Some exercise physiologists now believe that exercise-induced muscle cramps represent a type of tendon fatigue that occurs during unaccustomed levels of exertion. The fact that some athletes are especially prone to muscle cramps while others are not also suggests that sodium depletion is not the cause.
Experts have also pointed out that if lack of electrolytes directly caused cramping, it should not happen only locally but in various body parts.

With all the warnings against dehydration, incidents of hyponatremia (low blood sodium) in marathon runners and other endurances athletes are probably as much due to overconsumption of water and sports drinks as due to underconsumption of electrolytes. If people weren't so concerned about dehydration these days they probably wouldn't have to worry that much about lack of electrolytes. Drink 10 l of "sports drinks" in a short time and you'll be in serious danger of hyponatremia, as these drinks add a lot more water relative to sodium than their ratio in sweat.

On recent rides, I've been adding High5 Zero salt/electrolyte tabs to my water bottles - usually 1 tab per 700ml. I drink around one bottle per hour and sometimes drink plain water in addition too. Of course, it's important to stay hydrated, but does drinking too much plain water leach salt from the body?
It's not just about leaching (i.e. salt loss in urine), but also sweat. Sweat contains 450 mg to 2300 mg of sodium per litre, corresponding to 1.1 to 5.7 g of salt (NaCl) per litre. The body has a fair amount of sodium reserves, but when doing exercise for an extended period, if you drink copious amounts of water the body will eventually end up with a sodium deficit and sodium levels in blood can fall.

I have been experiencing headaches on rides in the heat, so have ensured that I stay well hydrated (5-700ml fluid intake per hour). Over the weekend, I experienced such a headache and normally I would take NSAIDs
While reading about salt and exercise, I came across some warnings about adverse effects of NSAID on the kidneys, which could complicate proper hydration and salt balance. See also Adverse effects > Renal.

How much salt should I intake per hour, and how should I ingest this (e.g. drink + salt candy, salt granules)? Also, how important are so called "electrolytes" during rides?
It depends a lot on how much you sweat and how long you exercise. With an average sodium concentration in sweat of 1150 mg per litre, you'd lose about 2.7g of salt per litre of sweat. A High 5 tablet contains 250 mg of sodium which corresponds to about 0.6g of salt. Not all the water you drink ends up as salty sweat or urine, you also lose water in your breath.

Depending on what you eat, you'll also absorb sodium from food. I do at least one long ride a month (11-13 hours, 170-220 km) and have yet to use electrolyte tablets, but eat a fair amount. The most I've drunk on long day rides is 5 litres. I have yet to experience cramps. My weight drops maybe 1 kg, indicating that I'm probably not very dehydrated at the end of that ride.
 
Aug 20, 2010
76
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38
Minato-ku
#15
joewein A most insightful post.

adverse effects of NSAID on the kidneys
Believe me, I don't take these out of choice, and would not go over about 4 tablets in a day.

Drink 10 l of "sports drinks" in a short time and you'll be in serious danger of hyponatremia, as these drinks add a lot more water relative to sodium than their ratio in sweat.
lose about 2.7g of salt per litre of sweat. A High 5 tablet contains 250 mg of sodium which corresponds to about 0.6g of salt
These figures are interesting. Without actually calculating one's sweat rate (I found a method to calculate here), it's hard to be accurate but I can expect to be losing 1l+ per hour riding in the heat, so this is a useful guideline. I've also lost around 1kg on long day rides, and have found I'm more-or-less back to normal weight the following morning. I do tend to eat soy sauce, miso etc during breaks, so am replenishing salt using foods too.
 

joewein

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#16
I usually have one onigiri or two during a long ride, but other than that don't specifically go for salty food.

Some people go for pretzels, which also supply carbohydrates, but a lot of salty snacks also have a lot of fat. For example, more than half the calories in Pringles potato chips are from fat, not carbohydrates, versus only 5-10% in pretzels.
 

GSAstuto

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#17
I believe most of you are looking at this from the wrong angle. Instead of symptomatic treatment response, you should be considering prophylactic and sustenance action. When you consider the activity from THAT perspective, then you'd be prepared to manage the effort related body issues. The old adages work fine and are pretty well battle tested:

Drink before you're thirsty and Eat before you're hungry.
ABC - Always be consuming. The right stuff, if you can.
If you feel uncomfortable, then simply stop and rest a bit.

People who deal with activity issues on the symptomatic side tend to either over-consume or improperly consume, resulting in pendulum swings of osomatic balance or sugar / insulin levels.

Muscle cramps are still a mystery - the only non-mystery is that riders get them typically when they are exerting very hard over a period of time and it can be exacerbated by higher temperatures (which may be false leads on the whole de-hydration angle). It's delicate balance - and too much or too little water as well as too much or too little salts have been shown to 'cause cramps'.

For me personally, I tend to respond better to additional salt (sodium) and magnesium when I get extended cramps. I know if I start a ride thirsty , I'm more likely to get them. So having good amount of pre-hydration helps (me). I also know that if I've been using creatine, I'll get more cramps - it tends to boost muscle volume (hydration) , but at the same time , CAUSES me to cramp, when some studies say that insufficient muscle volume causes more cramps! So - now I just cut out the creatine , or creatine heavy foods a couple weeks before sustained hard events or anticipated riding.

Salty Pumpkin Seeds - I love these. They are rich in Magnesium (which, again, seems to help me) and Sodium. Plus some other goodies inherent in pumpkin seeds. For good measure I always toss a bunch of these into my own road bars, Tim's Turds, or whatever you want to call them.

If I boost on caffeine - I'll cramp more. Hence the High5 Extreme is a bit of a contradiction. LOTS of Caffeine and some electrolyte to balance. But I like the effect of additional caffeine especially late in a ride.

Demand Training - I follow an old practice of agnostic training , which means, add various stress so the body will try to accommodate quicker. 2 weeks before a big stage race and I'm typically riding 'thirsty' , then follow by an active recovery ride drinking more. (Contrex is my choice for this). So - result is that my body is more 'thirsty' at the end of a shorter , more intense, ride and it will get it's 'reward' in the form of more fluid intake just after that. I mix up my Contrex according to UNESCO ORS specs, by the way. And during a longer ride, I'm using 2 bottles, one is just plain water and the other is generally some isotonic beverage du jour from my vast and varied recipe book.

For a treat, I'll drink a Orangina, rarely a coke or some other fizzy type drink that has a nice 'bite' to eat. But I go very light on this stuff compared to alot of riders. Mainly you'll find water or maybe beet juice and water in my bottles.
 

leicaman

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#18
I wish joewein and GSAstuto would write more in their posts .... Always so short and lacking info ;)
Only kidding guys. I'm sure like a lot of people on the forum, I really appreciate the time you both go to, to write informative posts. Cheers guys.
Tim, where do you get those Seeds from? I tried ordering some seeds fro iherb but they wouldn't ship them to Japan.
 
Likes: kiwisimon

joewein

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#20
And it's true, but Contrex is a diuretic simply because it is 99.8% water. Water itself is a diuretic (drink more of it and you'll pee more). The Wikipedia article on diuretics explains:
As a diuretic is any substance that promotes the production of urine, aquaretics that cause the excretion of free water are a sub-class. This includes all the hypotonic aqueous preparations, including pure water, black and green teas, and teas prepared from Herbal medications.
So all those claims on Contrex bottles and elsewhere are not wrong, they're just a bit misleading. The higher the mineral contents of mineral waters, the milder their diuretic effect actually is.