Why do cyclists need more salt? While the world is busy being told they get too much salt in their diet, athletes need a different message. An athlete loses approximately 70 mg of sodium per liter of sweat during cycling training. If you are eating a healthy diet of non-processed foods, protein, vegetables, and fruits, you are not going to be at your peak performance during your cycling ride.
Non-athletes need to watch their salt intake. As salt causes people to retain water, the Average Joe is getting too much salt while sitting on the sofa channel surfing. Most non-athletes need to stay below 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
However, as a cyclist, you should consume additional sodium when you are in the middle of cycling training. When you aren’t replacing the sodium, you are losing during your training, your performance will deteriorate. Without adequate salt intake, you can be subject to cramps and delusions. If the temperatures are high, you will also be at risk of developing heat exhaustion.
To replace the sodium, you’re losing during cycling training, you should consume a sports drink, eat a salty snack, or take a salt supplement tablet. It is a must to replace those electrolytes including salt. When you’re not cycling, it is recommended you add a little extra salt in your diet. As a frequent exerciser, it is believed you have depleted salt stores within your body. You can eat a handful of salted pretzels or peanuts or add soy sauce and other salty condiments to your diet.
Function of Salt in the Body
Why do you need salt? Our bodies depend on salt to properly function. Sodium controls the overall function of the cells in your body. You need salt to transmit electrical signals throughout your nervous system. In essence, without sodium, your brain would not tell your body to move out of the way of an irate motorist or pedal faster up a hill. In addition, salt plays a vital role in the fluid balance in your body. We need both sodium and water to keep our bodies hydrated. This delicate balance helps keep our brain focused and our bodies responding appropriately.
While sedentary people need to cut the salt out of their diets, the same is not healthy for a cyclist. As a cyclist, you lose sodium through exercise and sweating. You need to replace the salt you lose to perform at your peak level and not become ill.
Check out our video featuring Dr. James DiNicolantonio discussing why cyclists need salt.