Salty blood, sweat, and tears. But do I need to supplement electrolytes?

This was meant to be a neutral boring non-tweet:

No one with an actual education in nutrition really cares about salt intake.
— Bill Lagakos (@CaloriesProper) July 12, 2018

But it was met with a hella-backlash. I was being half-serious: in undergrad and grad school, we learned about many different diets, the studies that supported or debunked them, and whether they made sense nutrition-wise. We didn't spend much time at all on the DASH diet, sodium-supplemented or -restricted diets, etc.

Sodium chloride vs. potassium bicarbonate? Maybe.

During the mineral portion of one class, yes, we studied the role of sodium in biology. And in a section on nutrition for the elderly, we learned the ability to "taste" declines with age, Tl;dr: old people stop eating meat because it tastes like cardboard and their health is improved by going from zero meat intake to some meat intake, and monosodium glutatamate (MSG) as a seasoning agent helps in this #context.

But as performance aid?

...I'm not anti- or pro-salt. If you like it on your food, have at it! There are no magic tricks. Some of the backlash I received on Twitter was concerns that ultra-endurance athletes use up sodium faster and sweat out more, therefore need to supplement it. Well, not really....

Are there other reasons to take some minerals like magnesium? Maybe.

One exercise scientist summarized the nutrient needs of these athletes like this: yeah, they may have increased requirements for some nutrients, although after they complete a 100-mile event (or whatever), they're gonna eat a LOT of food. As long as they're not following some weird diet, all of the minerals they need are going to be repleted without the need of added supplements.

disclaimer: the "n=1" placebo effect will be strong with this one. My anecdotal experience working with athletes agrees. If you want to supplement with sodium chloride (table salt), I'm not going to stop you.

Study 1: 72-km cycling time trial with or without about 2 grams of added salt (Cosgrove and Black, 2013). Result: no effect on time to completion. The salt group drank a little more water because, well, salt makes you thirsty.

Study 2: two hours endurance cycling then time-to-exhaustion with or without about 2 grams of sodium (Earhart et al., 2015). Result: no effect.

I have not done a deep dive on this nor do I plan to. I'm sure you could find a positive study on sodium supplementation and performance, although I'd bet most are neutral/no effect.

Bicarbonate salts have shown some promise in this realm, but that's more likely due to the bicarbonate and not the mineral it's attached to. And in this case I'd opt for potassium bicarbonate because there's plenty of sodium chloride all around us.

That's all for now!

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