How Much Sodium Should Bodybuilders Have Per Day?

  

Losing too much sodium without replenishing it is one of the main blockers of a good bodybuilding workout. Despite spending the majority of my nutrition career encouraging people to stop shaking the salt for better heart health, I had to discover how the recommendations and research differ for bodybuilders. 

So how much sodium should you have per day for bodybuilding? It depends on how much you sweat. Water and sodium are excreted when you sweat. The amount you need to replenish depends on your sensitivity to salt, risk for high blood pressure, gender, how hard you workout, and the temperature and climate you’re in.  On average, you need to replenish 230 to 920mg of sodium per pound of sweat lost during your workout, and aim to get between 500mg to 2300mg of sodium per day.

From fast food to potato chips, most Americans get well beyond the required amount of sodium per day. But for you bodybuilders and athletes, sodium may be slipping away from your sweat glands as we speak. So let’s shake up the standard sodium recommendations and sort through the sprinkles of studies that show how much is needed to support bodybuilding. 


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What Is Sodium?

 


How much sodium should bodybuilders have?

How much sodium should bodybuilders have?

 

Harvard University teaches us that sodium is a mineral found in many foods that we eat. The largest source is sodium chloride, commonly known as table salt. Table salt is a mix of about 40% sodium and 60% chloride. 

In foods, sodium can be used as a flavor enhancer, to bind and stabilize, and as a preservative. One of the main reasons it’s added to food is to prevent dangerous bacteria from growing. Most bad bugs can’t thrive in the presence of high amounts of salt. 

In the body, sodium is found in the fluid surrounding our cells. Our bodies need it to conduct nerve impulses (messages), muscle movement (contracting and relaxing), and balancing water and minerals. 

Why Too Much Sodium Is Bad For You

Before we savor the flavor of how much sodium we should have for bodybuilding, let’s season our minds with why too much sodium is bad for our health.

Many trusted health experts such as the American Heart Association, Center for Disease Control, and American Dietetic Association encourage Americans to reduce their sodium levels. 

Too much dietary salt is associated with dangerous health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. It can also result in weakened bone strength since too much sodium can actually result in some calcium being pulled from the bone.

High Blood Pressure 

High intakes of sodium have been associated with high blood pressure. This is a common condition in which the force of blood against your artery walls is high enough to eventually cause damage. It can happen for years without any symptoms but increases your risk for serious problems such as heart attack and stroke. 

High blood pressure impacts about one in three people. According to Medical News Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that hypertension contributes to about 51 percent of stroke-related deaths and 45 percent of heart disease deaths. 

Over the past century, salt has been thoroughly researched for its impact on blood pressure and heart health. According to studies, a moderate reduction of dietary salt is generally an effective way to reduce blood pressure. However, there’s been a recent dispute among health professionals about the reduction of dietary salt (read about salt sensitivity below). 

Related Article: Is Rice Good For Weight Loss? (5 Rules To Follow)

Salt Sensitivity 

Science is showing that not all of us are sensitive to sodium. This means that not all of us will have an increase in blood pressure when we eat salty foods. A low-salt diet may not be beneficial for everyone and may actually increase blood pressure for some people. 

In a recent review, researchers observed that participants who consumed under 2,500 mg of sodium each day had higher blood pressure than those who consumed more sodium. Research has shown that low-sodium diets and very high-sodium diets both carry a higher risk for heart disease.

Minerals That Balance Blood Pressure

Another essential component of the blood pressure puzzle is potassium.

Increasing potassium is recommended to balance sodium. Potassium is another electrolyte necessary for nerves to relay messages for our muscles to move and contract. It helps our heart beat and influences the fluid balance in our bodies.

The CDC states that a person can get high blood pressure by consuming too much sodium and not enough potassium. So they encourage us to eat more vegetables, fruit, seafood, and dairy products. According to the Institute of Medicine, adults should eat or drink at least 4.7 grams of potassium every day in order to balance blood pressure. 

Magnesium and calcium have similar effects. Higher levels are linked to lower blood pressure. Magnesium is found in avocados, nuts, legumes, tofu, and whole grains. Calcium is found in dairy, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and fish. 

Cravings 

Another reason sodium-packed foods are bad for us is that they tend to be highly processed. Excess amounts of processed foods can lead to inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and other health concerns. Salted foods can also be addictive. 

Studies have shown that salted foods can actually stimulate opiate and dopamine receptors in the brain. These are the chemicals that make us want to keep coming back for more. This means uncontrollable cravings and urges for salted foods.  

This can influence and increase our calorie consumption, increasing our risk of becoming overweight and obese. The opposite of what we want from a bodybuilding nutrition plan. 

Why Sodium Is Good For Exercise And Bodybuilding

 


 

Have you ever had a really tough workout and find salty sweat stains on your fitness clothes the next day? This is one sign that you’re body is getting depleted of sodium while you exercise. 

Hydration, including both water and electrolytes like sodium, are one of the most important factors for indicating our health and ability to do sport performance. Scientific literature states that water balance not only influences endurance performance but also gives power and strength

Exercising at a high intensity, for a long time, and/or in the heat makes most of us sweat. Perspiring is a normal way that our bodies help regulate our internal temperatures. It helps keep us cool and prevents overheating. However, when we sweat a lot, it could put us at risk for sodium depletion. 

Hyponatremia: A Condition Where Sodium In Your Blood Is Too Low

Hyponatremia is a condition in which the sodium in your blood becomes too low. It can lead to negatively impacted performance and muscle fatigue. Hyponatremia is dangerous because it can cause your muscles and heart to contract erratically. In extreme cases, this can lead to death.

When sweating, your body loses both water and electrolytes. Electrolytes are substances that have the capacity to conduct electricity. These include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and phosphate. 

How To Rehydrate

The loss of fluid and electrolytes depends on each person. Everybody sweats at different rates so we require different amounts of water and electrolytes to rehydrate. 

But according to research, to achieve the most effective hydration following exercise, particularly in the heat, the beverage should contain moderately high levels of sodium (at least 55 mmol) and possibly some potassium. 

In addition, a small amount of carbohydrate (<2%) may improve how sodium and water are absorbed. This is why sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade can be helpful for intense exercise. 

Exercise performance and recovery will be impaired if complete hydration is not achieved. Restoring fluid balance after exercise is an important part of the bodybuilding process, especially in weather conditions when sweat loss is high. 

Sodium Recommendations 

 


Sodium recommendations for bodybuilders

Sodium recommendations for bodybuilders

 

Now that we’ve talked about how too much sodium can be dangerous but why it’s helpful for bodybuilding when we sweat, let’s look at how much we need for different conditions.


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General Sodium Recommendations

  • According to Harvard Health, it’s estimated that we need about 500mg of sodium per day to support our vital body functions. But most Americans consume closer to about 3400 mg per day!

Sodium Recommendations Based On Gender 

  • Women typically have lower sweating rates than men, typically due to smaller body size, lower metabolic rate, and less wasted sweat. This means that female bodybuilders may not need to consume as much additional sodium than male bodybuilders. 

Sodium Recommendations Based On Fitness level 

  • For physical activity longer than three hours, a more concentrated drink is recommended (0.5-0.7 g/L sodium). 

Sodium Recommendations Based On Heat 

  • Precision Nutrition explains that if you’re exercising intensely for longer than two hours, especially in the heat, you should not solely rely on water for hydration. This is because in the heat, our sweat rate is much higher. Humid weather makes our body temperature higher which puts us at an even higher risk for dehydration. 


Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try 3 free workouts on Fitbod.


Reducing Your Sodium Intake

 


Tips on reducing sodium intake for  bodybuilders

Tips on reducing sodium intake for bodybuilders

 

Now that we covered the different conditions that may impact your sodium levels, you may have a better understanding of whether or not you need to decrease or increase your intake. Here are science-backed tips for how to balance your sodium. 

Reduce Salty Foods

  • If heart disease runs in your family, if you eat a lot of salty foods, if you think you’re salt-sensitive, or have other risk factors for high blood pressure, then contact your primary care physician. They can help you determine if you need to reduce your sodium levels. 

Swap The Table Salt

  • If you do need to cut back on salt, one easy way to do so is to pass on the table salt. Try tasting your food before sprinkling it on. There’s also plenty of herbal salt substitutes that add flavor without sodium. Garlic powder, for instance, provides a savory taste and can be substituted for salt in most recipes. 

To give you an idea of how much you’re sprinkling on, the American Heart Association created approximations of sodium levels for table salt measurements:

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt = 575 mg sodium

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150 mg sodium

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,725 mg sodium

  • 1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium

Limit Packaged Foods

  • The biggest culprit of salt in the American diet is packaged and processed foods. This includes items such as chips, TV dinners, and canned items. Other foods with a lot of sodium include cheese, olives, cured meats, deli meats, salted nuts, and soup bouillons.  

Watch Out While Eating Out

  • Fast food restaurants add a lot of sodium so their products both last a long time and because it increases our likelihood to come back for more. Restaurants will also add lots of salt or salty sauces to their menu to make the food taste better. 

  • If you enjoy eating out, you can reduce your sodium by switching a few easy things. Ask the waiter if your dish can be prepared without salt and request to have the sauce on the side. Instead of using the salt shaker, try for the pepper instead and add fresh lemon juice to season. 

General Tips 

EatRight recommends reducing sodium intake by:

  • Limiting cured foods such as deli meats, sausages, and meat jerkies.

  • Buying low or no sodium versions of canned foods or rinsing them before eating.

  • Removing the salt shaker from the table or switching for a non-sodium containing seasoning.

  • Substituting processed crackers or chips for unsalted nuts. 

Increasing Your Sodium intake

 


Bodybuilding sodium intake reccomendation

Bodybuilding sodium intake reccomendation

 

A good rule of thumb to help determine your hydration status and potential sodium need is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. This will help give insight into how much you sweat during a workout. 

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you replace every pound of fluid lost with 16 to 24 ounces of a hydrating beverage and about 230 to 920 mg of sodium per pound of sweat. 

Sodium can also be lost through diarrhea and vomiting. So if you’re sick, make sure to include even more sodium in your diet. 

Sodium-Replacement Liquids

Sports drinks are designed to help replace sodium and electrolytes that are lost through body fluids. However, many of these store-bought sports drinks are quite processed and contain artificial colorings, flavorings, and ingredients. 

Natural versions of coconut waters are an excellent “nature made” drink that contains sodium and other electrolytes. Look for the ones without added preservatives. 

If you want to go the natural route, you can also make your own isotonic beverage. Here’s an example from All Recipes:

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups cold water

  • 3 Tbsp honey

  • ½ tsp fine Himalayan pink salt 

  • ¾ tsp calcium magnesium powder (optional)

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

  • 2 lemons juiced

  • 2 limes juiced 

Directions:

  • Pour 1 cup of water into a large pot. 

  • Add honey, salt, calcium magnesium powder, and cayenne. 

  • Place pot over low heat and whisk until ingredients have dissolved. 

  • Remove from heat and allow to return to room temperature.

  • Add juices to room temperature mixture in pot. 

  • Pour in the remaining 7 cups water and whisk until well blended.

Sodium-Replacement Foods 

For bodybuilders, eating salty food and snacks can be another way to replace sodium. Some healthier ways to increase sodium in extreme fitness or heat conditions are to focus on foods such as salted tortilla chips, salted whole-grain crackers, olives, salted nuts, and olive juice. 

Final Thoughts – One More Dash 

The amount of sodium you should have per day for bodybuilding depends on how much you sweat and the current state of your health. If you have high blood pressure or heart disease, you may want to focus on reducing your sodium intake. 

You can do this by passing on the salt shaker, reducing salty snacks, focusing on potassium-rich foods, and making smart choices when dining out. 

If you sweat a lot when you bodybuild because of intense training and/or because you live in a hot or humid place, you may want to consider adding more sodium to your diet in addition to water. Especially if you’ve been feeling tired during or after your workouts. 

You can do this by drinking an isotonic beverage or sneaking salty foods into your diet. 

Always consult an emergency provider if you think you may be suffering from extreme levels of dehydration or sodium depletion. Contact your medical physician to test for high blood pressure risk and to help you understand the best steps for managing your heart health. 

About The Author

 


LISA BOOTH

LISA BOOTH

 

Lisa is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) with over 15 years of experience in nutrition, fitness, and mental health coaching and education. She studied Foods and Nutrition at San Diego State University and earned a Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition at Hawthorn University.

Having certifications and experience in group exercise, intuitive eating, coaching and psychotherapy, and digestive wellness, she’s enthusiastic about the relationship between the body and mind.

She’s dedicated to helping people understand how to implement healthy habit change, while gaining a deeper understanding of what makes them feel their personal best.