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Salt as Pre-Workout

The Science Behind Using Salt as a Pre-Workout Supplement


Have you ever felt like you hit a wall just a few minutes into your workout? Struggling with fatigue and reduced endurance? The answer to improving your exercise performance might be right in your kitchen – salt. Surprisingly, this humble seasoning has been gaining attention as a powerful pre-workout supplement, backed by strong scientific evidence. In this article, we will explore the benefits of using salt as a pre-workout supplement, including the optimal formulations and how it can benefit people during moderate to intense workouts.



The Role of Salt in Pre-Workout Preparation


So, how does ingesting more salt help with prolonged moderate-intensity exercise? The key lies in understanding the physiological response of the body during extended or vigorous physical exertion. When we engage in exercise, especially during moderate to intense workouts, within the first 5-15 minutes blood flow shifts significantly towards the working muscles. While this redistribution of blood serves to supply oxygen and nutrients to the muscles in need, it also results in a drop in overall blood volume. This drop in blood volume, ranging from 8-10%, can have detrimental effects on your performance, including increased fatigue and dehydration.


In response to this drop in blood volume, our body initiates a mechanism to conserve water. This mechanism involves the release of arginine vasopressin (AVP), also known as antidiuretic hormone (ADH). AVP plays a crucial role in regulating water balance in the body. It triggers the sensation of thirst and encourages the retention of water.


However, during prolonged exercise, this mechanism can become counterproductive. AVP puts the body in a water-conserving state, signalling the urge to consume large quantities of water. While hydration is essential, excessive water consumption during exercise can lead to a condition known as "waterlogged." This condition can result in dangerously low sodium levels in the blood, a situation that can become critical. Such occurrences are not uncommon during activities like marathons, where individuals are encouraged to consume excessive amounts of plain water.

The Benefits of Salt as a Pre-Workout Supplement

Numerous studies have shown that consuming salt before vigorous exercise can significantly enhance performance. One notable study demonstrated that consuming 2,855 mg of sodium (equivalent to about 7.99 grams of salt) in water before exercise allowed participants to perform for an astonishing 21 minutes longer compared to typical supplements. To put this in perspective, common performance-enhancing supplements like beta-alanine or beetroot juice typically increase endurance by just 1-2 minutes.

Here are some key benefits of high-salt solutions consumed before exercise:

  • Increased Exercise Duration: High-salt solutions have been shown to extend the time participants can exercise by approximately 20-21 minutes.

  • Lower Heart Rate: Consuming salt prior to exercise can lower heart rate by 9-10 beats per minute, allowing for more efficient oxygen delivery to muscles.

  • Reduced Core Body Temperature: Salt intake before exercise can help lower core body temperature by 0.4°C (0.74°F), reducing the risk of overheating.

  • Decreased Fatigue: Users of high-salt solutions report reduced feelings of fatigue during exercise, enabling them to push harder and longer.



The Impact of Glucose vs. Glycine

While glucose can assist with sodium and water absorption during the first hour after consumption, it can also increase urine flow and sodium/fluid losses through the kidneys over time. To address this, researchers recommend adding glycine to oral salt solutions instead of glucose.


Glycine aids in the absorption of sodium and water, further boosting blood volume, and importantly, it reduces the risk of diarrhoea that may occur with high salt intake.

Formulating the Ideal Pre-Workout Solution

To prepare a pre-workout salt solution, consider the following formulations:


For Temperatures Below 26°C (Ambient Temperature):

  • Moderately high-salt solution (984-2,017 mg of sodium or 2.46g to 5g of salt) in 768mls of water.

  • Add 4-6 grams of glycine.

For Warmer Weather and Moderate Intensity:

  • Consume 2,300 mg of sodium (equivalent to 5.75g of salt) per litre of fluid.

  • Add 4 grams of glycine for every hour of exercise.

For Everyday Runs:

  • Consume a minimum of 680 mg (equivalent to 1.7g of salt) of sodium per litre.

  • Add 4 grams of glycine to the water.

It's important to note that the amount of sodium lost through sweat can vary, but on average, you may lose around 1,500 mg of sodium per hour when exercising in moderate climates.

Preventing Dehydration and Optimising Performance

One critical aspect of using salt as a pre-workout supplement is to prevent dehydration during exercise. Dehydration can impair coordination, cognitive tasks, and overall performance. Salt helps maintain hydration levels by promoting fluid retention and preventing excessive water loss during exercise.


Furthermore, salt solutions aid in blood volume maintenance, even in the face of intense sweating and increased core body temperature. This is crucial as maintaining blood volume ensures efficient oxygen delivery to working muscles and the heart.

Monitoring Dehydration

To monitor dehydration, consider a combination of methods, including:

  • First Morning Urine Concentration (Colour): Dark urine can indicate dehydration.

  • Body Weight: Frequent weighing before and after exercise can help track fluid losses.

  • Thirst: This is a poor metric for dehydration; if you're thirsty, you are already dehydrated. So try not to become thirsty in your day.

Conclusion

Salt, when used as a pre-workout supplement, offers numerous benefits for individuals engaging in moderate to intense workouts. Scientific evidence supports its role in enhancing exercise duration, reducing fatigue, and improving overall performance. When combined with glycine, salt solutions can optimise sodium and water absorption while minimizing the risk of diarrhoea.

Before adopting any pre-workout regimen involving salt and glycine, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have underlying health conditions or take medications. With proper guidance, the strategic use of salt as a pre-workout supplement can help you reach your fitness goals, improve endurance, and elevate your overall workout experience.


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