Intake of higher quantities of sodium (salt) or electrolyte supplements containing sodium can deteriorate the health of athletes, suggests study.
"While moderate sodium consumption is perfectly reasonable and should be encouraged, high sodium intake is associated with health concerns, like hypertension," said researcher Edward Weiss, assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University in the US.
Conscious of recommendations to replace sodium losses due to sweat during exercise, some endurance athletes have taken that idea a step further. Athletes sometimes consume large quantities of salt or other electrolyte supplements containing sodium during training and competition under the theory that it could help improve the performance. Some have hypothesized that the added salt would lead to more sweat, which in turn would offer benefits to performance.
This idea is based on the principle of thermoregulation, the body's processes that help to maintain its core temperature. Efficient thermoregulation is linked to better athletic performance. Sweat is one mechanism that the body uses to cool off when its core temperature becomes too high.
To determine the effects of high-dose sodium supplementation on thermoregulation and related measures, 11 endurance athletes participated in the study in which they underwent two hours of endurance exercise.
The exercise resulted in more than two liters of water loss in the form of sweat.
During one session, the athletes received 1,800 mg of sodium supplementation and during the other, they received a placebo. Weiss and fellow researchers found that sodium supplementation did not appear to impact thermoregulation.
The study appeared in the the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine paper.