Can Salt Really Help You Stay Hydrated?
What’s found in the ocean, in your food, and in your body? It’s that good ole NaCl, also known as sodium chloride.
We love salt as a way to bring out flavors in our cuisine, and of course, we love it in our favorite salty snacks (peanut butter pretzel lovers where you at!), but over the years, salt has been in the dog house, labeled as unhealthy and a culprit of health issues and dehydration. But here at Sauna House, we’re big fans of salt, so we’ll come right out with it… it’s time to squash the myth and give salt the recognition it deserves.
Contrary to popular belief, salt is actually an integral part of hydration. And as sauna lovers, we’re huge advocates for it, because salt combined with hydration keeps the body in tip top shape and keeps you more hydrated while you’re sweating your rear end off either here in the sauna or in your home sauna. How, you may ask? Stay tuned.
Why Does Your Body Need Salt?
We’ve always heard that too much salt is bad for us, but we also can’t live without it — it’s one of those double edge sword scenarios. The fact is, the body relies on salt to properly function. It’s needed to transmit nerve impulses, contract and relax muscle fibers, and maintain an optimal fluid balance in the body.
Now, that doesn’t mean you should run to your nearest grocery store, grab a box of Morton’s salt and start chugging it. And that doesn’t mean you need to blend salt into your morning green juice either (please don’t.) It’s all about moderation.
Does Salt Dehydrate You?
A common misconception is that salt is the culprit of dehydration. When you eat something salty, like salt and vinegar chips or french fries, you may feel thirsty, but that’s not actually from dehydration. That’s your body recognizing that its blood sodium levels are rising, and drinking water will help balance it out.
Textbooks define dehydration as net water loss from the body, with severe dehydration starting at around 5% of body weight losses. Dehydration causes fall into four categories: water loss through the skin (dripping sweat), water loss through the gut (vomiting, diarrhea… you get the picture), water loss through urination, and not drinking enough water (because of an immobility or an impaired thirst mechanism.) And when it comes to the sauna, sweating is probably the biggest cause of dehydration as the average person loses roughly a pint of fluid during a sauna session.
In these situations where we sweat a lot, whether it’s through sauna time or exercising, our instinct is to replace that lost fluid by over hydrating with plain, regular ole H2O. But what our bodies really need is a mixture of salt and water to properly and efficiently recover, because you need to replenish your lost salt reserves.
How Salt Hydration Works
When we feel dehydrated, we tend to avoid salt like it’s the plague. We’ve been taught to believe that. But in reality, that’s one of the worst things we can do.
The more salt-free water you drink, the more your sodium needs go up, and having low levels of salt has consequences like low energy, weakness, muscle cramps, and headaches. In more than a few cases, low sodium has even been fatal. The findings of this study showed that athletes who developed large drops in their sodium levels, something called hyponatremia, were drinking beyond thirst and didn’t replenish salt levels. The lesson here? It’s okay to be a little salty!
The Salt & Water Method
Different scenarios can cause us to sweat profusely like athletics, sauna time, or being in hot climates. If you’re a naturally sweaty person, you know how it goes — one step outside and sweat drops turn into Niagara Falls in a matter of minutes. If you’re an athlete, you spend time in hot climates, or you’re a big sweater, you’ll need to replenish fluid lost with water AND salt.
It’s as simple as this — drink electrolyte water.
In a 2011 study, researchers observed salt intakes and heart disease outcomes (heart attack, stroke, death) in 28,800 high-risk heart disease patients. They found that the lowest risk for having one of these bad heart outcomes was to consume around 5 grams of sodium per day. People who restricted sodium had a 19% higher risk of cardiovascular death than those who consumed 5 grams per day.
To replenish lost salt and minerals in the body from sweating, there’s nothing like electrolytes to bring you back up to speed. Here’s why.
While sodium is the primary mineral that regulates fluid outside of the cells, it’s potassium that regulates fluid inside the cells. Electrolytes contain the perfect balance of both of these bodily replenishers — not to mention, they also benefit energy levels, athletic performance, promote heart and brain health, and more. So, next time you come in for sauna or you’re training for that half marathon in the heat, remember to load up on your electrolytes. They’re the magic remedy.
Electrolytes for Your Next Sauna Session
During your next visit to Sauna House, check out our electrolyte packets from LMNT. If you have a sauna at home, you can grab some for that as well! We’ve got multiple flavors packed full of salt, magnesium and potassium to replenish your body and fuel your energy for the day.