How much sodium should you have per day?

One very controversial topic in the health and fitness industry is Sodium Intake

The average Joe Blow doctor will tell you to cut back on your sodium intake and will talk down about sodium like it’s the root of all evil. They’ll tell you about how it will cause high blood pressure, heart problems, kidney problems, etc.

But 99% of the time the doctor is giving this advice to sedentary individuals. Not hard training athletes and bodybuilders. So if your workout routine consists of walking from the fridge to the sofa and the occasional jog to the toilet then keep listening to your doctor’s advice…

However, if you are here reading this article right now there is a good chance that you are NOT the typical sedentary couch potato. And if that’s the case the rules about low sodium intake do not apply!

In fact for hard training athletes too little sodium can cause more problems then consuming too much. Low sodium intake causes muscle cramps, dizziness, and electrolyte imbalances, which can cause neurological problems, or even be fatal (yes you read right!)

Drinking too much water, with insufficient sodium intake, puts a person at risk of water intoxication (hyponatremia) which can cause a seizure or coma.

What Is Sodium?

Sodium is a mineral element and an important part of the human body. It controls the volume of fluid in the body and helps maintain the acid-base level. About 40% of the body’s sodium is contained in bone, some is found within organs and cells and the remaining 55% is in blood plasma and other fluids outside cells. Sodium is important in proper nerve conduction, the passage of various nutrients into cells, and the maintenance of blood pressure.

The body continually regulates its handling of sodium. When a person eats too much or too little sodium, the intestines and kidneys respond to adjust concentrations to normal. During the course of a day, the intestines absorbs dietary sodium while the kidneys excrete a nearly equal amount of sodium into the urine.

The concentration of sodium in the blood depends on the total amount of sodium and water in arteries, veins, and capillaries (the circulatory system). The body regulates sodium and water in different ways, but uses both to help correct blood pressure when it is too high or too low.

If the body has too little sodium (called hyponatremia), the body can either increase sodium levels or decrease water in the body. Too high a concentration of sodium (hypernatremia), can be corrected either by decreasing sodium or by increasing water intake.

Sodium Intake For Bodybuilders & Athletes

If you are doing hard weight training and / or cardio workouts and sweating a lot. Then you need to replace the sodium you lose in order to maintain a healthy electrolyte balance in your body.

And if you are following a fat loss diet or cutting back on your carbohydrates, then you actually need to “Increase” your sodium intake. Carbohydrates will cause your body to retain water and sodium. Generally for every gram of carbs you eat your body will hold 3 grams of water. So if you switch to eating a lower carb diet you will lose a lot of extra water and sodium.

When I’m dieting for fat loss I purposely add salt to my food and even flavor my food with high sodium condiments like soy sauce. It will help you feel stronger and it will replace the sodium that you lose from sweating doing your weight training, cardio, etc.

In fact a lot of the negative aspects people experience from “low carb dieting” such as feeling weak, flat, low energy, etc. is not really due to the carbs at all. But from low sodium levels in the body. If you experience any of these symptoms, increasing your salt intake will generally make you feel A LOT better and more energetic.

I even go so far as to carry salt packets (just like you get at the fast food restaurants) in my gym bag. This way when ever I feel the effects of low sodium during my workouts. Such as muscle cramps, dizziness, etc. I’ll rip open a packet of salt and chase it down with some water and within 5 minutes I’m feeling much better.

Bottom Line…

For athletes and serious fitness enthusiasts you are more likely to need to increase your salt / sodium intake rather than reduce it. You need to replace what you lose from sweating in order to keep your electrolytes in balance and train hard in the gym.

Now I don’t actually break out the calculator and count my sodium intake, and I doubt that many other people do either. But I don’t shy away from consuming sodium. The best advice I can offer is to keep tabs on how you feel, your energy levels, etc. and if you do feel light headed, dizzy, or experience muscle cramps during your workouts. There’s a good chance that low sodium is causing it.

About The Author

leehayward

Lee Hayward is a competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online helping people build muscle, lose bodyfat, and get in shape since 1999. Lee was selected as one of the Top Fitness Trainers Online through YouTube's Next Trainer Program and his work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes.

56 Comments

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  • caspar

    Reply Reply

    Sodium and potasium should be in your food, the right ammounts give you the results, lots of doctors (PHD) scream low sodium, wat they really should say is level your sodium/postasium

    sweating also lowers your magnesium…

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  • victrith

    Reply Reply

    You’re halfway rightly sodium is good for the body but natural sodium that is sea salt .pink Himalayan salt or this one called “real salt”
    Normal table salts is made up of sand and glass so it makes small cuts in your arteries.
    Its made in the lab so not safe.

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  • Mark Stacey

    Reply Reply

    Lee Hayward,

    I’m about to turn 60 Lee. Been on a ketogenic diet for 2.5 years taking in 65% fat, 29% protein and 6% carbs. It took about 60 hours of study on the puter to get all my RDA’s right at a 100% +/- for the ones that matter so I eat a completely healthy diet. Do the German Volume training which I love. In 2.5 years not sure how much fat I’ve lost or muscle I’ve gained but lost 40 pounds overall down to 200-205 at 6’2″. Running bleachers and 60 yard sprints is my favorite exercise, trying to break a 4 minute mile. Was trying to stay under 1300mg of sodium for my age ( average couch potato ) but I have been having glute cramps. I kind of figured since I was in such good shape for my age, that I could probably have a higher sodium intake but didn’t know until I read your article. Thanks! As a matter of fact I love Soy Sauce seasoning in my usually very bland tasting diet. Mark Stacey

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • Thanks for your comment, and congrats on your training progress, that’s awesome!
      As for sodium intake, it’s really a misunderstood topic, all the low sodium recommendations really only apply to sedentary people who are not exercising much, and not drinking much water. That doesn’t apply to a hard training fitness enthusiast.

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  • Marcelo Rocha

    Reply Reply

    Hi Lee, I was talking about that yesterday, with my clients, and there’s a big misunderstood about it. Thanks Lee for your article and explanations. Have a great day, GOD bless you.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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