Sodium is a mineral that makes up about 40% of ordinary table salt. Many common foods are natural sources of dietary sodium, and because sodium attracts water, your body relies on it to help maintain a proper fluid balance.


But how much salt is too much?


SALT: Some Quick Facts

- Our bodies contain 4-8 ounces of salt.

- Salt helps maintain the normal volume of blood in the body and keeps the correct balance of water in and around the cells and tissues.

- Salt also plays a very important part in the digestion of food, and is essential in making the heart beat correctly.

- Salt also regulates blood pressure, and balances the amount of potassium in our bodies for optimum muscle and nerve function.


Is Salt Actually Bad for my Health?

Sodium is an essential cog in the mechanical workings of our body, but like anything, it should only be consumed in moderation. Most of us are getting far too much in our food than we should be - which is only up to around two teaspoons a day! 


The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day - or 1,500 mg if you're age 51 or older, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.


Effects of Excess Salt:

- Bloating: Excess salt intake can usually be excreted in urine and sweat during exercise. Even more salt will result in retention of water - resulting in a puffy appearance.

- Blood pressure: The kidneys have trouble getting rid of the excess salt; meaning the salt stays in your body and through a process of osmosis, draws water and retains it in your body. This extra fluid in your body places stress on your circulation and on your blood vessels, causing increases in the total pressure in your blood vessel.

Over time, the excess pressure uses your arteries to work less effectively, and places even further stress on your heart.


Effects of Inadequate Salt:

- Low blood pressure: The opposite of excess salt intake; too little salt in the diet causes low blood pressure which can result in dizziness and fainting.

- Cramps: Salt and other electrolytes are involved in the contraction and relaxation of muscles - low sodium levels can cause painful and long lasting cramps which can impair performance in the gym.


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A majority of problems in our modern day and age is generally having too much salt in the diet. While dumping the saltshaker seems like a quick solution, it won’t solve the problem. A vast majority of the sodium we eat is hidden inside common foods, and it can be hard to steer clear of the stuff.

 

Some tips to reduce your salt intake:

- Use less salt when cooking - try using a squeeze of lemon, or small quantities of herbs and spices as an alternative

- Choose fresh foods where possible

- Choose foods with a lower salt content (food products that say ‘low sodium’)

- Be aware that certain vegetables also contain high levels of sodium, and aim for other greens such as peppers, cauliflower, cabbage or broccoli instead.


Avoid all the pitfalls from excess salt consumption, reduce your salt intake and be aware! By doing so, you can ultimately achieve the muscle definition that you are after, and show off the hard work you have put in at the gym!