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Salt as Pre-Workout (Key Benefits And How To Use It)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

I've heard some of my clients talk about how they get better performance when they increase salt intake just before a workout.

Being in the body-building world for years, I had a good understanding of why that happens, but I wanted to dive deeper so I can educate my clients more easily.

So, my team and I did our research, talked with our dietitian, and we also wanted to figure out if table salt could actually be as helpful as a pre-workout supplement.

Here’s what we’ve found out.

Quick Summary

  • Salt could have many benefits similar to pre-workouts such as better blood flow, electrolytes balance, and stronger contractions.
  • Salt can be used in the form of salty water, salt pills, or mixed with pre-workout formulas.
  • High salt consumption may lead to cardiovascular system issues.

What Are The Benefits of Salt as a Pre Workout?

A bowl of chips

Salt is basically 40% sodium attached to chloride, but those electrolytes have surprising benefits for the workout.

When you exercise, your blood volume usually drops (blood thickens) within a few minutes because it is pushed from the heart toward the muscles.

However, sodium can increase blood volume and blood flow by pulling water inside [1].

That way, it may help the blood vessels evenly supply the targeted muscles and the heart with oxygen.

Sodium makes cells expand as it pulls water inside them, and intracellular water retention might lead to better contractions and pumps. It may also lead to better stamina and overall power.

Because of that intracellular water retention, salt helps your body's fluids in balance and it keeps you hydrated throughout the day, so you might be able to avoid potential muscle cramps thanks to pre-workout salt intake [2].

On average, during the workout, we lose one liter of sweat. One liter of sweat contains approximately [3]:

  • 18 mg of magnesium
  • 60 mg of calcium
  • 200 mg of potassium
  • 900 mg of sodium

So, sweating depletes electrolytes (electrically charged ions) from our bodies. But, pre-dosing with salt may help us keep electrolyte levels in a healthy amount.

It might decrease the chances of muscle arrhythmias, leading to better cardiovascular system functioning.

How Should You Use It as a Pre-workout?

A wooden spoon attached to a glass of salt

You should use salt as a pre-workout either by taking it as plain salt or as a salty meal a few hours before exercise.

If consuming it in a pre-workout meal, make sure you eat it 2-3 hours before the workout.

If you ever had a junk-food meal before a workout, you probably noticed a different pump.

If you are taking plain salt, the best way to take it is to rinse ½ teaspoon in 400-500 ml water promptly before the workout to get instant sodium absorption.

Doctor of Pharmacy, Dr. James DiNicolantonio, suggests different doses of salt preloading in:

  • Moderate climates - ½ teaspoon
  • Hot climates - ½ to 1 teaspoon
  • Very hot climates - 1 to 2 teaspoons

Salt pills or electrolyte supplements can also provide pre-loading.

Speaking of supplements, a certain amount of gym-goers add salt to their pre-workout formula which usually contains creatine.

Mixed with sodium, creatine will smoothly enter cells, supply them with additional energy, and enhance training stamina. One study also showed that if sodium levels are decreased by 85%, creatine uptake follows with 85% less uptake [4].

Himalayan salt, sea salt, table salt? Which one to choose?

According to renowned nutrition coach Stan Efferding, any option will do. The most important thing is to pick an iodized one to help you maintain thyroid health [5].

Are There Any Side-Effects?

A person having a heart pain

Chronic intake of too much sodium could also lead to some severe side effects, like elevated blood pressure [6].

Chronically, it may even lead to some severe cardiovascular system malfunctions [7].

This condition may cause:

  • Heart attack
  • Enlarged heart
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Headache

Excessive sodium may not only increase blood volume but cause your body fluids volume to rise to harmful levels, and more sodium intake than needed could also have an inverse effect on hydration.

Keep in mind that one teaspoon of sea salt contains about 2300mg of sodium, and that's actually a recommended daily dose [8].

However, the best way to avoid negative sodium impacts is to monitor your daily intake as closely as you can.

FAQs

Is Sodium Good for Muscle Recovery?

Sodium may be good for muscle recovery. Some authors suggest that salty water will aid rehydration by replenishing sodium and quickly restoring the normal volume of blood after the training session.

That way, muscle tissue can be provided with nutrients and oxygen, leading to better recovery.

Why Do Bodybuilders Stop Eating Salt before the Competition?

Bodybuilders stop eating salt before the competition to avoid water retention and bloating in order to look shredded. They usually wholly remove sodium two days before the competition. If they do it too early, the body will adapt to low-sodium and won't change the fluid balance.

Does Sodium Make You Fat?

Some studies suggest that a high sodium diet may lead to obesity [9]. Long-term effects possibly occur from the connection between a high-sodium and high-calorie diet.

Should I Take Salt Before My Training?

Taking salt before training should always depend on the type of training you are about to have.

If you are having a session without much sweat, additional sodium intake won't be necessary. If you are about to perform excessive sweat training, having a salty pre-workout meal might be enough.

If you aren't a fan of salty food or taking plain salt, you should consider taking actual pre-workout supplements and go through our guide to the best pre-workouts for men we’ve tried and tested ourselves.

Whether you choose salt or formula, be sure to take recommended doses to avoid any possible side effects or health issues.


References:

  1. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/01.CIR.43.4.508
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29710036/
  3. https://www.sportsrd.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Whats-In-Your-Sweat.pdf
  4. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1748-1716.1967.tb03716.x
  5. https://www.thyroid.org/iodine-deficiency/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7763082/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31865786/
  8. https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/sodium-your-diet
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29914626/
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