Thursday, August 4, 2011

Do The Salt

For some time, Mountain Dew’s advertising campaign was “Do the Dew”. Although, for that matter I guess it still could be – I haven’t watched the X-Games in ages Totally kidding!! I can totally rip it and hang ten like the rest of them. . . . . Ugg, even TYPING that makes me feel old Never the less, I never really understood how you could “do” a drink. You can “do” chores. You “do” the dishes. You can even “do” a close friend after a long carefree night soaking in a hot tub. But do the DEW? I’m not sold.

But, as I was getting ready for my 13 mile run on Wednesday 88 degrees at 4:30 am (8:00 pace – it was rough), I found myself pouring salt into my Gatorade. I was “doing” the salt. I’m sure the X-Games are just around the corner – Tony Hawk can kiss my roller blades.



Check the time on this screenshot from Wednesday
Screw you summer, screw you


The term “do the salt” was originally coined by the Runner’s World, Lewis Maharam, M.D. (who has since left and is working for Competitor). He recommends eating a salty snack before you run and eating a fast food salt packet before the race/run and again during the last half of the race/run (marathon or half-marathon). His primary purpose of loading up on a substance that the American Heart Association says that you should stay further away from than you would the herps is to replace electrolytes lost during sweating and avoid hyponatremia.

Hyponatremia, or as I like to call it “water brain”. Hyponatremia means a reduced blood sodium (salt) concentration. When the sodium level falls below 130 mmol per liter, it creates, in mild cases, a general clouding of consciousness not unlike the slowing of brain function that occurs in drunkenness. Nausea and vomiting as well as lightheadedness and dizziness are frequently observed with mild cases. The brain swells as the sodium level gets lower, which results from the general state of fluid overload. The feeling of being drunk w/out the nasty aftertaste?! Sign me up. And WTF is a mmol??


Totally random picture
Back to my run on Wednesday. . . . When I run in the normally dry Arizona heat, I find that my sweat is particularly salty. When it runs into my mouth it tastes like I’m licking a pretzel and sometimes during the winter it’ll even dry on my face into a crusty mess. Combine that with my newfound love for drinking bourbon water like a fish and I figured that I should probably be a bit more aggressive about replacing some salt. I’ll put a healthy dash into each of my Gatorade water bottles and enjoy my sweatfest. I don’t normally get TOO much salt during my diet, so I figure this little bit of extra isn’t hurting me too much. What it is hopefully doing is enabling my body to process what water I do take in (salt is used by cells to absorb water) and avoid the “sloshy” feeling that I can sometimes get when taking in fluids while I run. During my 13 miles it worked. I didn’t feel dry during the run, but I DID come home and feel horribly thirsty – for a diet coke…. At 7:00am. Strange.

Has anyone else added extra salt just before a run? Get enough eating TV dinners and French fries like I do on the weekends?

31 comments:

McV said...

I can neither confirm nor deny that I have actually licked salt of my face and arms in the final miles of a marathon because I was really worried about low sodium levels...and the volunteer at the medicl tent looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if they had salt packets. One of my finer moments for sure...I mean I TOTALLY never did this. Not me.

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

last year at the RnR Chicago Half a guy was walking around with bags of salt packets. A mother daughter team were next to me and the mother told her daughter that it was for people who weren't properly hydrating themselves that week. I have no idea if it works or not but just one of those things I remember from a larger race. fwiw I did not encounter that at the Chicago marathon a few months later on a day hotter than that day.lol

Caroline said...

are you reading my mind..all week I have been talking about salt..my husband thinks I am crazy because I DO lick my arms to see how bad it is. It is bad. I loose A LOT of salt. Even if I go just for 3 mils. I am actually a bit concerned by this. I get the crusty face and all. I take 2 salt tablets before long runs and I still have the most salty sweat. I bring nuun instead of water now even for short runs. Maybe I need to do like you and add salt to my drink..

Brian said...

I've just recently learned about this. In the winter, for any run 13 miles or under, I would just take water. In the summer, I switch that to 1 10oz bottle of gatorade and 1 10oz bottle of water, and I make sure I drink gatorade earlier in my run so the saltiness helps me retain water, rather than saving gatorade for later in the run "when I need it." (by my earlier mistaken thinking).

It's not as hot here as it is in AZ (though I suspect it's way more humid!) but I sweat a ton in anything over 60 if the humidity's high. On mornings when the temp's above 75 and the humidity's high I'll take a saltstick tablet before my run and carry another to take halfway through.

Can't really tell if any of those things are helping, but I haven't had any hypnotremia symptoms so I'll stick with it! :-)

Runners Fuel said...

Good job getting early to try to beat the heat!

JojaJogger said...

For any run under an hour, I'll just take water with me. For runs between 1 and 2 hours, I'll alternate sips of water with sips of an electrolyte drink. For anything over 2 hours I'll take salt tabs every 30-60 minutes depending on how much I'm sweating.

Rose @ Eat, Drink, and Be Meiri said...

Finally, an excuse to eat a pound of beef jerky a day!

Fun Fact: If you tilt your head back with your tongue out, and pretend to shake salt on it, you can actually taste salt.

Kovas said...

A beer has 18 mg of salt and might taste better than salty Gatorade.

canyoncairns said...

mmol is a millimole. In sodium world, 130 mmol/L translates to just under 3 parts per billion. It seems tiny but obviously necessary.

Thank you for introducing me to my new favorite sport drink: me.

WannabeRunner said...

Well i wonder why my dogs won't stop licking me when i get home from a run! Ha - I have yet to try the salt tab method, but i probably should. This summer weather has been brutal for running. :P

Running In Boise said...

I have never licked my sweat during a run, but I am going to think about it on my long run on Sunday. :-) My younger brother used to drink pickle juice every day after his sports practices in high school. I always thought it was kinda gross, but now I understand.

Annette@(running)In the Right Direction said...

I've never taken a packet of salt but I do take Hammer Enduralytes which replaces the salts...

Lesley @ racingitoff.com said...

I have a salty food addiction. Salt everywhere. I can't put enough salt on my food. So I figure I probably don't need much more than I already have in my diet. Just add the normal electrolytes to my water bottle and I'm ready to go.

Alanna said...

I prefer to get my sodium from something like Nuun - my workouts aren't so intense as to need more than that. However, I have a friend who swears by SaltStick Caps and his training is more like yours. Much easier than choking down a salt packet.

The Banter said...

I didn't know thermometers worked at 4:30 am.

Morgan said...

I take ecaps otherwise known as endurolytes capsules by hammer. Pop one before run and one during (or two depending on how far I'm going, two for 20 M or more usually)

Morgan said...

P.S. I've totally taken a restaurant salt packet in a pinch, like if I forgot or lost my ecaps. Works great!

C2Iowa said...

I regularly take Thermo Tabs on runs longer than 10. Seems to help. The only danger I see (in Iowa) is that when I do take those tabs - I look like a salt lick -- dangerous in the fall in the Midwest -- deer attacks are possible -- must keep moving.

Mark said...

I've started using S!Caps during my extra schweatty workouts. Well, that and the mandatory extra salty margaritas before and after. I assume everyone has those.

Alisa said...

So this means I'm allowed to stuff my face tortilla chips and frozen appetizers? Sweet, my favorite food group is back on my plate!

runningonwords said...

mmol=amount of solute in a solution. In humans the blood is usually around 300 mmol, so sodium only makes up a fraction of that, albeit a large fraction.

Kate said...

I appreciate the hyponatremia definition bc 95% of the time I'm too lazy to google whatever it is I don't know. (I did, however, look back at your post to realize that the word in question wasn't "hyponatria" which was my first try at spelling it).

I haven't taken salt, though I definitely HAVE felt perfectly justified eating tortilla chips pre or post-run to make up for the salt I'll be sweating. And when I get home from a sweaty run, I'll typically lick my arm, just to see if it's salty. And sometimes offer it to my husband, which further reinforces his image of me as a freak. :)

Thomas said...

I totally understand the desire for a diet coke at 7:00am. First thing I went for after my marathon...a Mountain Dew. Do the marathon, do the dew!

Gracie (Complicated Day) said...

I'm peeved that I've been telling you I do this very thing in multiple comments (and I can so outsweat you, my boy, our humid 96 degrees will beat your dry 96 up), yet you give the credit to some random unknown from Runner's World or some rag like that.
And it's a millimole. Like if you had a million moles. Or something like that.

Angela said...

Thanks for the info. I am a AZ runner too, and it is brutal! I guess I'll start packing the gatorade now.

Jackalope said...

For what it's worth, in my experience in the Army, hyponatremia is pretty hard to get and you almost have to work at it. In fact, I'm pretty sure we go the ball rolling with awareness when we had a few drill sergeants get some kids killed by force feeding them water. Unless you're eating like absolute dogshit and power pounding forties followed by a gallon of water, you should be fine with what is already in the gatorade.

That being said I was a criminal justice major and am anything but a doctor.

Courtney @ I CAN DO THIS said...

I never thought about adding salt to a sports drink - great idea!!

I tried salt packets for the first time at a med tent during the San Diego Marathon. It was awesome. When I was feeling a little loopy, it gave me an even bigger boost than a gel.

GeorgiaSnail said...

Nuun...

Jamoosh said...

Does anybody even hang ten anymore?

Adam Culp (Crazy Floridian) said...

Have you tried Endurolytes or Succeed tabs? (I have not tried Succeed.) In South Florida we are "almost" as hot and humid as you are in Arizona, so on long runs I eat one Endurolyte/half hour. On mildly hot days I will only eat one/hour.

Glenn Jones said...

At least it looks like you're going to get some relief on Monday. 107 and raining ain't bad. C'mon!