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Running with a Pinch of Salt

Posted by George Parker on
Running with a Pinch of Salt

I am a sweaty (and stinky) runner. After long runs or hot days, my skin is plastered with white salt streaks. When I’m done running, even my 4-year old’s good sense has him prefer his baby brother with a stinky diaper versus his dad. Smart kid.  

Rubbing salt in the wound

April 17, 2017 – Boston Marathon. I self-destructed in Boston, finishing 30 minutes slower than my qualifying time. I was totally depleted and – of course – covered in salt streaks. My downfall was likely a hot race day after a long winter of cooler training – the classic conditions that make Boston difficult.

Salt of the earth

A few weeks later my wife was talking to her friend who is an ultra-runner. The ultra-runner mentioned that, in similar conditions, she would have been talking salt packets. That’s because hot days lead to more sweat and an increased loss of electrolytes (e.g. salt) through sweat. Without sufficient salt in the body, muscles cramp and fire less effectively. And for sweaty people, sweat loss is even greater!

The strategy is to take concentrated salt packets during a run to better replenish the electrolytes lost to sweat. For comparison, a good race cup of Gatorade Performance has 50 mg of Sodium. A good salt packet has 200 mg of Sodium (4x more – for sweaty people).

Worth one’s salt

During this marathon build, I have been using the salt packets on long runs and tempo runs. They have been surprisingly effective. For instance, I felt hydrated and without cramps throughout this weekend’s 20 mile long run.  

I have been using restaurant salt packets and salt capsules while I run. Both solutions could use some improvement. The restaurant salt packets are a concentrated dose of shock-and-awe to the taste buds. And, to swallow a salt pill while running is harder than tying your shoes mid-run.  Overall, the solutions are helpful, so I am appreciative for learning something new about running.

Of course, please take this with a grain of salt.

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