Using salt tablets for running can be a controversial idea. While it’s certainly not necessary to consume salt tablets or pills on every single run, it certain circumstances, they can be beneficial. Here’s what you should know about salt tablets for runners.
Are salt tablets good for runners?
Supplementing with salt on a run might sound a bit random, but there is actually quite a bit of science behind it. Runners often consume salt tablets during particularly long or hot runs as a way to replenish some electrolytes lost through sweat.
Salt contains sodium, one of the main electrolytes that is lost as you sweat. These tablets, capsules and pills all provide concentrated sodium. If you are sweating (and therefore losing electrolytes) faster than you can replenish them, salt tablets might be beneficial when running.
Who should use salt tablets for running?
If you are considering using salt tablets for runners, you’ll want to be sure you actually need the extra sodium and won’t be unintentionally overloading your body. Here are a few circumstances where salt tablets might be beneficial for runners.
- Runners whose runs last significantly longer than an hour
- Runners who are exceptionally salty sweaters
- Those who hydrate with water only during endurance events
- Those running hard efforts or long mileage in an exceptionally hot or humid environment
- If you consistently notice white lines on your face or skin after a run
- Runners training in high altitudes
Do salt tablets prevent muscle cramps when running?
One common reason runners use salt tablets is that they believe the sodium will help stop or prevent muscle cramps. There is some science behind this assumption, but since muscle cramping can be caused by a variety of things, it isn’t definitively certain that taking salt tablets for running will prevent cramps.
However, if you are experiencing consistent muscle cramps after long, hard or hot runs, it might be worthwhile to test out some salt tablets for runners.
Muscle cramps can be caused by multiple different things, but one of those things does in fact relate to sodium. When the hydration/sodium balance is off – either too much water in comparison to electrolytes, or too many electrolytes and not enough water – muscle cramps can result. It is nearly impossible to know definitively if this is the cause of your muscle cramps, but if you’ve been running in conditions that cause you to sweat excessively, it could certainly be the case.
When taken under correct circumstances, replacing the lost electrolytes from running with salt tablets might help reduce or rid the occurrence of muscle cramps.
Benefits of Salt Tablets for Runners
Salt pills and tablets have the potential to provide some targeted benefits for runners – provided the circumstance warrants replacement of electrolytes. If you are unable to replace the electrolytes you are losing through fuel or sports drinks, salt tablets could help you do so. Here are some of the benefits of salt tablets, when used correctly.
- Provide a dose of sodium chloride, one of the key electrolytes lost through sweat
- Can potentially increase the absorption of water which might lead to a reduction of muscle cramping
- Help maintain optimal hydration/sodium balance during sweaty runs
- Can help prevent hyponatremia, a condition that occurs when sodium levels drop dangerously low
- Provides an alternative for runners who are unable to consume or meet their electrolyte needs through fuel or sports drinks
- Small, portable and easy to carry on a run or race
Risks of Salt Tablets for Runners
Supplementing anything without the direction of a doctor comes with some risks – and using salt tablets for runners is no different. Although the tablets are designed specifically for runners, there are still risks in consuming them.
Without being able to measure your unique electrolyte loss through sweat, the amount of sodium that needs to be replaced will remain unknown. Using salt tablets will require a bit of experimentation to figure out exactly how much and how often your body needs them. Here are some of the risks involved.
- Salt tablets come with potential side effects of nausea, upset stomach and vomiting
- Consuming too much sodium increases the risk for high blood pressure
- Extreme levels of sodium can eventually result in damage to the cells, ruptured blood vessels and even excess fluid pooling in the brain or lungs
How to Use Salt Pills for Running
Before using any salt tablets for running, it’s important to do your best to asses whether or not you actually need to supplement sodium. A simple way to gauge your hydration during a run is to do a weight test.
To find out if you are hydrating correctly, weigh yourself before and after a sweaty run without clothes on. Losing more than 3% of your body weight is a sign that you need to hydrate better and drink more. This generally means that you are sweating quite a bit and likely have lost electrolytes which have not been replaced.
After your self-assessment, if you determine that you can benefit from salt tablets for runners, you’ll want to read the instructions and start with the minimum dose within the appropriate interval of time.
Once you begin consuming salt tablets when running, you’ll want to remain consistent with your dosage for a few weeks and evaluate your body’s response. Be sure to test it out multiple times before making any increases.
7 Best Salt Tablets for Runners
- SaltStick Caps
- Gu Roctane Electrolyte Capsules
- Base Electrolyte Salt Race Vial
- SaltStick FastChews
- Precision Hydration SweatSalts
- Safrel Sodium Chloride Tablets
- Elite Electrolyte Tablets
Finding salt tablets specifically designed for runners and endurance athletes will ensure that you are consuming a healthy dose of salt on the run. Reading the instructions is crucial for safe consumption, as all salt tablets are different are require different doses and time in between.
As always, listening to your body is the best way to determine whether or not you need to replace electrolytes, and if so, how much you should be consuming and how often. Salt tablets can be incredibly beneficial if used correctly and only when needed. If you’re ready to use salt tablets, check out some of these brands and see which works best!