Benefits of Salt In Pre-Workout

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: October 12, 2023

When it comes to salt, most people think of it as a flavor enhancer. However, health-conscious people like you know that salt provides an essential nutrient called sodium.

This nutrient is lost when you exercise or sweat in the heat, which can deplete your reserves. As a result, you may wonder whether consuming salt and sodium before workouts can help you perform better.

In this article, you will learn about the effects of ingesting salt before exercise and the benefits and potential side effects of increasing your salt intake. By the end, you will better understand when it is appropriate to add salt to pre-workout supplements.

Salt in Pre-Workout

Introduction to Salt

It’s common knowledge that salt is a white, granular substance found in almost every kitchen. However, not many people know salt’s unique chemistry and function in our bodies.

Table salt is composed of 40% sodium (Na) and 60% chloride (Cl) molecules, which is why salty foods are also high in sodium.

Salt In Pre-Workout Sodium Chloride

Having too much sodium in your diet can cause health issues like heart disease and high blood pressure. However, it is also an essential nutrient that your body requires for survival. 

The important thing is to provide the right amount of salt and sodium at the right time. This is particularly beneficial for active individuals who can benefit from consuming salt before a workout.

Benefits of Salt In Pre-Workout

Adding salt to your pre-workout drink can have several advantages, including boosting performance and aiding rehydration. So, let’s take a closer look at how you can benefit from salt in your pre-workout.

1. Replenish Electrolytes

When you exercise, your body sweats to regulate your temperature. The amount of sweat you produce depends on your body size, activity level, and the temperature of your surroundings.

On average, you lose a little over 1 liter of water per hour of exercise1. However, you could lose significantly more if you’re a larger person who exercises in a hot environment.

Water Loss During Exercise

Sweat is not just plain water; it contains approximately 0.1% of sodium, which is why it tastes salty. Since 1 liter of water is 1,000 g, you lose about 1 g (1,000 mg) of sodium per hour of exercise.

So, when you sweat, you not only lose water but also some sodium, which is an essential electrolyte. This loss of fluids and electrolytes can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous if not addressed in time.

Sodium plays a crucial role in maintaining the body’s balance of fluids and electrolytes. It acts as a catalyst for chemical reactions and helps regulate blood pressure and muscle and nerve function.

Therefore, it’s vital to replenish sodium and other electrolytes, especially if you work out for long durations or in hot conditions. Adding a pinch of salt to your pre-workout drink is an easy and effective way to offset the sodium losses that occur while you exercise.

Sodium Loss During Exercise

2. Rehydrate After Your Workout

Research has shown that sodium plays a crucial role in rehydration after exercising3. Drinking water alone may not be sufficient to replace the lost water.

This is because drinking plain water rapidly decreases plasma sodium concentration, leading to increased urine output. However, if sodium is added to the drink, this diuretic effect can be prevented.

Some studies recommend adding salt to your post-workout meal or shake for better rehydration4. Additionally, including salt in your pre-workout drink can help maintain plasma sodium concentration and make it easier to rehydrate after exercise.

3. Improve Exercise Performance

Many studies over the years have examined the use of salt solutions as an ergogenic aid or a substance that enhances exercise performance, stamina, and recovery.

Although further research is necessary in this area, the general agreement is that pre-workout drinks containing salt lead to improved performance.

In multiple studies, individuals who consumed salt before exercising had a longer time to exhaustion and better performance in subsequent exercise sessions5,6,7.

4. Lower Body Temperature & Heart Rate

It is believed that the benefits of sodium on performance are linked to increases in blood volume, allowing for better heat dissipation, which in turn allows individuals to work harder for a longer period.

For instance, a study compared the core temperature and heart rate of men exercising to exhaustion. They performed one workout with a saltwater infusion and another without it.

The results showed that sodium significantly lowered the core temperature and average heart rate during exhaustive exercise8. Both outcomes could explain why taking salt before a workout can enhance performance.

Salt Pre Workout Core Temperature
Salt Pre Workout Heart Rate

5. Get A Better Pump

Sodium is responsible for drawing water into your bloodstream and increasing blood volume in your veins. This increase in blood volume leads to increased blood pressure over time, which is why high-sodium diets can harm your health.

However, increased blood volume can be beneficial during exercise as it helps distribute blood flow to your muscles. As a result, incorporating salt into your pre-workout drinks can lead to greater muscle pumps.

Related: 10 Ways to Maximize Your Pump

6. Prevent Muscle Cramps

During or after exercise, cramps can occur, which are involuntary muscle contractions. They can start as tiny twitches and eventually lead to painful muscle spasms.

One of the leading causes of exercise-related cramps is the loss of water and salt. A decrease in fluid volume and sodium concentration may alter the electrical charge of motor nerves, resulting in spontaneous contractions3.

Therefore, consuming sodium-rich fluids before and during exercise is an excellent preventive measure against muscle cramps.

7. Support Nutrient Absorption

The absorption of nutrients in the intestines mainly happens through the active transport of sodium and chloride ions8. This means that salt, which contains both sodium and chloride, is critical for digesting the protein, carbs, and fat present in your pre and post-workout meals.

If you add salt to your pre-workout supplement, you can ensure your body has the necessary sodium and chloride for proper digestion.

More On Electrolytes:

Salt In Pre-Workout Supplements

You might be curious about the amount of sodium present in your pre-workout supplement and whether it is sufficient to provide the now apparent benefits.

After analyzing 25 of the most popular pre-workouts, I found that 60% of them contain some sodium. However, the average amount of sodium in these products is only about 50mg.

Even the pre-workout with the highest amount of sodium contains only 310mg, which is not enough to replenish the electrolytes lost during vigorous exercise. To put it in perspective, you could easily lose 1,000mg of sodium in just one hour of intense exercise.

Therefore, relying solely on pre-workout supplements for electrolyte replenishment is not recommended.

Sodium in Pre-Workout

Adding Salt to Pre-Workout

Adding table salt to your pre-workout supplement and mixing it with water is an easy way to increase your sodium intake. However, knowing the right amount of salt to add and when to take your pre-workout mixture is essential to reap the benefits.

Additionally, adding salt without other electrolytes can lead to water retention, which can be prevented using specific ingredients and amounts. In this regard, I will explain how to avoid excess water retention and get the most out of your pre-workout supplement.

Amount of Salt in Pre-Workout

Many studies have been conducted on pre-workout salt drinks, and most of them have used a saline solution with a sodium concentration of around 160 mmol/l. This solution is given with a fluid volume of 10 ml/kg of body weight.

For a person weighing 180 lbs (82 kg), this means they would receive about 3,200 mg of sodium. However, it’s important to note that these studies generally focused on long-duration endurance exercises, such as marathons or triathlons. 

You likely need less sodium if you are doing resistance training for 45 to 90 minutes. First, try adding 1,200 mg (1.2 g) of sodium to your pre-workout drink, roughly equal to 1/2 of a teaspoon of salt.

Then, adjust the amount of salt up or down as needed. For instance, if you don’t feel any difference, you can try 3/4 tsp. Or if you feel bloated the next day, reduce it to 1/4 tsp.

Table 1. Sodium Content Per Tsp of Salt

Salt to Sodium Conversions
Salt = 40% sodium by weight
1 tsp salt = 6 g (6,000 mg)
6 g salt = 2.4 g sodium (2,400 mg)
1,200 mg sodium = 1/2 tsp salt

Table Salt vs. Sea Salt vs. Himalayan Pink Salt

You might be wondering which type of salt you should use in your pre-workout routine. The main difference between different types of salt is their origin and processing methods.

Table salt is mined from the earth and undergoes extensive processing, which removes most of the naturally occurring minerals and results in a finer granule.

On the other hand, sea salt is obtained from ocean water or saltwater lakes. It undergoes minimal processing, which retains more naturally occurring minerals and results in a larger granule.

Himalayan pink salt is sourced from an ancient seabed near the Himalayan mountains in Pakistan. It undergoes minimal processing and contains iron oxide, which gives it a pink color.

Although sea salt and Himalayan pink salt contain more minerals than table salt, these minerals are present in trace amounts and do not offer significant health benefits. However, the larger particle size of sea salt and Himalayan pink salt results in slightly less sodium per teaspoon than table salt.

Despite these differences, the sodium content of various types of salt is relatively similar. Therefore, the type of salt you choose is simply a matter of personal taste or preference.

Water Loss During Exercise

If you find that adding ½ teaspoon or more salt to your pre-workout doesn’t taste good, there are alternatives you can use.

Instead of regular salt, you can opt for salt tablets. Though more expensive, they don’t taste salty and come in 500 mg or 1,000 mg sizes. However, you won’t have as much control over the dosage.

You can also use flavored packets containing sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes to avoid the salty taste. However, you might need multiple packets to achieve the desired amount of sodium.

The benefit of these packets is that you get potassium, a critical electrolyte that works alongside sodium to maintain the proper fluid balance in your body. Increasing the amount of potassium in your diet can help release water from cells and prevent water retention.

If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, use a salt substitute containing potassium chloride. You should add about twice as much potassium as sodium to prevent bloating.

Another option is a “low sodium” salt containing sodium chloride and potassium chloride in the correct ratio for hydration.

Salt In Pre-Workout with Potassium

Timing of Salt + Pre-Workout

Studies on pre-workout salt intake have shown that the timing of sodium administration does not have a significant effect on the results. Whether you consume salt 20 minutes or 2 hours before exercise, the outcome remains unchanged.

This indicates that you can add salt to your pre-workout drink and consume it as usual before heading to the gym.

When to Take Pre-Workout to Maximize Results

Salt in Pre Workout Timing

Salt In Pre-Workout FAQ

Next, I’ll answer more frequently asked questions about adding salt to your pre-workout supplement.

Can you use salt as a pre-workout?

Salt can provide some benefits when taken before workouts, including increased blood volume, improved performance, and faster rehydration.

However, it alone cannot match the benefits of multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements. For example, salt cannot dilate blood vessels like l-arginine, increase endurance like beta-alanine, or boost energy like caffeine.

Therefore, salt is not a substitute for a pre-workout supplement. But you could add it to your pre-workout supplement for additional benefits.

Is there salt in pre-workout?

It’s worth noting that some pre-workout supplements do contain salt in the form of sodium chloride or sodium citrate. However, the amount of sodium in these supplements is usually relatively low, around 50mg on average, with the highest amount being 310mg. 

If you want to benefit from salt’s performance and recovery advantages, you’ll need to consume at least 500mg of sodium. This means that pre-workout supplements alone won’t be enough to meet your sodium needs, and you’ll need to add extra salt to your diet.

Is salt an excellent pre-workout ingredient?

Adding salt to your pre-workout can help you achieve a fuller muscle pump and potentially improve your performance by allowing you to push out an extra repetition or two.

However, one of the drawbacks of consuming salt is that it can cause water retention unless you also increase your potassium intake. Therefore, if your goal is to achieve a lean and toned physique, you should be cautious about adding salt to your pre-workout.

How much salt for pre-workout?

Generally, starting with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt in your pre-workout routine is recommended. If you have multi-hour workouts in temperatures above 80oF, you can increase the amount to 1 teaspoon.

However, it’s important not to exceed 1 tsp of salt before your workout unless you’re doing a triathlon or marathon. Additionally, if you already consume a lot of sodium in your diet, limiting your pre-workout sodium intake to less than 1/2 teaspoon is best.

What are the side effects of salt in pre-workout?

Consuming excessive salt before your workout could lead to immediate side effects such as stomach discomfort. In such cases, it is recommended to either decrease your salt intake or spread it into several smaller doses.

Too much sodium can cause water retention or bloating and high blood pressure. Therefore, it’s crucial to be mindful of your daily sodium intake and avoid overdoing it.

Related: 19 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Water Retention

Who should not add pre-workout salt?

The salt pre-workout hack is not suitable for everyone. If you already consume a high-sodium diet, then adding more salt may not be necessary for you.

To determine whether you need to add salt to your pre-workout regimen, I recommend logging your food intake for several days using a free app like MyFitnessPal.

Once you’ve done that, review your average sodium intake. If it’s more than 3,000 mg daily, you should reduce sodium before adding salt to your pre-workout routine.

Another situation where you should avoid salt in pre-workout is if you have short or less intense workouts (i.e., less than one hour). Added salt is only beneficial for those who endure long or grueling workouts.

Finally, if you have high blood pressure or excess water weight, avoiding added salt altogether is better.

More Pre-Workout Hacks

I have shared with you the advantages and disadvantages of adding salt to your pre-workout. However, you might still have some questions about how to maximize the benefits of your pre-workout supplements and nutrition.

To assist you in optimizing your health and performance, here are some more articles that I believe will be helpful to you.

7 Best Cheap Pre-Workout Supplements By Category

Coffee vs Pre-Workout: Which Is Better Before Exercise?

Are Pre-Workout Gummies Worth The Money?

Signs You’re Addicted to Pre-Workout Supplements

Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Itch or Tingle? (& How To Stop It)

Can I Take BCAA And Pre-Workout Together?

Now that you have this information, you can enhance your pre-workout powder by adding a pinch of salt. Alternatively, you may want to refrain from using this trick until you lower the sodium in your diet to avoid unwanted water weight.

Check out my other informative articles below for more nutrition hacks, workout tips, and health information!

References
1) Baker, Lindsay B. “Sweating rate and sweat sodium concentration in athletes: A review of methodology and intra/interindividual variability.” Sports Medicine 47.1 (2017): 111-128.
2) Turner, Martin J., and Alberto P. Avolio. “Does replacing sodium excreted in sweat attenuate the health benefits of physical activity?.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism 26.4 (2016).
3) Valentine, Verle. “The importance of salt in the athlete’s diet.” Current sports medicine reports 6.4 (2007): 237-240.Shirreffs, Susan M., and Ronald J. Maughan. “Volume repletion after exercise-induced volume depletion in humans: replacement of water and sodium losses.” American Journal of Physiology-renal physiology 274.5 (1998): F868-F875.
4) Mora-Rodriguez, Ricardo, and Nassim Hamouti. “Salt and fluid loading: effects on blood volume and exercise performance.” Acute Topics in Sport Nutrition 59 (2012): 113-119.
5) Coles, M. G., and M. J. Luetkemeier. “Sodium-facilitated hypervolemia, endurance performance, and thermoregulation.” International journal of sports medicine 26.03 (2005): 182-187.
6) Greenleaf, J. E., et al. “Pre-exercise hypervolemia and cycle ergometer endurance in men.” Biology of sport 14 (1997): 103-114.
7) Deschamps, A., et al. “Effect of saline infusion on body temperature and endurance during heavy exercise.” Journal of Applied Physiology 66.6 (1989): 2799-2804.
8) Kiela, Pawel R., and Fayez K. Ghishan. “Physiology of intestinal absorption and secretion.” Best practice & research Clinical gastroenterology 30.2 (2016): 145-159.

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