Benefits of Salt In Pre-Workout

Salt in Pre-Workout

The average person thinks of salt as a flavor enhancer. But if you’re health conscious, you know that salt provides a functional nutrient called sodium.

And you might also know that you lose sodium when exercising or sweating in the heat, which can deplete your reserves. So, does loading up on salt and sodium before workouts help you perform better?

This article explains what happens when you ingest salt before exercise. Plus, you’ll learn the benefits and potential side effects of upping your salt intake.

So you’ll know when you should and shouldn’t add salt in pre-workout supplements. 

Introduction to Salt

We all know that salt is the white granular stuff found in almost every kitchen. But many people don’t realize that salt has a special chemistry and role in our bodies.

Table salt contains 40% sodium (Na) and 60% chloride (Cl) molecules. This chemical composition is why salty foods are also high in sodium.

Salt In Pre-Workout Sodium Chloride

Excess sodium in your diet can lead to health problems like heart disease and high blood pressure. But it’s also a vital nutrient that your body needs to survive.

The key is providing salt and sodium in the right amounts at the right time. And active people especially can benefit from adding salt at specific times, such as 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, you sweat. How much you sweat varies by body size, activity, and temperature. But on average, you lose a little over 1 liter of water per hour of exercise1.

In addition, your sweat contains approximately 0.1% 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. Although salty sweaters could lose 2,000 mg or more per hour2.

Moreover, sodium is an essential electrolyte that acts as a catalyst for chemical reactions in your body. So it’s vital to replenish this and other electrolytes, especially if you work out for long durations or in hot conditions

Adding salt to your pre-workout drink is an easy way to offset the sodium losses that occur while you exercise.

Water Loss During Exercise
Sodium Loss During Exercise

2. Rehydrate After Your Workout

Studies show that sodium is also critical to rehydration after exercise3. And drinking water alone might not be enough to replenish your lost water.

One reason is that drinking plain water causes a rapid fall in plasma sodium concentration, leading to increased urine output. However, the addition of sodium prevents this diuretic effect.

Some studies suggest adding salt to your post-workout meal or shake for rehydration purposes4. But putting salt in a pre-workout drink could also help maintain plasma sodium concentration and make it easier to rehydrate after your workout.

3. Improve Exercise Performance

Over the years, many studies have looked at salt solutions as an ergogenic aid. In other words, the effects of salt on exercise performance, stamina, and recovery.

While we need more study in this area, the general consensus is that salt in pre-workout drinks improves performance. In several studies, people that ingested salt before exercise increased time to exhaustion and performance in subsequent exercise bouts5,6,7.

4. Lower Body Temperature & Heart Rate

It’s thought that the performance benefits of sodium are related to the increased blood volume allowing better heat dissipation, which allows you to work harder for longer.

To illustrate, a study compared the core temperature and heart rate of men exercising to exhaustion. They performed one workout with a saltwater infusion and the other without.

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

Salt Pre Workout Core Temperature
Salt Pre Workout Heart Rate

5. Get A Better Pump

Sodium pulls water into your bloodstream and increases blood volume in your veins. More blood equals more pressure, which is why high sodium diets increase your blood pressure over time.

However, the higher blood volume is beneficial during exercise when blood flow is increased and distributed to the muscles. Therefore, using salt in pre-workout drinks can result in greater muscle pumps.

Related: 10 Ways to Maximize Your Pump

6. Prevent Muscle Cramps

Cramps are involuntary muscle contractions that occur during or after exercise. They can be as subtle as tiny twitches and progress to painful muscle spasms.

In part, exercise-related cramps are thought to be due to water and salt loss. A lower fluid volume and sodium concentration may change the electrical charge of motor nerves, resulting in spontaneous contractions3.

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

7. Support Nutrient Absorption

Nutrient absorption in the intestines is primarily the result of the active transport of sodium and chloride ions8. Therefore, salt (sodium chloride) is critical in digesting the protein, carbs, and fat from your pre and post-workout meals.

And adding salt to your pre-workout supplement ensures you have the sodium and chloride necessary for proper digestion.

Salt In Pre-Workout Supplements

You may be wondering how much sodium is already in your pre-workout supplement. And if it has enough sodium to get the benefits described above.

To answer this question, I analyzed 25 of the most popular pre-workouts. And I found that 60% of pre-workout supplements contain some sodium.

However, the average amount of sodium in pre-workouts is only about 50mg. Even the highest sodium pre-workout has only 310 mg.

To put that in perspective, you could easily lose 1,000 mg of sodium in 1 hour of vigorous exercise. Therefore, pre-workout supplements alone won’t replenish electrolytes lost during exercise.

Sodium in Pre-Workout

Adding Salt to Pre-Workout

The easiest way to get more sodium is by adding table salt to your pre-workout supplement and mixing it with water. But to get the benefits, you need to know how much salt to add and when to take your pre-workout concoction.

In addition, adding salt to pre-workout without other electrolytes is a recipe for water retention. So I explain how to prevent excess water storage with specific ingredients and amounts.

Amount of Salt in Pre-Workout

Most studies involving pre-workout salt drinks use a saline (salt water) solution. These solutions have a sodium concentration of around 160 mmol/l administered with a fluid volume of 10 ml/kg of body weight.

For those who aren’t chemists, that’s about 3,200 mg of sodium for a 180 lb (82 kg) person. However, many of these studies evaluated long-duration endurance exercises like triathlons or marathons.

Consequently, you likely need less sodium for a resistance training workout lasting 45 to 90 minutes. As a starting point, I recommend adding 1,200 mg (1.2 g) of sodium to your pre-workout drink.

From there, adjust your pre-workout salt intake up or down as needed. If you don’t notice a difference, try 3/4 tsp. Or if you feel bloated the next day, bump it down 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 may also wonder what type of salt you should add to your pre-workout. The main difference between various types of salts is where they come from and how they’re processed.

Table salt is mined from the earth and undergoes the most processing steps. This refinement strips the salt of most other naturally occurring minerals and creates a finer granule.

By comparison, sea salt is harvested from ocean water or saltwater lakes. Then it undergoes a limited amount of processing, which leaves more of the other minerals intact and a larger granule.

Finally, Himalayan pink salt comes from an ancient seabed located in Pakistan near the Himalayan Mountain range. It undergoes minimal processing and contains iron oxide, which gives it a pink color.

While sea salt and Himalayan pink salt contain more minerals, they are in trace amounts that provide no real health benefits. However, the larger particle size results in lower density and slightly less sodium per teaspoon.

Still, the sodium content of different types of salt is pretty similar. So the type you choose is just a matter of taste or preference.

Water Loss During Exercise

Adding ½ teaspoon or more salt to your pre-workout might not taste that good, especially if you’re using a small volume of water, like 8 oz.

To get around the taste, you can use salt tablets instead. The advantage is that they don’t taste salty and come in 500 mg or 1,000 mg sizes. But the cost is a little higher than regular salt, and you don’t have as much control over the dosage.

You can also get around the taste is using flavored packets containing sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes. However, you might have to use multiple packets to get the amount of sodium you want.

These packets work well because you get potassium, too. This critical electrolyte works with sodium to maintain proper fluid balance in your body. And getting more potassium helps release water from cells and prevent water retention.

Another, cheaper solution is using a salt substitute containing potassium chloride. Add about twice as much potassium as sodium to stop bloating. Alternatively, you could use a “low sodium” salt with sodium chloride and potassium chloride in about the correct ratio.

Salt In Pre-Workout with Potassium

Timing of Salt + Pre-Workout

Pre-workout salt studies generally administered the sodium 20 minutes to 2 hours before exercise. But the results don’t seem to be significantly affected by the timing.

That means you can add salt to your pre-workout and drink it before hitting the gym like you usually would.

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 does have some benefits when taken before workouts, such as increased blood volume, improved performance, and faster rehydration.

However, salt alone doesn’t provide all the benefits of multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements. For example, it will not 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 to get more benefits.

Is there salt in pre-workout?

Some pre-workout formulations do contain salt in the form of sodium chloride or sodium citrate. However, the amount of sodium in pre-workout supplements is around 50 mg on average, with the upper end being 310 mg.

To get salt’s performance and recovery benefits, you need to consume at least 500mg of sodium. So pre-workout supplements won’t cut it on their own, and you will need to add extra sodium.

Is salt a good pre-workout ingredient?

Adding salt to your pre-workout can make your muscles feel fuller and might help you squeeze out an extra rep or two. However, the downside is that you will also retain excess water unless you up your potassium intake.

So if you’re trying to look shredded, be careful about adding salt to your pre-workout.

How much salt for pre-workout?

Generally, starting with about ½ teaspoon of salt in your pre-workout is good. You can bump this up to 1 teaspoon if you have multi-hour workouts in temperatures above 80oF.

However, you should not exceed 1 tsp of salt before your workout unless you’re doing a triathlon or marathon. Also, you should limit your pre-workout sodium intake to less than 1/2 teaspoon if you already get a lot of sodium in your diet.

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

Taking too much salt before your workout could result in immediate side effects like stomach discomfort. If this should happen, reduce your salt intake or spread it into multiple smaller doses.

Other side effects of excess sodium in the diet include water retention or “bloating” and high blood pressure. So make sure you’re not overdoing it with your daily sodium intake.

Related: 19 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Water Retention

Who should not add pre-workout salt?

The salt pre-workout hack is not for everyone. If you already have a high sodium diet, then you shouldn’t add more salt on top of that.

I recommend logging your food intake for several days in a free app like MyFitnessPal. Then review your average sodium intake. If it’s more than 3,000 mg daily, you should first reduce sodium in your diet.

Another situation where you should avoid salt in pre-workout is if you don’t have intense workouts or your workouts are short (i.e., <1 hour). Added salt is generally only beneficial for those who train hard and often.

Finally, if you have high blood pressure or excess water weight, you should avoid added salt.

BCAA and Pre-Workout Together

Now you know all about the benefits and drawbacks of adding salt to your pre-workout. But you may have heard about other pre-workout additives that could boost performance.

One example is adding branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to pre-workout. Click here to find out if you should combine BCAA and pre-workout supplements.

BCAA in Pre-Workout
BCAA + Pre-Workout

With this information, you can now upgrade your pre-workout powder by adding a pinch of salt. Or you can avoid unwanted water weight by avoiding this trick until you reduce the sodium in your diet!

See my other great 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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