|S!Caps ... 1 Capsule, 341 mg Sodium, 22 mg Potassium|
Have you ever, or do you currently use salt pills or tablets during a long run?
I've been messing around a little with them this summer and have had decent results. I'm finding them somewhat useful, but they tend to lead to an upset stomach later in the day.
The idea of using them came from my 6-Hour Ultra Marathon this winter. During training and most of the race, I basically fueled on bananas and Lay's potato chips. The bananas for the carbs and potassium. The Lay's for their deliciousness and also the intense amount of salt. I noticed that after a few hours of running during training, I sometimes got light-headed. So I put my internet medical degree to use and after extensive Google research found that it indicated I was most likely electrolyte imbalanced from dehydration. I read somewhere that salt could help "balance you out" when you reached that state. So I started taking Lay's potato chips on long runs with me and when I started feeling light headed, they were like an instant cob-web clearer. Seriously ... like within just a few short minutes I was feeling better again.
However, there are several differing medical opinions on salt pills and tablets during a workout. The basic thought process is that we basically lose a lot salt in our sweat during a long workout. The idea is that salt capsules basically replace some of the lost sodium, and the additional sodium helps us retain water which prevents cramping. Many in the medical community are not big fans of the addition of salt to your long run, while others seem to think it's no big deal.
|I took this last summer, typical long run sweat|
On an average long run this time of year in Kansas City, the temperature can range from 70-85 degrees with humidity levels around 90% ... before 8am. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that on these days, there is not one dry stitch of clothing on my body when I'm finished. It's not unusual at all to literally lose 6-7 pounds during a 3 hour run. I'm not joking. They say the human body is over 80% water ... but after a long run I'm pretty sure I'm down around 39%. Bone dry.
I talked to a couple of elite athlete friends of mine who have taken salt tablets for years, and they swear by them. So an hour into a long run, I've started popping one ... and I love it! It really seems to keep any cramping at bay, and the biggest difference I've noticed is that I NEVER feel lightheaded during or after a run. In the past, I would feel a little woozy for the next few hours while my system caught up with fluid depletion. The additional sodium seems to really help me maintain some of those fluids and I don't feel like I'm gonna pass out when I suddenly stand up after a long run.
Most sports drinks have about 300-400 mg of sodium per liter, and a banana has about 400 mg of potassium. The salt capsules I take (pictured above) have 341 mg of Sodium, but also 21 mg of Potassium. There are other salt pills on the market that also include Calcium and Magnesium. I still mix in a gel at miles 8, 16, and sometimes 22, and drink 4-6 oz of water/Gatorade every 2 miles or so, but the salt capsules have really seemed to make a difference in the summer heat.
Even though I've never had a GI issue with the salt tablets during a run, they seem to upset my stomach for most of the day after a run. It's nothing severe, just a little bloating and minor gas pain, which is to be expected with the additional sodium in the system.
At this point I don't know that I will make them a mainstay in my training and racing, there's just too much "bad press" against them, and the jury is really still out as far as their usage. Plus, I really don't think they would do any good in shorter workouts without the excessive loss of fluids. But as far as my summer training with them goes ... so far so good. I really think they've been a plus.
I'd really love to hear your thoughts on salt pills ... pro/con ... why/why not!... be great today!