Excess dietary sodium is a risk factor for high blood pressure and stroke. Yet unlike burning calories in weight loss, you cannot burn off sodium. You can, however, increase sodium loss during certain dietary conditions and prolonged exercise. In fact, losing too much sodium can result in a life-threatening condition. Consult your doctor about your heath if you believe that you have a sodium imbalance, or if yu have questions about your sodium intake.
Sodium is a mineral that plays a vital role in regulating blood pressure, balancing your body’s acids and bases, transporting sugar into your cells, stimulating your nerves and contracting your muscles. An adequate daily intake of sodium for adults is under 2,300 mg, according to the USDA Dietary Guidelines. Those with high risk factors for high blood pressure and certain diseases should consume no more than 1,500 mg, however. The average American ages 2 years and older consumes over 3,400 mg of sodium per day. Processed foods contributes as much as 75 percent of the daily intake of sodium in the average American diet. Sodium requirements increase with physical activity.
Sodium is also an electrolyte that regulates fluid balance in and around your cells. When you exercise, you lose water and electrolytes. Increased physical activity without replacing electrolytes results in a condition called hyponatremia, which is characterized by too little sodium and water. The normal blood level of sodium is between 135 and 145 mEq/L, whereas hyponatremia is diagnosed when blood levels of sodium falls below 135 mEq/L. Drinking too much water during exercise can cause hyponatremia because you lose sodium through sweat and drinking too much water dilutes the sodium content of your blood. As the sodium level in your blood becomes too low, extra water enters your cells and causes swelling, particularly in your brain, which can be fatal.
Sodium Loss From Sweating
Sweating, or perspiration, is a natural process that releases salty liquid from your body's sweat glands. The purpose of sweating is to enable your body to stay cool. Scientists at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia studied the effects of sodium losses from prolonged sweating, according to research published in the "Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology" in January 2008. The scientists report that the fluid and electrolyte imbalances that result from prolonged sweating and need to be replaced to reduce the risk of body fluid imbalance. They found that physical activity in moderately hot conditions for 10 hours on average will induce a loss of between 4.8 and 6 g of sodium, which must be replaced to avoid fluid imbalances. They also found that drinking beverages containing carbohydrates, alcohol or caffeine increases fluid imbalance. The scientists conclude the ideal replacement beverage is water with sodium and minimum carbohydrate.
Fluid and sodium balance is vital for wellness. Losing too much sodium through increased physical activity or increased water intake elevates your risk of hyponatremia. Scientists at Iowa State University in Ames recommends drinking water equivalent to 150 percent of the fluid deficit to compensate for urinary losses that will occur with water ingestion, according to research published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in June 2006.
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