Home > Going off topic > Sodium in Sports Drinks

Sodium in Sports Drinks

The past several years I’ve been participating in organized rides around the southern states.  Most of these rides occur in the sweltering summer months.  At every rest stop there is always several large coolers filled with a salty Gatorade type sports drink.  Often there is more of the sports drink available than water. 

Sports drinks can contain about 450 mg of sodium per liter.  When you perspire, your body loses about 900 to 1400 milligrams of sodium per liter of sweat (Shirreffs & Maughan, Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 28: 27-32, 2000).  So unless you’ve sweat enough to fill a liter bottle, do you really need a sports drink? 

The American Heart Association has released a new suggested daily sodium intake limited to 1,500 mg for ‘at risk’ individuals, those with hypertension, African Americans, and older adults.  Previous recommendations suggested that salt intake should be below 2,300 mg per day for all adults. That’s about a teaspoon a day.  I’m one of those ‘at risk’ people.  I have high blood pressure and I’m approaching fifty.  I’ve been trying to adhere to the DASH diet which limits sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day.  I can say from experience it is extremely difficult to stay under 1,500 mg.  Sodium is in almost every processed food item.  Chances are, if you are eating a normal diet, you are getting more than a healthy amount of sodium. 

I’m wondering if these specialized sports drinks are all hype, or worse yet, doing long term damage to overall health.  It’s ironic that thousands of people are out doing a healthy activity focused on improving fitness and consuming a beverage that may be increasing their chances for cardiovascular problems.

Just something to think about, Jack

Categories: Going off topic
  1. Tim
    February 2, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Most of the literature i have read around running and ultra running points to sports drinks not having enough salt…. Lore of running is a pretty inclusive look.

    Personally, i follow the hammer nutrition model – even if not with there products. Water to hydrate, salt tabs for sodium, and gel (or whatever) for calories. That way, as conditions and your body changes, you can adjust each element independently.

    Not enough salt and too much fluid will give you Hyponatremia. Also, salt loss rates are different for different folks.

    Supposedly, if you don’t eat as much salt, your body will sweat less out. Supposedly.

    Best of luck.


    • The Velo Hobo
      February 3, 2011 at 6:35 pm

      Thanks for the comment and good info.

      I’ve carried (and used) the Hammer Gels and Guu products as first aid for bonking. I can’t say I’ve ever bought any. There is usually a pack of two in the grab bag you get when you register for a ride. They tend to make me a bit queezy. I’ve started carrying a whole wheat bagle with peanutbutter and honey or jelly. I’ll cut it up into 8ths and take a few bites every half hour or so.

      I try to stay ahead of the bonk…it’s a horrible feeling to crash from the inside out.


  2. arlen
    February 2, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    prepackage food…and what the fda said what the food industry could get away with…
    the fda has allowed the food industry through very heavy lobbying…and probably padding somebody`s pocket book…
    said ok sports fans you have to at least label 8 items in your ingredients…
    and the food industry being resourceful boys and girls…got together and decided on how to hide with manipulation of the ingredients on the labeling on prepackage foods…
    so the moral to the story boys and girls…
    just eat non prepackage foods…
    buy your meats from a butcher you can trust….major food stores love to rub msg and other things on their meats so they have a much longer shelf life…
    buy your veggies & fruits from organic sources…again major grocery stores are in to nuking the fruits and veggies…again longer shelf life….
    if you want to experiment…go buy some potatoes and onions at a major grocery store…and buy again from an organic food source the same items….you will find that the organic potatoes and onions with start to sprout with in a week…the items you bought from the major grocery outlet will not have changed…because they have been nuked…
    then you ask what is the difference…the organic food when you eat it…your body gets the nutrients from the product….in the product where it has been nuked there is no nutritional value….your body gets nothing…
    i have food allergies…one of the items i need to stay away from is corn….
    the corn industry is one of the items the fda allowed not to be included in the ingredient labels on prepackage foods….bad boys…shame on them…
    just thought i share this with you all…
    now just think how much trouble does the food industry go through hiding sugar, salt, soy, wheat gluten, in labeling??? a lot…

    • The Velo Hobo
      February 3, 2011 at 6:42 pm

      Thanks Arlen,

      I have to agree about the FDA and the Dept of Ag. I went to our county extension to hear a lecture by a guy who used to work in the poultry industry (the chicken guy). I was shocked to hear what our poultry is injected with before packaging. A sodium solution for one. Outrageous. We pay for meat by the pound and much of what we are paying for is water and salt.


  3. February 3, 2011 at 8:27 am

    While riding in the summer in Phoenix, Arizona, yes, I sweat several liters per ride, and require salt and potassium to replace that which is lost.

  4. The Velo Hobo
    February 3, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Good point John, there are legitimate reasons for replacing lost sodium and for sure potassium. I think for me (with my hypertension) it’s matter of awareness of how much my sodium intake is anyway (without the supplement) and an honest appraisal of how hard I’m riding. I can tend to exaggerate how difficult a ride is in my mind and feel like I need to eat and drink more than I really do. I’ve never lost weight on a tour…I usually come home weighing a few pound more than I did when I left.

    I see people hitting the Gatoraid after an hour long workout in an air conditioned gym and sadly I see teen age boys drinking the stuff as a “healthy” alternative to soda.

    All things in moderation I suppose. Thanks for the comment. Jack

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