Marathon training in the heat: Waiter, can I get that salt to go?

Everywhere you turn, the medical professionals tell you that too much salt in your diet is a bad thing.

Of course, that advice is different for runners.

For us, the more salt the better, especially when it gets warm outside. Salt (and potassium) is an important electrolyte because it increases the rate of fluid absorption from your stomach to your bloodstream. This helps you stave off dehydration. Taking salt on a particularly long run, or a marathon, also guards against hypnotremia – or water intoxication.

I usually take salt on all runs lasting longer than hour from May to September. I’ve tried Hammer Nutriton’s Endurolyte salt capsules, which contain 40 milligrams of sodium per serving, and Succeed’s S-caps, which contain 325 milligrams of sodium per serving.

I seemingly cramped less with the S-caps. The sodium was good at preventing sweat loss, but sometimes too good – there would be times during a run that my hands would literally dry up – which is a telltale sign that I’ve stopped sweating altogether. That’s not a good thing.

 

 

The S-caps stopped me from sweating.

I’ve also tried using just plain old table salt – just packing a few salt packets in a baggie and taking them on the run with water. These packets contain anywhere from 250 to 300 milligrams of sodium. And during the best marathon training I’ve ever had (last year – even though my race results don’t show it) – I trained on salt packets, water, and an occassional GU, Gell, or sports drink.

So I think this year, as in years past, I’m going to make sure I grab a few extra salt packets before leaving my favorite restaurants. I’m gonna need them in this crazy Austin  heat.

Update: Katie over at KatieRUNSthis.wordpress.com asks a perfectly good question:

How do you eat it? Do you just sprinkle it in your mouth? At marathons, I have seen some people put in on their hand and lick it…you know, tequila shot-style. It’s classy.

The answer: I keep it in a baggie in my shorts and when I get to a water stop, I just ingest as much as I can and chase with water. Relief is almost – almost – instant.

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6 Responses to Marathon training in the heat: Waiter, can I get that salt to go?

  1. All of my long marathon training has been done in the winter, so I have yet to experience the beatdown that long, summer training runs can give you. I will, however, be getting serious about them this year. Is it hard downing straight salt? How do you eat it? Do you just sprinkle it in your mouth? At marathons, I have seen some people put in on their hand and lick it…you know, tequila shot-style. It’s classy. :) I think I’m more inclined to down some pretzels or something, but then that brings into play how to carry them, what if they squish, etc. For now, my long runs are consisting of two 6 mile loops, so maybe I could keep in the at the car? Would eating cause me to cramp up or should I try the packets or caplets?
    katieRUNSthis recently posted..Gear Love Affair- Water Bottles

  2. Daniel says:

    I run in crazy hot summers in Japan where the humidity rises to 90 percent. I’ll definitely explore this salt lickin business to avoid drying up. As you mentioned your hands would dry, that’s a common thing for me so I am ready to try anything.
    Thank for the reminder.

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  4. RunCoach Jen says:

    I mixed it in my water so that there is no way of squishing.. I also witnessed some runners who has a small plastic containing salt then they just have a little salt in their fingertips then lick it..

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