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Is Everything We Know About Salt Wrong?

A new study is challenging the thought that salt makes us thirsty.

According to an article in The New York Times, we may need to rethink salt and the effect it has on our bodies. New studies conducted with Russian cosmonauts held in isolation to simulate space travel (we cannot make this stuff up!) revealed that ingesting more salt made the subjects less thirsty but increased their hunger. Yes, you read that correctly. Could everything we think we know about salt intake be wrong?

The research was “meticulously done,” according to Dr. Melanie Hoenig, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. The results have been published in two dense papers in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

After 135 days of observing and tracking salt intake and urine volume of the isolated cosmonauts (it was a nasty job, but luckily someone did it!), the scientific team came to a shocking conclusion. “When the crew ate more salt, they excreted more salt; the amount of sodium in their blood remained constant, and their urine volume increased,” The New York Times reported.

Obviously, salt ingestion and the delicate balance of sodium in the bodies of runners, especially those that run long distances in the heat, is an important issue–and a hotly debated one. Many runners take salt pills during hot marathon races to “regulate” or increase the amount of salt they think they need because of the long-held theory that they are losing salt though sweat.

Related: 7 Supplements that Aren’t a Waste of Money

But if the scientific conclusions are correct, you will likely just sweat out the extra salt you ingest while your blood’s sodium levels remain constant. The worst part? Your urine volume may also increase, which could spell disaster if you’re chasing a PR.

As with all things in running and racing, use your training time to test out any fuel or salt supplement you plan to take during a race and record the outcome. Do your research, test everything out in simulated racing conditions (if possible), and make informed decisions based on your results.


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Allie Burdick

Allie Burdick

Allie is a freelance writer, athlete and mom, but not in that order. Her work has appeared in Runner's World, Triathlon Magazine and ESPNW. On her blog, VITA Train for Life, she chronicles her life as a runner/triathlete and hopes her successes and failures help to motivate and inspire others, even the over-40 crowd she somehow found herself in! The rest of her time is spent raising her twin boys with her husband in the Northeast where they live a big life! See it all on Twitter and Instagram.