Sodium is an element that for years has divided bodybuilders into two camps: lovers and staunch opponents. One and the other have their reasons. Is there a golden mean to properly introduce sodium into a bodybuilder’s diet, and if so, what does this ingredient have to offer athletes?
Sodium is not as scary as it is painted
It is often heard that salt is the “white death,” and this famous saying also applies to sodium, since its main source is none other than just table salt. In reality, however, sodium is an essential element for life, and the need for this ingredient is greater than is the case with more notorious micronutrients such as chromium, zinc, iron and selenium. It plays a key role in the nervous system, which also has the effect of stimulating the muscle growth, contraction and recruitment so important from the perspective of bodybuilders, but this is only a drop in the ocean of its properties. What other benefits does regular consumption of sodium by bodybuilders bring?
Sodium – better protein metabolism
This is an extremely important property for all bodybuilders. Sodium stimulates the system that transports amino acids from the gastrointestinal tract to the intestinal epithelial cells, from where they enter the body fluids. That’s not all, however. Without sodium, the transport of amino acids to muscle cells for growth and regeneration would not exist!
Sodium – better carbohydrate metabolism
Another basic ingredient whose metabolism is better in the presence of sodium is carbohydrates. When sodium enters the cell, it stimulates the absorption of glucose. Glucose is then consumed as fuel or used to synthesize muscle glycogen. In addition, sodium is essential for transporting glucose into the muscle cell!
Sodium – better thermogenesis
Thermogenesis is the process of heat production by the body, extremely important for bodybuilders who, before competitions, try to accelerate fat burning precisely through greater heat production. To sustain thermogenesis, it is necessary to consume at least 3 g of sodium per day.
Sodium – the needs of a bodybuilder
For people with a moderate daily lifestyle, a daily sodium intake of around 1-3 g of sodium is recommended. Bodybuilders – as a kind of “compensation” due to regular intense training – will need more of this element. To 3 g, 1 g of sodium should be added for every kilogram of weight loss caused by normal water loss during sleep and training. In practice, this means roughly that if you go from 100 kg to 99 kg after exercise, your daily sodium intake should be 4 g. Sodium supply is therefore a very individual issue and will vary depending on how a particular body functions.
Sodium – where to find it?
In addition to the aforementioned table salt, sodium can also be found in products such as sauerkraut and pickles, canned foods, beef, pork, as well as salty snacks such as potato chips, burgers and fries. Bodybuilders like to reach for the latter during the so-called “cheat day,” a day off from their daily diet. Interestingly, the day after the day off they often look… slimmer! So perhaps it doesn’t make sense to eliminate sodium just before a competition, but we’ll leave that to individual judgment.
main photo: unsplash.com/Jason Tuinstra