Sodium – The Essential Mineral We All Avoid

Sodium – The Essential Mineral We All Avoid

NT1A9843Many of my personal training clients often wonder if they should reduce or eliminate sodium from their diet.  Over the years sodium has gotten a bad reputation being linked to the risk of heart attack and stroke.   As a result, several health organizations have urged people to reduce the amount of sodium consumed daily. But before a person drastically cuts or eliminates sodium from their diet it is important to understand the role sodium plays in the body for active people.

Why is Sodium Important for the Body?

Sodium plays many vital roles in keeping the body functioning properly.  First of all, sodium is an electrolyte that controls muscle contractions.  During exercise, sodium is lost when a person sweats.  The body will work to regulate itself by bringing sodium levels back to normal.  People who have extremely low amounts of sodium in their bodies risk the chance of going into hyponatremia which is an abnormally low amount of sodium in the blood.  But before this happens the muscles will contract triggering nerves that result in muscle cramps.  This is a good indicator that sodium levels may be too low in the body and need to be replenished.  Second, sodium is responsible for maintaining the balance of fluids in the body and around the cells.  As an electrolyte, sodium regulates the amount of water that moves in and out of cells making sure there is a balance of electrolytes in the body.  If electrolyte balance is disturbed it can result in dehydration and other medical issues such as heart, liver and kidney disorders.  Third, sodium is important for regulating body temperature during exercise.  During intense exercise the body cools itself down through sweating.  Insufficient amounts of sodium in the body could mean the body sweats less and can lead to overheating which could ultimately result in dehydration, exhaustion and possibly even stroke. Finally, sodium is essential for digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Our bodies contain an enzyme called salivary amylase which is released when sodium is consumed in the diet.  This enzyme allows the taste buds to taste food.  It also creates hydrochloric acid in the digestive tract that helps the body break down and digest food.

Although excessive amounts of sodium are not healthy, including some salt into the diet is necessary to keep the body functioning at a healthy level.  The key to incorporating sodium in the diet is both moderation and consuming a balanced diet that limits processed foods and includes lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and fresh fruits and vegetables.

For more information on how much sodium you should be consuming in your diet, weight training, and general health and fitness, or if you’ve been thinking about hiring a personal trainer, contact us.

 

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Albuquerque, NM 87107
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