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Salt Supplements May Boost Sports Performance

When people exercise, they sweat out water and electrolytes in their bodies, disrupting the balance between them and negatively impacting performance. A recent study suggests that taking salt supplements while exercising may improve performance in triathletes.

Participants in the study included 26 experienced triathletes who had taken part in the Half Ironman, a medium-distance triathlon that includes 1.24 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling, and 13.1 miles of running. They were matched for age, anthropometric data, and training status.

Half of the group ingested 12 salt capsules divided into three doses during the Half Ironman with the goal of replacing 71% of sodium lost through sweat. The other half, acting as a control, took placebo capsules and replaced only 20% of the lost sodium. All of the participants consumed their usual rehydration drinks.

At the conclusion of the triathlon, the group that took the salt capsules finished on average 26 minutes before the control group. They also had better running and cycling speeds than the control group.

The researchers posited that this improvement in performance was due to the higher concentration of electrolytes in the salt group’s blood. This was because the salt stimulated thirst, prompting them to drink more fluids and maintain a healthier balance of water and electrolytes than the control group.

Researchers from Camilo José Cela University in Spain conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on February 14, 2015 in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.

Maintaining a balance of electrolytes and water is essential for athletes of any type. Salt supplements, as this study has shown, may be a great option for very strenuous exercise like a triathlon but may not be necessary for more moderate exercise.

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