I am totally aware of the health benefits of having moderate amount of salt (Sodium) in a balanced diet and also down sides of having too much. However, I can see that, in so many healthy cooking recipes they mention to use low salt, no added salt and similar sorts ingredients to use for cooking.

  • As an amateur bodybuilder what benefits I am looking for, by reducing the amount of salt intake in my diet?
  • Should I have lower salt consumption than the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) / %DV as a bodybuilder who is doing regular strength training and keeps his body fat lower than approx. 10%?


Salt Nutritional Table


A lot of your requirements are going to be dependent on your own personal phsyiology. For example, I am a very heavy sweater (After a 1 hour run I will have a lot of caked salt on my hat/clothes), so I tend to have higher sodium intake on a daily basis than many people.

For a bodybuilder, it will probably be less than an endurance athlete, unless you lift for long periods and/or in hot conditions. Also, where some bodybuilders run into problems is the concept that has somehow become entrenched, that you are recommended to drink a gallon of water for every workout (It isn't necessary). If you sweat heavily and consume a lot of water without supplemental electrolytes, you can run the risk of conditions such as hyponatremia.

As far as the effects, with an excess of sodium you will have some increased water retention, it can raise your blood pressure (Which could be dangerous combined with the increased blood pressure (BP) during a lift), if your intake is really excessive or you deplete other electrolytes such as potassium you could have cramping and/or heart rate palpitation issues. (The sodium link to cramping is unproven and tenuous, and was dis-proven in at least one study. Sodium and potassium also control heart muscle activation). Also, even common cardiac practices/thoughts on sodium are being challenged, as evidenced by this writeup of a study published a couple of years ago.


One thing you can do if you want to lower your sodium is to use other spices in cooking (Marjoram, basil, thyme, etc etc). I would have to dig to find it again, but they did a taste preference study, and normo to hypertensive people for some reason tended to choose higher salt foods, but this was lessened when in the presence of other spices.

I would try for a diet that is slightly less to even with the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), as you will be losing salt through sweat when working out. I know a few ultra endurance athletes who have been told their sodium intake needs to be a lot higher than RDA because of how much they lose in sweat. (Your body has no mechanism to store sodium, and about 85% of the sodium in your body is in circulating volume.)

  • @JohnP- Great response John. But again, doesn't this prove the opposite and shouldn't I expect to see high salt(reasonably) or at least normal salt consumption recommended in bodybuilding cooking instructions? However, I would assume if somebody won't watch his salt consumption with NOWADAYS' norms he/she will definitely go over and this may be only a preventive purpose. On the other hand, any athletic diet, including strength training one, is extremely controlled and I would expect a bold reason for these low salt recommendations.
    – Mehrad
    Oct 31 '13 at 22:50
  • 1
    @Mehrad - Most of the salt recommendations (especially RDA) are formulated for the general population, and somewhat irrelevant for athletes. Bodybuilding mags are going to be conservative, and not open themselves up to lawsuits by saying "Yah, eat all the salt you want". If you want to dig into the research, go to scholar.google.com and search for various articles on sodium and athletes. In general lower sodium is better, but if you exercise/sweat a lot, you get more leeway in what lower really means.
    – JohnP
    Oct 31 '13 at 22:57
  • @JohnP- Spot on. that was exactly what I was thinking about except I really didn't want to question RDA since lots of our other dietary intakes are still calculated base on that. Cheers pal.
    – Mehrad
    Oct 31 '13 at 23:09

Additional info: Everything on the planet can be used as a medicine and as a poison at the same time. The fine line that changes when it comes to dosage. And as we know, there is never a certain dose to anything, since every individual is different and reacts different to medication or poison. Read the post below by keeping this in mind.

There are many different views on eating salt (NaCl + Iodine) in inorganic form. Please do not mix it up with Sodium in organic form as given in food fact sheets or labels.

Many different salt are required by your nervous system and endocrine system. Due to that, lack of it might have adverse effects on your training and recovery.

The most studies of salt having adverse effects and the recommended consumption amounts are mostly done on people whom already suffer a disease, are pysically inactive, old (age 45+) and on countries where people consume already enough sodium in various forms in processed foods in forms like additives, conservants and stimulants (think of why eating potato chips/crisps never ends until the bag is empty? That is due to Soduim mono-glutamate which is also given to livestock to raise their appetite when they feed them in the winter with tastless hay).

Salts in general (the molecule combination of an alkaline metal element and a chlore element) are in general used for neurol and hormonal activities and balancing your body's water levels. Because our blood must be a bit alkalined (basal instead of acidic) for the vital enzymes to work. therefore you need salts. Shortage on this can have many negative effects if you are already on a healthy bodybuilding diet- with which I am referring to eating clean which is out of this post's scope. But excess of it is bad to if you have a dirty diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Because you what you put in your body is way more than what you throw out.

One thing many people forget is that you need salt for more than many things. The reason that eating salt less advised is purely based on statistical average upon groups where the health risks are already high which might turn even worse by the usage of excessive salt.

As long as you drink enough water (very slightly yellow pee while urinating every time except early in the morning- duh), excess salt will be thrown away either by your sweat or urine. But this does not mean that you can consume 1kg salt a day. Just use the right amount to make your meal tasty and drink enough water. It is that easy.

Also, salt won't make you sick if you are healthy and have no medical conditions threatening you which you inherited genetically like heart issues, blood pressure or blood tension issues. In those cases, consuming anything that regulates your blood osmose will be bad. /edit: By this, science has shown that people whom are prone to cardiovacular diseases are apt to get negative effects on consuming iodized table salt. For those, Potassium salts are advised in Chloride form (KaCl). To simplify it, if you suffer from a heart disease at the moment and/or it has been proved that a direct family member like father/mother/sibling has the issues with this, it is advised to get checked first before applying my advise. If your blood pressure and tension is ok (which you can measure with inexpensive devices on your own these days), than you are more likely to stay fine as long as you listen to your body, hydrate and move a bit more than you do :)

But in your case, very high salty and spicy diet might cause water retention and make you look a bit chubby. I would advice you to balance out your salt diet during the week. The easiest way to do it is as follows: every other day you eat salty enough that makes your meals taste just perfect, and every other day you use the half of the salt. That way you can reduce your overall during the week which will give you an indicator of how much you need it.

There is no general guideline for salt consumption. Because every single human body is unique when it comes to nutrition. You will have to check it out for yourself and experiment. Once again, as long as you keep yourself hydrated properly, you will be alright, also hydrating will make you and your muscles stronger too.

P.S.: I stated some of my references in the comments below. My belief of stack exchange usage depends that this is stack is a knowledge sharing community and not a prestigious peer-reviewing portal for rocket science. Therefore, if you would like to know more regarding this, let my post be an open door for you to go see the world out there and share with us what you have found in addition to what I could tell. I love giving what I have in terms of experience and wisdom and my humble apologies for not writing a scientific paper on this very area which I am no certified expert of.

  • 2
    Some source citation could be useful here...
    – Enivid
    Oct 31 '13 at 20:15
  • @lightblack- I actually learned more than I expected reading this answer. Not sure why it's undervoted this badly by our friends other than your really sensational writing method. I would keep my examples more realistic and referenced. Also, I have no idea what you said in paragraph no 5. Would be nice to give it a little bit editing and clear it up.
    – Mehrad
    Oct 31 '13 at 23:06
  • @lightblack- + can you recommend any reading about the first paragraph. that's a damn interesting point.
    – Mehrad
    Oct 31 '13 at 23:11
  • Hey @Mehrad. I beleive the moderator finds my way of writing and using the features of the this stack improper. That might be why all of my posts gets a downvote for some uknown reasons. Please refer to those links and also their own references below for more insight on salt usage. I hope it helps. thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(86)90354-5/… radianthealthstrategies.com/healing_power_of_salt.php
    – lightblack
    Nov 1 '13 at 10:30
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    @Baarn: I agree that I might have been writing without citation too much, but as far as I know, this could be requested in the comment fields instead of down-voting- as you suggested and I have done for the sake of a comment most above. This is a knowledge sharing community and not a scientific paper writing community. There is always a wide space in a post to ask for clarifications and citations. I agree on your point of citing too, but too much citation shows only that you read and distracts from the shared answer in my opinion. This is how I saw stack-exchange evolve in the last 8 years..
    – lightblack
    Nov 1 '13 at 11:30

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