How to combat being Salty Sweater
Imagine this. You have just finished a hard training ride on a nice warm day. You are now sitting at your local café getting the usual brew. That is when you notice it. Your arms are covered in a crusty layer of salt, your jersey and bibs have salt stains everywhere. You feel like a potato chip.
You may have heard someone say that “if your sweat is salty means that you are eating too much salt” or something along those lines. However, this is NOT true. Contrary to popular belief, studies have proven that sweat concentration (concentration of minerals excreted in sweat) is not dependent on sodium consumption. In other words, what you eat doesn’t dictate your sweat concentration. The study also shows that sweat concentration is heavily dependent on genetics.
Rest assured that having a higher sweat concentration does not mean you are at a disadvantage. The same study shows that people with higher sweat concentrations and sweat rates are seen to be more resilient in hot climates and tend to perform better under hot conditions.
Unfortunately, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I for one, am a very salty sweater. I tend to be able to withstand heat better than most others, but if I am not cautious when racing and training, it can become ugly really quick.
A downside to having a higher sweat concentration is that you lose more minerals when you sweat. Sodium, Chloride, and Potassium being the major ones. These minerals are classified under Electrolytes. Electrolytes are vital for an athlete as it enables the cells in the body to retain H2O. i.e. It keeps us hydrated.
Those minerals are also important in maintaining the function of the cells in our body, so a deficit of those minerals can cause the body to start to shut down. You can drink as much water as you want, but with a depleted electrolyte store, you could potentially make yourself even more dehydrated, by diluting your already limited electrolyte store and flushing them out of your body. This can be very dangerous.
So, what can you do about it? This is what I do that I find really helps me.
Step 1: Be Prepared
Before you have a race coming up or a difficult training session, make sure that you are well hydrated beforehand. Maybe even pop an electrolyte tablet in a bottle of water 1 hour before you start your activity. Don’t scull the water, instead take little sips every now and then.
Step 2: Stay on top of your hydration
Staying on top of your hydrations throughout your activity will ensure that you don’t slip into that slippery slope of dehydration. Make sure you have 1 bottle with electrolyte mix for shorter events and 2 or more bottles of electrolyte mix for the longer events. (Personally, I have an extra concentrated electrolyte mix bottle and another bottle of plain water. Sometimes all you want is plain good ol’ water.) Sports drinks like Powerade or Gatorade are not ideal as they have a ton of sugar which can cause you to feel sick or bloated. Feeling thirsty, or having a dry mouth is a sign that you are falling into the early stages of dehydration.
Step 3: Top up
Let’s be honest, not everyone is amazing at staying on top of their hydration. Even the best of us will most likely be dehydrated after your training/race. After your event, start to rehydrate. Personally, Coke is a go-to after a hard race. Coke has sugar and more importantly, Sodium. Having a can of Coke can help you get you back on your feet and top up your electrolyte stores. Other options include Juice, Sports Drinks, and some Recovery Shakes. And don’t forget WATER.
Given that Australian summer is just around the corner, remember, before your next race or hard training day: Start your event already hydrated, stay hydrated during the event as best as you can, and top up whatever you lost afterwards, and don’t be afraid to go and get that nice bowl of how chips and gravy around the corner deli.
You deserve it.