Pass The Salt

Pass the salt is a phrase I have not said in years.  A few years ago I weighed 35 pounds more than I do today and when I decided to get healthy and begin to rid myself of processed foods I threw salt, or really, sodium into that garbage can as well.  I knew that there was so much sodium in the packaged foods and the fast food ‘burgers’ I was eating and so my initial reaction was I did not need sodium at all and began to cook without salt.  I was having a blast in that I was tasting the ingredients and not the sodium as I was cooking.  I felt the weight coming off and the energy going up so I never thought about adding salt to my food and it has just not been a part of my diet.

That is until Wednesday August 8th came.  That morning I went out and ran for 2 hour and 15 minutes.  I covered 14.5 miles that morning at a pace of 9:17/mile.  It was an aerobic run where I was not pushing the pace at all and ran comfortably as seen by my average Heart Rate of 151 bpm.  This was a great morning run but it was very humid.  I had taken a handheld with me that I could drink from every 15 minutes and provide my body what had been typical for me.  Approximately 250 calories with nearly 1400mg of electrolytes.  Perfect blend and never before any issues, that is until I went swimming that afternoon.

My swim set that afternoon was to be 3900 yards with a 1000y set at threshold pace followed by 10×100 descending.  It was during the 1000 yard set that my legs started to feel a bit tight.  Then in the middle of the 10×100 the cramps hit and they hit hard.  I have swam through cramps before and they typically go away, but this time  they persisted.  At first so did I as I was not giving into the cramps.  I figured that if I was in the middle of Tempe Town Lake and needed to swim through cramps I would need to know how to do it.  I kept on going and then the calf cramps found their way into my toes and that is when I had to call it quits.  The cramps hurt so bad that I could barely stand and was thankful to be in the pool and not the lake.

Yesterday I was at my chiropractor getting ART and other painful work done and we started chatting about my training.  I told him about this situation and he said immediately to me:  You need to put salt on your food since you are not eating processed or fast food.  He followed that up with the fact that I need to add calcium and magnesium supplements to my diet.

I did a bit of research on leg cramps while swimming and the first item that popped up was dehydration.  With dehydration comes a shortage of electrolytes and being as I had run 2h15m earlier that day it began to make sense.  The other item that caused cramps during swimming is plantar flexing.  The more I thought about it the more it made sense that it was purely dehydration.  I typically drink 1.5 gallons of liquids per day and on this day I just did not replace all the calories and electrolytes that I lost during that run.

With all this being said I am now going to add a bit of salt to my meals as I am cooking, and especially this week since this is taper week with a 70.3 coming up on Sunday.  The lesson here is to not just know your body but to know what you are putting your body through.  Every day and every run is not the same.  There are days that are hotter and more humid that others.  As I have said before recovery is the key to building up your speed because you get the proper recovery.  I did not recover well enough between the run and the swim and I paid for it.

You can also read this post that I did back on March 22, 2011.

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  1. Marlene says:

    Cramps are brutal during a swim! I get them occasionally, especially after a harder effort bike or run. Thanks for the reminder to keep an eye on the salt & hydration!
    Marlene recently posted..Muskoka 70.3 Training – Weeks 5 & 6My Profile

  2. FitFunMom says:

    It has been so hot here in Southern California that I have been battling dehydration too. I finally figured out that was what was causing my headaches!
    FitFunMom recently posted..Zuma Beach Swim for the Nautica Malibu TriathlonMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      Yup…Karen goes through the same thing when she doesn’t hydrate enough. As you can guess we get very hot here in Texas and so 1.5 gallons of liquid is a must every day for me and I try to get her to understand that too. We have to drink water, but be careful with hypnotremia in which you are diluting the sodium too much and thus can have a different reaction then too.

  3. Susan says:

    I used to have fainting spells, especially after long runs. My doc did a table-tilt test, where we discovered that my blood wasn’t moving efficiently due to – drum roll please – low salt content. I rarely ate packaged foods or cooked with salt, so running depleted what little salt content I had. Therefore, after running, my blood wouldn’t really circulate all that well, and just hang out in the lower half of my body. If I laid down in a horizontal position, I’d be fine; but if I didn’t, or if I stood up, then WHOOP! Faint.

    Needless to say, after a few embarrassing episodes at work, in line at Starbucks, and at the grocery store, I was happy to have a diagnosis and a really easy fix: Mexican food, EFS, and french fries. :)

    • CTER says:

      Mexican food? I make Mexican food all the time but I guess you are talking about eating out Mexican food? Either way I need to add it to my food as I cook.

      And now that you say this I was going through some dizzy spells quite a bit at the house during a few heavy training weeks and that may be the issue too.

      Thanks for shedding some light on this.

  4. Victoria says:

    Salty food is especially important when you are training in a hot, humid environment like you are. Another key for those who don’t eat much processed food is to avoid drinking too much plain water, even outside of training. Nuun tablets, coconut water, etc. can all provide good alternatives to flushing out all your electrolytes.
    Victoria recently posted..August 13-19: It’s Almost HereMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      You are so right. I use the Hydrate product from Herbalife24 as that water flavor that has electrolytes and you just reminded me that I have not been using it as much as I had in the past.

      Between you and Susan I am seeing the error in my ways now.
      CTER recently posted..Pass The SaltMy Profile

  5. BDD says:

    I dont cook or season with salt. Except with one thing, this was passed down from my parents, sprinking a little salt on some watermelon. You would be surprised how well the two go together, healthy way to get some water and salt in your system. I tried tempheh, quinoa, satain, and tofu, your turn now to try if you havent already
    BDD recently posted..The MomentMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      I have put salt on watermelon in the past.

      As those who are chefs know salt is not a flavor but a flavor enhancer. It is to be used to bring out the flavor of the food you put it on and it certainly does that with watermelon.

      Good course salt is also good at drawing out the flavor of GOOD dark chocolate.
      CTER recently posted..Pass The SaltMy Profile

  6. I love how you keep learning new stuff and sharing it with us. I think salt has gotten such a bad rap (for good reason), but there is a time and a place for it in the diet. I think about my ten year old nephew who almost had to have open heart surgery this year because he was passing out and they thought something was wrong with his heart. Turns out, he just had to add a salty snack everyday b/c he wasn’t getting enough sodium (my brother is very health conscious). Interesting stuff for sure!
    Shut Up and Run recently posted..The Time I Ran in ParisMy Profile

  7. Ashleen Moreen says:

    Yes, I agree with your words, you really need to be aware of the effects of the foods you consume.
    Whatever workout you do to keep fit, you can never escape sickness brought by the things you take!
    Ashleen Moreen recently posted..Timber Sliding Doors To Make Best Use Of The Space In Your HomeMy Profile

  8. Noel Nelson says:

    Salt is essential in dehydration. Coconut water is effective in relieving of dehydration too.


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