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Salt & Bodybuilding

What is Salt?

Salt, the white granular food seasoning found in salt shakers on most dining tables and in a large number of foods we eat, consists of sodium and chlorine. Used in the right amount, in can help bodybuilders with their goals. However excessive intake can be quite harmful to your health.

What Does Salt do?

Salt helps maintain the normal volume of blood in the body, and also helps keep the correct balance of water in and around the cells and tissues for proper function. Salt plays an important part in digestion and is essential in achieving a regular heartbeat. It also helps the body regulate blood pressure, and it is essential  in balancing the amount of potassium in your body for optimum muscle and nerve function. And let's not forget what it does for us outside the body - it makes food taste good!!

Effects of Excess Salt Consumption For Bodybuilders

  • Bloating. Excess salt intake can usually be excreted in urine and sweat during exercise, however even more salt will result in retention of water. In worst case scenarios, up to 4L of excess water can show up, increasing your body weight making you look soft, and also stops you from losing excess weight. So even if you usually looked nicely defined and ripped, consume more salt than you should and be prepared to look puffy and more like a marshmallow than a bodybuilder.
  • Salt Intake Affects Blood Pressure. When you eat too much salt, the kidneys have trouble getting rid of the excess salt. As a result, the salt stays in your body and through a process of osmosis, it draws water and retains it in your body. This extra fluid in your body places stress on your circulation and on your blood vessels causing increases in the total pressure in your blood vessel. Over time, the excess pressure on your arteries will cause them to work less effectively and place extra stresses on your heart. Blood pressure can normally be lowered by restricting dietary salt, otherwise it can lead to cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure hurts your heart, brain and kidneys.

Effects of Inadequate Salt Intake For Bodybuilders

  • Low Blood Pressure. As high salt intake increases blood pressure, it seems obvious that the opposite also happens and that too little salt in the diet causes low blood pressure which can result in dizziness and fainting. Having any of this happen during a workout is dangerous and can lead to injuries.
  • Cramps. As salt and other electrolytes are involved in the contraction and relaxation of muscles, low salt of sodium can cause problems with relaxation resulting in painful and long lasting cramps which can impair your performance in the gym. This is why electrolytes are used in sports drinks, as it helps to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat to avoid issues such as cramping.

Fixing Excess Dietary Salt Intake

In modern day society, the issue of low salt intake is seldom heard of. The majority of people will usually have too much salt each day leading to accumulated excesses over time. This puts them at risk of the bloating, high blood pressure and increased risk of strokes and heart attacks as explained above. To prevent this from happening, monitor your daily salt intake. Avoid adding excess salt to your cooking and reduce the amount of sodium that goes into your body coming from pre-packaged foods. In order to do so, you must learn and start reading nutrition panels and labels on food packaging and start to buy 'low salt' or 'salt reduced' versions of foods.

Beware of Hidden Dietary Salt

Salt is widely used for taste and as a preservative. We all know of obvious high salt products such as chips, sauces and fast foods. But there are a range of foods that are high in salt yet we don't even know it. For example breads and dairy products are quite high in salt, yet are seen to healthy for you. In fact a large proportion of the average Australian's daily salt intake is from breads and cereals.1 Now we're not advising you to avoid these foods or that they're bad for you. What we are saying is that you should be aware of these hidden salt sources. Again, be smart and read the food levels, but for unpackaged goods, such as breads from local bread shops, it is important to understand that it may be adding to your daily salt intake substantially. So to avoid all the pitfalls from excess salt consumption such as bloating and water retention, reduce your salt intake and be aware. By doing so, you can achieve unsurpassed definition and show off the fruits of your labour both in and out of the gym.

How much Salt is Too Much

Just to give you an idea of how much hidden salt there is in our food, here’s a table of some commonly eaten food.


Sodium (mg/serve)

Sodium (mg/100 g)

Potato chips

167 (27 g)

618 ***

Tomato sauce

186 (20 ml)

971 ***

Big Mac

958 (1 burger)

477 **

Chicken breast grilled

43 (100 g)

43 *

Bread wholemeal

346 (2 slices)

468 **

Milk full cream

161 (1 cup)

68 *



290 **

* low, ** medium, *** high

It has been recommended by the National Heart Foundation that we limit our sodium intake to about 2300 mg/day. As you can see it's not hard to exceed this recommendation, especially if you're a fan of snack foods.

Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health.

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