Q+A: Hot-weather salt loss - how should I cope?

Our experts answer real-life questions

Posted: 3 September 2000
by Joe Beer

Q I’m fortunate enough to spend a lot of my time working, and therefore running, in hot and humid countries. Recently though I’ve noticed that I appear to be losing excessive amounts of salt (evidenced by stains on kit/trainers). I usually take an isotonic drink immediately after exercise. Is this enough, or do I need additional replenishment, and could the loss of salt affect my performance?

A Combining very high temperatures with strenuous exercise obviously means a great deal of sweating, resulting in high salt losses. The good news is that your body is able to adapt to running in very high temperatures – sweat becomes more dilute and less salt is lost – but large electrolyte losses can still occur. This is the reason why many manual workers in warm climes (or in hot working conditions in the UK) are still provided with salt tablets.

For most runners, however, a sports drink should be adequate. I’d suggest 200ml of an isotonic drink just prior to running and 200ml every 15-20 minutes during your run. It would be useful to measure your nude weight before and after runs to see how much liquid you’re actually losing. Each pound in weight you lose while running equates to roughly 450ml of lost liquid, and any loss that occurs needs to be replenished.

To re-hydrate you’ll have to drink one-and-a-half times the fluid you’ve lost. Lose 1lb (454g/450ml) in weight during a run, and you’ll have to drink roughly 700ml of isotonic drink to replace it. Try to eat plenty of bananas, fruit juices, vegetables and fresh foods to ensure adequate mineral intake. Also do not completely eliminate salty foods from your diet. These will help to ensure you have adequate electrolytes to balance fluid losses each day.

Joe Beer, sports scientist and level two triathlon coach

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I find that I sweat really easily even running in very cold conditions over short distances, although I am able to run upto 11 miles so it isn't that I'm not fit enough. I lose so much water that I get salt deposits on my face / body so is an isotonic drink enough or is there something else I could use? I am sure that it must affect my performance.
Posted: 19/09/2004 at 18:59

Hi Donna,

I sweat buckets too!!

Whoever said "woman don't sweat, they glow" was talking a load of bollox ; 0 ))

Posted: 19/09/2004 at 19:09

I sweat like a train as well.
It dosen't really bother me, just make adjustments. I have a big bottle of SIS isotonic drink powder, good running clothes to wick the sweat, caneston for those rashes,
Posted: 19/09/2004 at 19:16

I did a half marathon on Sunday and had LOADS of salty deposits all over my face and neck, do you think this means I am eating too much salt?? My friend didn't have any salt on him, and he ran a much faster time than me. Do you think I should cut down on salt?
Posted: 11/10/2005 at 12:08

If your diet normally includes a lot of salt then you are more likely to suffer from low salt problems. Saying that, this is only a problem on endurance events of a few hours or more. Some people are more susceptible than others and can suffer from cramps in marathons due to losing too much salt (this is pervesly caused by drinking too much water!!). Isotonic drinks and gels should be enough for most people. Salt deposits usually show a level of dehydration but are nothing to worry about. Just make sure you top your salt levels back up (pringles are my favorite).

Cutting down on salt isn't a bad thing to do anyway.
Posted: 11/10/2005 at 12:21

Sweating means that everything is working okay. In fact, when I'm race fit, I sweat much more just in everyday life - really annoying but it's a price you pay.

I just make sure I have a shower every week, whether I need it or not :)
Posted: 11/10/2005 at 12:33

My favourite line to charm a woman is "You don't sweat much for a fat lass".

Nothing to do with this thread, but just thought I'd mention it.
Posted: 11/10/2005 at 12:52

Read somewhere that the fitter you are the more you sweat. Something to do with your cooling system working more efficiently. Not sure I believe it though; Mr M is your archetypal couch potato and he,ll break into a heavy sweat changing a light bulb!
Posted: 11/10/2005 at 12:56

Murf the leaner you are the quicker you sweat. As the sweat must travel through your body fat, hence forehead etc sweat very quickly. This means that if you're leaner you'll stop sweating quickly after exercise but those with more fat will continue to sweat as it's still in the process of travelling through the layer of fat.

I tend to sweat for a long time ;~)
Posted: 11/10/2005 at 12:59

Coops - that explains your black eye then eh?!!

Posted: 11/10/2005 at 13:00

I thought it was polite. It got worse when I got on top and told her "I can see my house from here......"
Posted: 11/10/2005 at 13:20

Hi,I've recently started stepping up my walking to at least an hour a day;I'm finding that although I'm eating ok,I'm regularly feeling faint,shaky,very thirsty and light headed. I've been trying to drink more but I've been reading about the health problems asscoiated with that. I don't take any salt in my food unless it's pre-made,should I step up my salt intake? Also,does anyone know how to make their own drink and what to put in it to help me regulate my salt levels?
Any answers most welcome!
Tahnk you, tracey x.
Posted: 05/08/2006 at 20:19

I swet like no tomorrow on my runs, in fact even in warm weather i wear a wolley hat, which doesnt help i suppose, but it soaks up the swet. i get funny looks, but it saves me having to wipe my face a lot.

I took the advice and put salts a pinch of in my drink. and drink lots when i get back
Posted: 06/08/2006 at 09:34

There's this wicked stuff called'dioralite' guys, & the WHO also do a version of their basic rehydration salts which make 1 ltr of fluid. It is available in every chemist in the world at super-low prices (8p/sachet max) & by buying it you avoid buying into the whole mega-bucks big-name luconikepepsoreeboripoff thing. It has been designed for use when acute dehydration occurs especially in 3rd world countries, for kiddies with the squits & without proper drinking water etc... Mix up in a mineral water bottle, keep in fridge, sip over the course of a few hours, magic.
I reccommend you all stop stressing about which gel or bar or whatever to use & get a bit more practical.
By the way, I'm currently living in the Rajasthani desert, it's 40c (max 47), & I am a Lake District lass who has acclimatised herself to loping round a minimum of 40K in a week.
Everyone sweats, fact.

Posted: 06/08/2006 at 12:30

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