T Nation

To Salt or Not to Salt?

Just to let you know, I’m NOT competing so this is more of a general bodybuilding/fitness related question as opposed to a competition specific question.

When it comes to salt/sodium, what is the truth about it really? For the past year or so I’ve massively cut down on the amount of salt I consume and never add salt to anything anymore. The reason being, I was under the impression that it caused excess water retention which I don’t want. Having recently done some reading online I’m now not actually sure whether I should’ve been cutting down on salt or not. I’ve read that a lack of salt/sodium can make you appear ‘flat’, reduce workout performance, prevent nutrients from properly reaching your muscles, etc.

I also read a few forum posts over on BB.com from guys who claim to actually add a teaspoon or so of salt to their pre workout drinks and said that the pump you get from it is unreal. I know that some competitors reduce salt intake and then load up on it a few days before a competition in order to bring out vascularity, increase pumps etc, but for the general non competitor should I be reducing salt? It’s not a question of taste by the way, as I can 100% live without salt on my food. I’m just looking for bodybuilding/physique benefits from consuming or not consuming salt (if any).

Thanks guys.

My response is subjective and anecdotal…

I have done a fair bit of reading that salt / sodium have been ignorantly vilified. That, in fact, keeping sodium levels up in a controlled manner helps with hydration, performance, cardiovascular health and more.

I am also a low carb guy and apparently sodium becomes even more important in a LCHF / Keto / Carnivore scenario.

I began adding 1/4 tsp of Celtic sea salt to every 32 oz. of water I drink (I drink about 1.25 gallons daily on average) and I feel great. No fluid retention and excellent lifting and endurance.

Should also not I couple with 1.2 g magnesium daily (2 x 600 mg).

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You die without salt. Studies show people living in Japan/Korea/Hong Kong live longer than westerners and guess what they consume more sodium. The body rids itself of excess salt. The product has beeb demonised by companies selling sugar products trying to misled people.

You need salt. Keep using salt.

A lot of processed prepackaged food often contain a lot of s If you are eating more of a “whole food” diet, and you are working out, you probably need to add more salt than you think.



This - if you eat clean you will likely need to add not limit salt.

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IMO, you can train without carbs, but you should never train without sodium. It is actually potentially harmful. If I want to train “food fasted” now I will still take bicarbonate in water, or naturally brined pickle juice.

I try to behave and not eat fast food and processed garbage. I might get fast food once a month. I was waking up with calf cramps often. Found this helpful:



When I first started getting serious, I was also in the “lower salt is better” mindset. I was under the impression it would raise my BP.

Since adding salt back into my diet, it hasn’t raised my BP at all. Plus I was low on sodium on my labs.

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Salt only raises bp in salt sensitive people which is 5% of the population. High carb diet will raise your bp.


True. NSAIDs also raise blood pressure.

And lack of sleep, especially sleep apnea in overweight men.

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How much sodium bicarbonate do you take pre workout? And how much water? I’m low carbing to lean out like I usually do and getting down to the end where I even limit pre workout carbs. But I’m suffering through the workout lol. I’m not sure but I’m starting to suspect the preworkout carbs help not because of the carbs themselves but because they give me more blood volume since I drink a liter of water with them. I notice when I’m super hydrated or retaining water before a workout the weights fly around with ease. When I’m slightly dehydrated from limiting carbs and pissing all day and just have coffee pre workout the lactic acid sets in immediately.

Are we talking about sodium bicarbonate as in - baking soda?

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I just put himalyan salt in water. Half a teaspoon in morning. Otherwise eat bacon or put plenty of salt on eggs.

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Can def confirm that as I work night shifts from 2.30am and if I don’t get at least 6.5hr sleep by going to bed 8pm the difference on how I feel is huge and usually once I feel that way my BP is elevated. Need to do sleep apnea test as well, cuz woke up with racing heart not once or twice before.

To me, adding a little bit of salt won’t hurt.

I’ve actually used Rhinos approach to salt intake and the performance, strength was through the roof. Also must not forget that once you increase salt, potassium levels starts decreasing, so must balance that out as well and keep an eye on it. Then bit later we had +35c weather and I noticed my BP elevating so stopped his approach, even though it was not from the salt, but other things as I suspect. Once I sort the BP issue, I will try increasing salt once again, for now just keep salting my meals but not water intake.



When I was competing I experimented with cutting salt out and I noticed very significant dips in performance, and general mood as well as physique. I upped my sodium quite a bit and WOW, what a fantastic difference.

Regarding salt causing water retention - I don’t understand why people are so obsessed with retaining water. Your body is mostly water, you need water. If someone wants to look less puffy, they should focus on getting leaner, not obsessing about water. As long as you’re drinking enough water, your body will naturally regulate and you’ll be fine.

Especially if you’re not eating processed foods and getting processed sodium that way, you’re gonna want to get that salt. I salt all my food quite liberally, drink normal amounts of water every day, and blood sodium levels, blood pressure not an issue and I feel great.

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There’s no absolute way I can function without adequate salt intake.

Everything cramps up. Back, calves, biceps, legs, forearms. I just put some salt in a glass of warm water and down it before bed.

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use good salt not shit.
Table salt and stuff in canned for fast food Is often toxic.

Sea salt.
Himalayan salt not table salt.

My feet and calves cramp up if I dont get enough salt.
physical job and training- salt is essential.

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