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#sodium #sweat #merely #reflection #salt #weight loss program

In earlier blogs we’ve mentioned what sodium is and the way it may be useful throughout train. We’ve additionally mentioned that the quantity of salt misplaced in sweat varies considerably from individual to individual. On this article, we’ll take a better look why that’s, and study if salty sweaters are merely individuals who eat lots of salt.

Dietary sodium and sweat infographic

How sweat glands work

To know how sodium losses fluctuate from individual to individual, it’s necessary to have a primary understanding of how sweat is produced, and launched onto our pores and skin floor. Our pores and skin is an organ, one of many largest within the physique. It has many roles, defending our insides from the setting, performing as the primary layer of defence for our immune system, and naturally serving to us keep a steady physique temperature. Throughout train, we produce loads of warmth, and the water in sweat evaporating from the pores and skin floor removes a few of this warmth to the environment.

Sweat itself is produced in our sweat glands, from the fluid that surrounds it. This fluid exists exterior of cells, so it’s thought of extracellular fluid, and is nearly the identical in its focus of electrolytes to the blood. The sweat that’s first produced due to this fact has the identical sodium focus as the encircling fluid that it got here from, and the blood. Nevertheless, as sweat travels up by way of the gland in the direction of the pores and skin floor, a few of the sodium and chloride ions are reabsorbed again into the physique by way of particular channels. Which means the sweat that finally ends up on the pores and skin floor will all the time have a decrease sodium and chloride focus than the blood. That is necessary as a result of it signifies that we lose proportionally extra water than sodium after we sweat. The result’s that the focus of sodium in our blood will all the time improve because of sweating, assuming no fluid has been consumed.

Retaining sodium – the impact of sweat fee and weight loss program

While the quantity of sodium that’s first produced into sweat relies upon solely on the speed of sweat manufacturing, the quantity reabsorbed again into the physique can fluctuate considerably. Firstly, as the speed of sweating will increase, sweat is compelled by way of the glands extra shortly, and fewer of the sodium has an opportunity to be reabsorbed by the channels that line the gland. So for any given particular person on any given day, how salty your sweat is can be at the very least partly influenced by your sweat fee.

However the effectiveness of those channels to reabsorb sodium can also be regulated. Way back to the late Nineteen Thirties, scientists might observe that the quantity of sodium and chloride misplaced in sweat might be altered by altering the quantity of salt in individuals’s diets. Usually although these research had been carried out utilizing extremes of salt consumption (typically very low in comparison with regular or very excessive), over a number of days or perhaps weeks, in individuals who had been typically not exercising and never producing sweat on the identical fee as could be anticipated by athletes throughout coaching or competitors.

Because of this, we revisited this idea throughout my PhD. We had been if modifications in salt consumption for under 3 days might considerably impression sodium losses throughout train. This time interval was chosen to replicate the time that many athletes alter their weight loss program in last preparation for a marathon, triathlon or different endurance occasion. If athletes had their sweat sodium losses measured in coaching, might this not be reflective of race day losses in the event that they alter their salt consumption within the days earlier than a race? We took runners and cyclists and offered them a really low salt weight loss program, then gave them salt or placebo capsules in order that their weight loss program was both very excessive or very low in salt. Additionally they did one other trial following their regular weight loss program, which was nearly precisely in the midst of the 2 extremes.

From two hours operating or biking at a average depth in 35°C warmth, we might clearly see an impact, the place the sweat sodium focus, regardless of the identical sweat fee in every trial, elevated as sodium consumption within the three days earlier than train elevated. Nevertheless, what we did see is that three days of altering salt consumption solely elevated the sweat sodium focus a mean of ~10% from low to regular salt weight loss program, and ~11% from regular to excessive salt weight loss program. So while an impact is there, it’s most likely not nice sufficient to have any sensible significance for athletes.

Given what we learn about sweat gland operate, it’s almost certainly that this impact is the results of the sodium and chloride channels adapting to be more practical at retaining sodium when confronted with much less within the weight loss program, and fewer efficient when confronted with extra sodium. This operate is much like what happens within the kidneys for urine manufacturing, besides that the kidneys reply inside an hour or two to modifications in sodium, whereas the sweat glands appear to take at the very least 12 hours, probably greater than a day to reply.

Warmth acclimation and sweat sodium losses – an oblique impact of sodium steadiness

A last situation the place a lot bigger modifications in sweat sodium focus are noticed is throughout a interval of warmth acclimation. When non-heat acclimated athletes train in scorching temperatures for consecutive days, the sweat sodium focus falls by as a lot as 30% after 10-14 days. This impact is believed to be the identical one because the dietary impact. The method of warmth acclimation (i.e. exercising within the warmth) causes important sweat sodium losses, which if unreplaced, trigger a deficit of sodium. The sweat glands due to this fact reply by making an attempt to preserve extra sodium. Curiously, if sodium consumption is intentionally elevated throughout warmth acclimation to forestall the sodium deficit, then the sweat sodium focus doesn’t change.


Sweat sodium concentrations fluctuate significantly between people, and even inside the identical particular person in several circumstances. The sweat fee, and the quantity of sodium within the weight loss program can each affect sweat sodium focus inside a person. The method of changing into warmth acclimated additionally reduces sweat sodium focus, however provided that the big sodium losses in the course of the acclimation course of usually are not adequately changed.


  1. McCubbin AJ et al. Impression of 3-day excessive and low dietary sodium consumption on sodium standing in response to exertional-heat stress: a double-blind randomized management trial. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2019; 119(9):2105-2118.

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