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Marisa Michael, MSc, RDN, CSSD is a board certified specialist in sports dietetics and author of Nutrition for Climbers: Fuel for the Send. She serves on the USA Climbing medical committee and has a private practice in Portland, Oregon. Find her online at nutritionforclimbers.com or on Instagram @realnutritiondietitian.
If you were alive in the 1980s and 1990s, you probably got a lot of nutrition messaging that demonized salt. Still today, we hear about how too much salt can raise your blood pressure and risk for heart disease and stroke. So, is salt bad? Should you limit your salt intake?
Sodium is responsible for several body processes, including muscle contraction, glucose absorption in the intestine, nerve function, fluid balance, and blood pressure. It’s important to maintain the right level of sodium so your body can perform these functions.
Both too little and too much salt is problematic. A recent review on the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2020) showed that staying between around 2,500-5,000 milligrams of sodium daily has the lowest risk for overall mortality. Chronic intake of too much sodium may increase risk for stomach cancer, inflammation, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. Too little sodium may lead to hyponatremia, which is low blood sodium. Symptoms include dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and nausea.
What does this mean for a climber?