Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Salty Situation

Every now and then you consume a little more of something than you had intended.  Maybe you saw it coming, maybe you didn't, but it happened (or was going to happen) regardless.  This kind of situation is a very common one in the diet world, and honestly, I think it usually falls into one of two categories.  You either eat too much sugar, or too much salt.  The first one I'll discuss in a later article, however I wanted to cover the necessary steps to take if you find yourself overdosing on sodium, as I happened to do this weekend (though somewhat intentionally.)

Now I knew that this weekend I would be training with my coach down in Eliot, Maine for two days, and would be spending the night in the gym.  Not wanting to break the bank on eating out, I decided to pack some food.  I only had one small suitcase, and no cooler or anything like that, so my options were limited.  Not only that, but I'd be training quite hard, therefore I knew I needed quality protein and carbs and PLENTY of each.  Can you guess the most convenient food packing option here?  That's right...CANNED FOOD.  Into my suitcase I threw two giant cans of tuna (10 oz), two giant cans of chicken (also 10 oz), a four pack of 5 oz tuna cans, and a 4 serving can of black beans (I also packed some oatmeal for breakfast, and had a wholelotta whey protein).  Every single one of these foods is AWESOMELY clean and has an epic nutritional profile, except for one little blip, which of course, would be the sodium.  Holy moley, that was a boatload of salt.  Somewhere around 2000 mg per meal if I calculated it correctly.  That's about 85% of my daily recommended intake.  What was I to do in order to battle such a crippling dosage of salt?

Well, the first thing to remember is that you cannot destroy your body (or your diet) in one or two days, no matter what you do.  It just doesn't work like that.  You won't wake up twenty pounds lighter just because you had an awesome workout the day before, and you won't wake up a fat lard the next day if you had one extra slice of cake.  Diets are about long term results, and the same goes for sodium.  Sure, if you consume a lot of it one day by accident, you'll probably retain a lot of water and feel (and look) pretty bloated.  But your heart won't stop, your blood pressure won't skyrocket, and you won't die.  Phew!  Now that we got that out of the way, let's see what I did to minimize the huge salt intake on my body.  

Firstly, if you're going to consume huge portions of salt, you need to consume even larger portions of WATER!  That's right, I probably drank two gallons each of those days.  Drinking more water will actually cause you to retain less, and will also do wonders in helping your kidneys filter out all those extra minerals.  Chug that stuff like there's no tomorrow.  I had at least two bottles of it with every meal (6 meals), as well as two bottles worth in my pre and post workout shakes.  DO NOT STOP DRINKING WATER.  I saw very minimal water retention, and I think drowning myself in the stuff did the trick.  Obviously don't drink past a semi-comfortable level, but don't be afraid to stick your head under the sink and go to town.  

Second thing to do?  Consume more POTASSIUM.  The sodium/potassium ratio in your body is a very important one, and must be respected.  In an ideal situation the ratio should be 1:1, meaning for every milligram of sodium you take in, you should have one milligram of potassium to match it.  The reasoning for this goes down to the cellular level, however without getting too complicated I'll just say that sodium and potassium are both EQUALLY responsible for ensuring proper hydration of your body, and without the correct balance you're in for trouble.  Potassium actually helps regulate the amount of sodium your body retains, so consuming more may ensure that you don't hold on to that crazy salt dosage.  It'll also help combat the hypertension inducing effects of sodium, lowering blood pressure considerably.  No matter your sodium intake, it's usually a good idea to make sure to eat potassium rich foods on a regular basis.  This goes even more-so if you're regularly physically active.  While I suggest whole foods such as bananas for this purpose, another easy way to get more potassium quickly is to consume a sports drink like Powerade or Gatorade (my solution for this weekend.)  

Despite a pile of salty food this weekend, I kept my diet clean and my body happy by counteracting the effects of excess sodium intake.  A little too much salt every now and then is no reason to fret, as long as you don't make it a habit.  Keep conscience of your sodium intake, and take the simple steps listed above in order to ensure it doesn't get out of hand.  

Eat big, train hard, drink LOTS OF WATER!  Good luck!

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