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Active Expert: Nancy Clark RD CSSD

5 Posts tagged with the sodium tag

The ads suggest coconut water is the perfect sports drink. What do ya' think?


Coconut water is marketed as being “100% pure” and “all natural.” Almost true. It has only two ingredients: coconut water (the watery liquid inside a green coconut) -- but also quite a bit of vitamin C that has been added to the drink. Not "all natural."


Coconut water is naturally rich in potassium (good) but has a high price tag (about $3 for a 17-ounce carton; bad).


Here’s how it compares (in portions commonly consumed by thirsty athletes) to Gatorade and orange juice:




Serving size








Vitamin C


Coconut Water

(2 ingredients)


17-oz carton








350% DV




(12 ingredients)


20-ounce bottle










Orange Juice

(1 ingredient)


16 ounces











Because serious athletes have a higher need for sodium than potassium during sweaty exercise (and you will simply flush the excess vitamin C down the toilet), I’d suggest you choose a higher-sodium sports drink during endurance workouts and spend your money on orange juice and other natural foods afterwards. That is, unless you happen to prefer the taste and digestibility of coconut water, which research suggests is not always the case (1)


For more info on what to drink, check out the Fluids chapter in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.


1) Kalman, D, S Feldman, DKrieger, R Bloomer. Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolytesport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance inexercise-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2012; 9:1

1,912 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: fluids, sodium, nancy_clark, potassium, sports_drink, orange_juice, coconut_water

Nancy, I am training for a marathon. I know I should drink on my long runs but where I run, no water is available. Is there any way I can super-hydrate so I don't have to drink on the long runs?


No, you cannot super-hydrate. Your body is like a sponge and can absorb just so much fluid at one time. Then, it starts to seep. You can start your long runs fully hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids the day before. Drink enough so your urine is pale colored and you have to urinate at least every two to four hours.

On the day of the long run, drink plenty of fluids (water, juice, even coffee or tea are OK) up to 1.5 to 2 hours before the start of the run. Then stop drinking, so you’ll have plenty of time to eliminate the excess and hopefully avoid the need for an unwanted pit stop. Within 15 minutes before you start the long run, drink again to get water into your system.

To enhance fluid retention on the day of the long run, eat something salty with your pre-run breakfast. This will help keep water in your body.

     --Add some salt to your oatmeal.

     --Enjoy some chicken noodle soup.

     --Eat a bagel with peanut butter.

     --Have salted rice or potato.

These foods offer far more sodium than you will get from any sports drink. (Compare labels and you’ll discover 8 ounces of Gatorade has only 110 mg sodium, whereas a Thomas’s bagel has 400 to 500 milligrams sodium.)

I also suggest you hide bottles of sports drinks or water along the running route. Part of training is to train your intestinal tract. For you to go from drinking nothing during training to consuming fluid every 20 minutes during the marathon might be asking for transit trouble. Be wise and practice drinking during the long runs. You'll not only run better but will also recover better.

1,674 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: dehydration, marathon, salt, sodium, super-hydrate, drinking_for_long_runs


When you’ll be exercising in the heat for more than three or fours hours, you should pay attention to your sodium intake. You might be losing 400 to 1,500 milligrams of sodium per hour (depending on how much you sweat and the sodium-content of your sweat). If you are, let's say, biking for 5 to 8 hours, these losses can take a toll.


Although most sweaty athletes believe sports drinks are an exceptional source of sodium, sports drinks are actually low in sodium compared to many to many other foods.

Here are some portable snack ideas that can better boost your sodium intake. These salty suggestions will likely be a welcome flavor-change if you have been downing sweet gels, sports candies and sugary sports drinks for several hours.


Few of these options offer stellar nutrition, so limit them to during endurance events when your goal is to survive (as opposed to optimize your health!


Salty sports snacks that you can easily carry in a bike shirt pocket or backpack:

Portable snack


Sodium (mg)



8 oz




1 oz (5 crackers)



Pretzel Nibblers, Snyder’s

1 oz (16)



Ritz Bits

1-oz packet



Clif Mojo Sweet & Salty Trail Mix Bar

1 bar



Wheat Thins

1 oz (14 crackers)



Hard Pretzel, Snyder’s

1 (1 oz)



Pretzel-Thin Twists, Snyder’s

1 oz (11 twists)



V8 Juice

Small (5.5 oz) can



Red Oval Stoned What Thins

1 oz (4 crackers)



Pretzel sticks, Bachman

1-oz packet



Beef jerky, Jack Link’s

1 oz



Boiled potato + ¼ tsp salt

1 medium



Pretzel Rod, Rold Gold

1 rod (1 oz)



Lunchable, Cracker Stacker Ham + American

1 packet



Chicken Bouillon cube, Herb-Ox

1 cube




Information from food labels, May 2011


For additional information on replacing sweat losses; Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook

2,305 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: sweat, sodium, nancy_clark, endurance_exercise, sports_snacks

Generally not. When you exercise, you lose some electrolytes via sweat, but you are unlikely to deplete your body’s stores under ordinary circumstances. For example, you can easily replace the 200-600 milligrams of potassium you might lose in an hour of hard training by eating a medium to large banana (450-600 mg potassium). You can also easily replace the 800-1,400 mg sodium lost in two pounds of sweat by enjoying some spaghetti with tomato sauce or some chocolate milk with a bagel and peanut butter. Athletes who do need to worry about replacing electrolytes include those who will be sweating hard for more than three or four hours.

     Keep in mind, most health organizations recommend we reduce our sodium intake, given the average American diet contains more than enough sodium! A high sodium intake leads to high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke...


Sodium in Popular Recovery Foods

            Food                                                             Sodium (mg)

            Pizza, 1/2 of 12 in., DiGiorno cheese             2,490

            Chicken noodle soup, 1 can Campbell's         2,350

            Ramen noodles, Maruchan, 1 packet             1,580

            Spaghetti sauce, 1 cup Ragu                        1,160

            Salt, 1 small packet                                       590

            Pretzels, 1 oz (30 g) Rold Gold thins               560

            Bagel, 1 Thomas' New York style (3.7 oz)        540

            American cheese, 1 slice Kraft                       250

            Cheerios, 1 cup multigrain                              200

            Fruit yogurt, 6 oz (180 ml)                             60-120

            Bread, 1 slice Pepperidge Farm hearty slice    190

            Saltine crackers, 5 (0.5 oz)                            180

            Potato chips, 20 Lay's                                   180

            Gatorade, 8 oz (240 ml)                                 110

            Endurolytes (electrolytes), 1 capsule              100

            Powerade, 8 oz (240 ml)                                  70

            Beer, 12 oz (355 ml) can                                 15

            Coke, 12 oz (355 ml) can                                10

            Orange juice, 8 oz (240 ml)                               5

            Potential loss in a 2 hr workout                 1,000-2,000



For more information about sodium, potassium and electrolytes, see:

Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook

Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions

Food Guide for New Runners: Getting It Right From the Start

1,549 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: sweat, sodium, potassium, electrolytes, sweat_losses, endurance_exercise

The hot weather has (finally) come to Boston and most endurance athletes aren’t use to it yet. Here are a few tips for managing the heat.


--Be sure to not only drink enough fluids during exercise but also add a little sodium to your pre-exercise stint in the heat if you plan to be outside for a a few hours. The sodium helps retain the fluids in your body (as opposed to have plain water go in one end and out the other). This can help delay dehydration and enhance your endurance.


While on a daily basis you might want to minimize your sodium intake, a little extra salt before hot weather exercise can be a wise choice.Some possible choices are chicken noodle soup (or any canned brothy soup), V-8 juice, salted pretzels, baked chips, olives, pickles, ham and cheese sandwich with mustard – or  any salted/salty food, before you go. This might be a change in eating habits for health-conscious endurance athletes who cook their oatmeal without salt, rarely eat canned or processed foods, and have no salt shaker on the dinner table.


You might lose 500 to 800+ mg sodium per pound of sweat. (Weigh yourself pre and post exercise to figure our how many pounds of sweat you lose in an hour.) While you need not get obsessed about replacing sodium milligram for milligram, reading food labels can give you a frame of reference regarding how much you replace with your food choices. For example--

    A can of chicken noodle soup offers 2,350 mg sodium

    A quart of Gatorade offers 440 mg sodium

    Eight ounces of orange juice has only 5 mg


Generally, if you crave salt, you should eat salt.

Enjoy that pretzel!




For more information:

The chapter on Replacing Sweat Losses in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook offers more information.

2,281 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: nutrition, dehydration, endurance, heat, sodium, nancy_clark, hot_weather, pre-exercise, salt_for_athletes

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Member since: Jul 8, 2007

Hi! I specialize in nutrition for exercise, and help active people figure out how to manage food, weight, exercise, energy and enjoyment of eating. Let me know if you have any questions!

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