As a bodybuilder, one has to adapt completely to the bodybuilder lifestyle, this obviously includes periodic workouts, periods of rest, and not any less important – the bodybuilder diet.
Food items such as pasta, bananas, and proteins regularly find their way into the bodybuilder’s diet. Today we talk about salt – that white crystalline that you’ve heard a hundred bad things about.
If you google for bodybuilding recipes or diets, you are highly likely to run into chefs and bodybuilding coaches advising very little to no use of salt in your diet. And furthermore, a ton of bodybuilders will warn you about it too!
So, why do bodybuilders avoid salt?
Bodybuilders typically avoid salt because it makes you look fatter, increases your blood pressure, increases your risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis, and can make you bloated. While salt is necessary, it is important we stick to the recommended dietary guidelines of around 2300mg of salt so we aren’t putting our health or physique at risk.
What exactly is salt and what role does it play in your body? How much does your body need it and what quantities must you avoid? Keep reading to find out!
What Exactly is Salt?
Table salt or common salt or just salt is a commonly used food substance used to add flavor and binding to recipes and dishes. Chemically speaking salt is called sodium chloride, since it’s made up of sodium and chlorine. Table salt belongs to a big group of chemicals called salts. The salt we use in food is just the most common member of that group.
Salt generally contains about 40% sodium and 60% chlorine. We also commonly associate salt with killing bacteria. Many common varieties of bacteria that plague our foods can not thrive in high amounts of salt, which is why salt is used to protect many foods.
When it comes to eating salt, you do not really need to go looking for it in a similar way as proteins or carbohydrates.
Salt is so commonly found in food items that it kind of finds you on its own.
Most fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, and cereals have salt, although the quantities are quite low.
According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, bread rolls, pizza and sandwiches are considered the top three food items that are responsible for high sodium content in people’s circulatory systems.
Role of Salt in The Human Body
Next, let us take a look at the different functions of salt in the human body. This helps you make a better-informed decision regarding intake levels of salt in your diet.
- The first and arguably the most important function of salt is water retention. Sodium, which is found in salt, is responsible for keeping the water and managing its levels inside and and outside the body’s cells. This is an incredibly important function. WIthout salt, the cells would die of ‘thirst’ and with too much salt, blood pressure may shoot up.
- Next, sodium also plays an incredible role in keeping your muscles working. It regulates neuro-muscular coordination and prevents muscular cramps at the same time. If you do not have enough amounts of sodium ions in the body, it could pose serious problems in this area.
- Last but not the least, salt is also responsible at multiple stages in the digestive process. It triggers secretion of certain digestive enzymes and also helps in formation of hydrochloric acid that aids in digestion. Salt even helps in absorption of digested food through the villi.
With so many important functions, eating salt must be a good thing right? Well, not exactly. We discuss this in the next section.
Why Bodybuilders Avoid Salt
Despite the important roles that salt plays in the human body – from water retention in the blood to preventing muscle cramps, eating too much salt is bad for your health. This is the reason why most bodybuilders like to avoid salt.
As we mentioned earlier, salt is found in most food items – remember it doesn’t have to taste salty to have salt in it, and therefore just by regular eating most people can fulfill their daily recommended values of salt.
You do not have to go out of your way to include salt in your diet. Let’s look at some ill effects of a salt-rich diet.
- It increases water retention: Sodium, a mineral found in salt, regulates the amount of water in the blood. If you eat too much salt, the amount of water level in your blood gradually increases. This can lead to many problems. For one, it can actually make you look fatter. We know that looking fat is probably the last thing that you, as a bodybuilder, would want to do.
- It thickens the blood: We talked of increased water levels in the previous point. Well, that naturally leads to this point. The extra content in the blood vessels means the blood will be thicker. This also means that the blood vessels will now have to work harder. Blood vessels end up developing thicker walls, which means their lumen decreases. Basically means the ability of the blood vessel to carry blood is reduced.
- It leads to increased blood pressure: The heart is a muscular organ. It pumps blood to serve all the different organs of the body. When the blood is thin, it is easier to pump and push around the body. Now imagine that a lot of water has made blood excessively thick. This means that the heart has to push harder. All this leads to increased blood pressure in the vessels.
- It makes the job of kidneys tougher: Kidneys play a very important role in our bodies. They are responsible for filtering the blood. Cells keep throwing all kinds of waste materials into the blood. Kidneys filter it out. The only waste material that kidneys do not filter out is carbon dioxide, which is removed by the lungs. Extra water in the blood means kidneys have to work harder to filter the blood.
How Much Salt Should You Take?
Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating not more than 2.3 grams of salt in a day. As a bodybuilder, that is an incredibly high number.
We recommend avoiding putting extra salt on things. Use other seasonings for your foods such as black pepper, avoid salt. The amounts of sodium you need to function properly are already found in natural foods and you should stick to the dietary guidelines.
Salt is one of the oldest food seasonings humans know of. It also plays an important role in food preservation since salting can ward off bacteria.
As an addition to our diets, we require very little amounts and when it comes to bodybuilders, the amount of salt you add to or season your food with should be even less.
We already discussed the ill-effects of salt and why it gets such a bad rap in the bodybuilding community. It can make you look bloated, fatter, increase your blood pressure, and increase your risk of heart disease. It is simply not good for you. Keep the levels low, use other kinds of seasoning for your foods, and you should be good.