No. Most of us, who exercise regularly but are not elite athletes, cannot tack salt onto our diets, says Martha Gulati, M.D., director of preventive cardiology and women’s cardiovascular health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who wrote Saving Women’s Hearts. The reality: Unless we complete significantly strenuous exercise, such as fitness lasting more than a few hours (for example, a marathon or other endurance sport), most of us do not drastically deplete enough fluids and need to replenish the body with huge amounts of sodium. Excessive sodium in the diet leads to high blood pressure, a leading heart-disease risk factor.
“Intense athletes, who lose a significant amount of fluids, or people who sweat excessively, may need sodium supplementation,” says Dr. Gulati. “But the average person clocking a sweat session can adequately replenish with a glass or two of water. The average exerciser does not lose as much fluid as he or she thinks.” Sports drinks can be loaded with sugar and sodium, adds Dr. Gulati, and were invented with elite athletes in mind.
Getting in a workout certainly doesn’t afford more sodium in your diet, such that each day you exercise you splurge on a cheeseburger and fries. American Heart Association’s new dietary recommendation for all Americans (regardless of health status and ethnicity) is to limit daily sodium to 1,500 mg.
Bread and rolls were recently voted the top dietary sodium culprit by the American Heart Association, on its “Salty Six” list, as well as by the CDC on its list of foods highest in sodium. (It’s not that each slice is tremendously high in salt, but that Americans tend to eat lots of bread and rolls throughout the day, accumulating sodium servings). Count the roll, the cheese (also high-sodium) and the pickles (also high-sodium) of a burger, and you likely get around 1,000 mg of sodium. Throw in an order of French fries and ketchup (containing about 167 mg of sodium per tablespoon) and you’re likely going over your daily salt limit, in one meal. Overall, exercise alone is not the most fail-proof strategy for healthy living — but rather, exercise combined with a healthy diet is a more solid strategy. If you’d like to find additional support for limiting sodium in your diet, check out one of these three free apps or this new, free AHA online program.
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