Now, I’ll preface this by saying I have no medical background whatsoever so please consult a medical expert if you have any concerns about your own mineral levels rather than self-diagnose.
Recently I was diagnosed with a few mineral deficiencies, including very low sodium levels. Low sodium levels in the blood is also known as hyponatraemia and, amongst other things, can cause nausea, tiredness, unconsciousness, muscle cramps and death. Whilst I have always been conscious of this condition as I have read plenty of articles about marathon runners and endurance athletes suffering during an event, it was something I hadn’t really associated with myself – despite being the prime candidate for it.
I’m very careful with my diet, I track my macros, I drink upwards of 3L of water per day, I eat nutritious food and avoid processed food like the plague, so on the whole I feel like I am doing fairly well with my diet and leading a nutritious life. However eating a relatively healthy diet does unfortunately mean that I lose out on easy-access to salt foods (ie. crisps, salted nuts, processed meats) plus I don’t add salt to my vegetables or food when cooking (my papa will be horrified when he finds out!) and I am rather obsessive with my meal planning so I essentially eat the same food every single day. Combine a healthy diet with somewhere between 8-12 hours of exercise per week, and therefore a lot of sweating, and you have the perfect recipe for someone who will be feeling weak, nauseous, irritable and all-round exhausted due to a lack of salt in their blood.
I knew something wasn’t quite right with how my body was feeling but assumed this was low iron or potassium levels which is something I’m all too familiar with. So to be told that I now need to add an entire teaspoon of salt into my diet each day is proving to be quite the task. When you think about it, a teaspoon of salt is a huge quantity to disguise in food, especially as I need to start adding it as soon as I wake up…which means my beloved porridge has now become victim to a salt invasion. I thought this would taste grim, but actually as I made my way through the bowl it became quite palatable and interesting. It did leave my mouth feeling salty for the rest of the morning though which isn’t quite so great and left me wanting even more water, which I obviously now have to monitor.
And whilst I’m still quite averse to junk food, I am coming round to the idea of needing to be more flexible in what I eat on a daily basis and perhaps a packet of crisps won’t actually cause the world to end. I also now have a bucket load of vitamins I need to start taking on a daily basis, which for someone who cannot swallow tablets without causing the biggest scene in the world, is proving to be quite the nightmare. Oh, and then there’s that small issue of figuring out what I’m going to fuel myself with during my races to ensure I keep my sodium levels up (if you have any good ideas, please let me know).
Here’s to a saltier future!