Salt Tablets used during endurance events & avoid the most common mistakes

Salt tablets

What are they?

Salt tablets, or salt pills, are made of buffered sodium chloride

Sweat is sweaty.

Sports drinks often contain sodium (salt) which has been shown to improve performance compared to plain water.

The problem is some sports drinks do not contain enough salt to replace the salt lost when sweating while some products will help to achieve optimum performance.


Looking at scientific studies and from my own personal experience and coaching athletes of all ages and abilities I strongly believe that salt tablets should be used in temperatures above 85 degrees and especially in multi-stage endurance events like the marathon des sables.

Sports products available include Clif Electroyte powder or Gatorade or Salt Sticks or  Lava Salt Tablets or Zero tablets

There is no extra benefit from taking too much salt via tablets or sports drinks.

Sodium will increase the rate of fluid from the gut to the blood stream & reduce the possibility of dehydration occurring.

A common mistake is to have just salt tablets; they do not contain carbohydrate so the athlete can slow down due to 2 factors

(1) Carbohydrate is required to help fluid absorption

(2) Sodium (Salt Tablets) can help with a higher blood volume required for optimum sporting performance because it allows help body temperature from rising which if gets out of control interferes with the ability.

In some studies high salt intake did not show any improvement in sporting performance compared to a low salt intake.

Cardiac drift still occurs irrespective of the amount of salt intake.

Salt Tablets

They can cause water to be pulled from the surrounding body tissues which is vital for endurance activity.

Stomach cramps nausea and even vomiting can occur if the athlete fails to have enough water or if the athlete drinks excess water which can dilute sodium from the blood stream.

Sodium (Na) is the positive element found in extracellular fluid and is a vital ingredient to maintain correct balance and allow nerve impulses to occur.


Mistakes to avoid when taking salt tablets

Taking all the salt tablets allocated at the start of the event rather than hourly

Taking salt tablets every hour meticulously despite erratic fluid intake varying from 500ml; to 1.5 litres per hour. Salt should be taken based on fluid consumption.

More salt is not better and has not been shown to improve performance.

Salt tablets can help prevent “Hyponatremia” a condition caused by dinking too much plain water combined with excessive sweating that can be fatal.

Symptoms include swollen hands feet head aches muscle cramping stomach bloating and can result in seizure and even death.

Drinking too much water should be avoided, more than 800 ml per hour.

Mark is a competitor of 1,050 races world wide inlcuding 75 marathons numerus 24 to 48 hour events plus the marathon des sables in 2014 (204th overall) 

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