When it comes to sodium, most Americans aren't really deficient. In fact, people are generally consuming excess sodium, thanks to larger portions, fast food, and dining out. Even your "healthy" packaged foods today are sneakily high in sodium. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300 mg of salt a day (although 1500 mg is ideal); however, most people are taking in over 3400 mg.
And, it's not just from processed foods. For instance, canned goods, like beans, tomato sauce, fish, and soups, as well as dairy products, like cottage cheese, are really high in sodium. So, while they are healthy, you're easily reaching your daily recommended amount, without even knowing it.
Still, though, there are times where you might need a little extra salt in the diet. And if so, you might want to try these gourmet cooking salts for different flavors and textures when cooking.
So, why might this happen? You could be deficient in salt if you're highly active, as your body loses salt through sweat when exercising. Without replenishing with electrolytes and salty foods or beverages afterwards, you run the risk of not repairing damaged muscles or bringing the body back to balance.
What's more, even if you aren't an avid runner, you could still be too low in sodium if you're used to restricting salty foods to a certain extent. The best way to tell is to look for signs from your body, signaling that you might need to give the salt shaker an extra little jiggle.
Your Sweat Is Salty
According to Maggie Moon, MS, RDN, CLT, if your salt tastes salty, it could mean you're losing too much sodium and your body is looking to hold onto a bit more in order to stay in balance. A great way to tell is if you lick your shoulder on a hot day or when you're exercising. Or, if you are sweating during a workout, and your eyes start burning, that also means you're sweating out salt at a faster rate.
There's White On Your Clothing
Similarly enough, if you are sweating out salt when exercising, you might notice white stains or marks on your sports bra or tank top afterwards. This will be especially visible if you're wearing darker clothing. (Take note: while it could be deodorant, it can very well be salt, so give it a sniff to see.)
If you start to feel cramping in your legs, and you're unsure why, check your diet. This is especially true if you start to feel cramps during a workout or shortly after, as it could mean you're deficient in sodium and at risk for hyponatremia, which occurs when sodium levels are too low. And, FYI, it can be pretty dangerous if left untreated, so if you're going for a workout for more than an hour in the heat, have a salty snack before or bring a sports drink with you, says Moon. A great replenisher? Coconut water.
Dizziness & Nausea
It's not just your legs and muscles that start to go weak, but also your brain gets tired, leaving you lightheaded and nauseated, in more severe cases, says Moon. This loss in focus and memory function can occur with other conditions, though, so check to see if you have other symptoms of sodium deficiency before making a diagnosis. And, you can still always reach for a salty snack and see if it helps.
Drinking Too Much Water
Drinking water is so important, as it flushes your body out and promotes weight management and better skin, while keeping you hydrated. However, if you're drinking too much, you could be flushing out all the sodium your body does actually need, says Moon. Think about your workouts: if you're chugging water (without electrolytes) throughout your workout, you run the risk of depleting electrolyte levels. And, consider during the day: if you're drinking a liter of water every hour or so, you're overdoing it.