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You have probably heard that too much sodium is not good. Excess sodium has been linked to diseases such as kidney, heart failure, and fluid retention, among other conditions. This means you must monitor your sodium intake.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 2,300mg of sodium is enough for you daily. Any amount past that is likely to hurt your body. But do you need more sodium on a keto diet? Is reducing salt always the best advice? This article takes you through on everything you need to know about sodium on a keto diet. So, continue reading to learn more.
What Is Sodium?
First, sodium is an electrolyte. We consume it in dietary form from sodium chloride, which people commonly refer to as table salt. So, each time you add salt to your food, know that you are consuming sodium.
It is good to note that the average blood sodium level is between 135 and 145 Med/l.
Why Does Your Body Need Sodium?
Electrolytes are very beneficial to our bodies. As an electrolyte, sodium also supports your body in many ways and especially in maintaining your body balance. Below are the different roles of sodium in our bodies:
Regulate Your Blood Pressure
Sodium, together with other minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium, play a major role in regulating blood pressure. Sodium regulates blood pressure by attracting water. This means if you take too much salt, it raises the volume of water in the blood. This increases volume in the circulation, which puts pressure on the walls of arteries, increases the blood pressure.
On the other hand, a low intake of sodium decreases blood pressure. This is because there is less water in the blood.
But why is it some people take more salt without seeing an increase in their blood pressure? According to a study done in 2015, it revealed there are some people who are more sensitive to sodium than others. Another study still revealed that people with a variation in their GNAI2 gene are more likely to be salt-sensitive. That simply explains why excess sodium will increase blood pressure in some people and not others.
Maintains Muscle and Nerve Function
The other reason why your body needs sodium is that it helps your nerve cells maintain communication. As an electrolyte, sodium makes sure the signal sent by your nerve cells enable your muscles to contract. This contraction of muscles is what results in our bodies maintaining the right posture, heat production, and joint stability.
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle weakness
Helps with Fetal Development
nausea and vomiting. Too much vomiting during pregnancy is very risky as it leads to electrolyte imbalances through the loss of body fluid.
Sodium is one of the electrolytes lost when a woman experiences severe vomiting during pregnancy. The loss of sodium during pregnancy is linked to low birth weight. Basically, sodium intake is vital during pregnancy.
Prevents Insulin Resistance
Did you know talking less salt increases your risk of insulin resistance? But how? Taking less sodium activates your renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system or RAAS, which regulates your blood pressure, electrolyte balance, and body fluid.
Studies have shown that activating the RAAS could predispose a person to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. This simply shows how crucial sodium is in your body.
When to Monitor Your Sodium Intake
One man’s meat is another man’s poison. As you enjoy adding salt to your meal, there are other people out there who are likely monitoring sodium intake. In most cases, medical conditions force most people to watch their sodium intake. Below are some conditions that require you to monitor your sodium intake:
Edema is a condition that results due to the accumulation of excess sodium and fluids within body tissues. This happen often happen to people with kidney problems because their kidneys cannot remove excess sodium and fluids from their bodies. So, if you have a kidney problem, you may want to talk to your doctor about sodium intake.
A weak heart cannot pump enough blood throughout the body, and this results in sluggish blood circulation. Your kidneys sense the reduced flow and compensate for the lack of blood volume by retaining more sodium and fluid instead. This is why you will find people with heart problems often have edema.
Therefor regulating sodium intake help manage heart failure, which further helps the heart not to work so hard.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Any hypertension patient can benefit by reducing sodium intake, which further reduces blood volumes hence keeping blood pressure under control.
The benefits of sodium on a keto diet
Do you need more sodium or less when keto?
At the start, your body needs more sodium. This is because once you start following a keto diet, your body flushes out more sodium and water. So, unless your doctor recommends taking less salt, it advisable to increase your salt intake.
Again, it is crucial to note that your body starts to lose electrolyte immediately once you reduce your dietary carbs.
This is what happens; once you cut back on carbs intake, this results in a decrease in the amount of the hormone insulin as well as the level of glucose in your body. Once your body senses a decrease in blood sugar, you go into ketosis where glycogen is converted back into glucose and enters your bloodstream.
In your muscle and liver cells, glycogen binds to water molecules; each gram of glycogen is associated with at least 3 grams of water. Now, as your glycogen stores diminish through a low-carb diet, your body excretes more water, which can cause more urination and fluid loss.
We mentioned that insulin levels decrease when on keto. Insulin is associated with sodium retention; thus, lower insulin levels equal to less sodium retention.
You will also be losing electrolytes through your urine, one of which is sodium.
What happens when your sodium levels are disrupted?
Disrupting sodium levels in your body results in an unpleasant result, commonly referred by many people as keto symptoms. These symptoms are so nasty that they force most people to quit keto.
While sodium is associated with some health conditions, neglecting it while following a keto diet is not a good idea. Here is how sodium helps you in your keto journey:
Keep potassium in balance
Just like your body needs sodium dearly, it also needs potassium to control blood sugar, regulate fluid balance, and aid in muscle contractions. Now, if on a low sodium diet, your kidney will tend to eliminate potassium as well.
Prevent muscle cramps
Muscle cramps are very painful and can last for several minutes. Often, they occur, especially during workouts because of low sodium levels in our bodies. So, adding sodium in your diet will save you from the agony of muscle cramps.
Another benefit of adding sodium while on a keto diet is that it relieves headaches. While headaches can be caused by other factors such as dehydration, low sodium levels when on keto is also a leading cause of headaches.
One downside of being on keto is that you often feel tired during the first week of keto. Being fatigue can affect your performance and focus. Additionally, fatigue is one of the common keto flu symptoms caused by sodium deficiency.
Electrolytes and Sodium Imbalance on The Ketogenic Diet?
Loss of electrolyte is prevalent in a low carb diet, such as a keto diet. Burning through your stored glycogen leads to an increase in water loss. Again, glycogen is bound to water molecules, which means more water exceted by your kidneys. And since sodium goes with water, you lose it plus other electrolytes such as potassium.
How Much Sodium Do You Need on a Keto Diet?
You are not alone if this question is giving you sleepless nights. Fortunately, we have the answer to this question.
First, it is good to understand that a well-formulated keto diet requires a daily sodium intake of 3,000 to 5,000 mg or about 1-2 teaspoons of table salt. Although how much sodium you to take each day can vary, it is prudent to be within the above range.
For example, if you are an athlete and sweat a lot during your intense workout, 3,000 mg of sodium is too low for you. In fact, studies have shown that higher rates of sweating increase an athlete’s likelihood of experiencing cramps.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at how you can increase your keto salt intake.
Salt to Your Taste
We have already seen that you need about 1 -2 teaspoons of table salt daily. This is on top of the sodium already contained in many foods. This means you may not need to add 1-2 teaspoons of salt on top of your normal sodium intake.
Snack on Something Salty
Today there are many snacks to enjoy and help you avoid the keto flu symptoms. See the list below for more information.
- Pork skins (100 grams) = 1, 838 mg sodium
- Dry roasted macadamia nuts with salt (1 cup) = 350 mg sodium
- Bacon bits, meatless (100 grams) = 1, 770 mg sodium
- Beef jerky, chopped and formed (1 piece, large) = 443 mg sodium
- Salted Dry roasted almonds (1 cup) = 468 mg sodium
Drink Bone Broth
Another alternative is drinking bone broth, which is a healthy soup that provides macronutrients that can help prevent electrolyte imbalance on keto. No to mention that bone broth is a source of sodium; 100 grams (100 ml) of bone broth made from beef bones, chicken liver, and spices contain 116 mg of sodium.
Additionally, 100 ml of bone broth provides:
- 1 mg calcium
- 3 mg iron
- 1 mg magnesium
- 156 mg potassium
- 3 mg zinc
Take Ketone Salts
Including an exogenous ketone supplement can help boost your ketone levels, which encourages your body to enter into ketosis.
If you consume ketone salt, a ketone body bound to minerals such as salt, you will be able to increase your sodium intake as well.
Go for A Sugar-Free Electrolyte Drink
You may have come across concerns raised about sugary drinks. Now instead of trying those drinks, why not make your own low-sugar electrolyte drink at home by mixing the following:
- Lemon or lime juice
- Your tea of choice
- Powdered stevia
- Pink Himalayan salt (¼ teaspoon = 575 mg sodium)
Take ½ Teaspoon of Salt Before A Workout
We have already seen the impact of sweating during a workout. In fact, studies have shown a person can sweat as much as 10-12 liters per day and that sweat contains sodium. Taking ½ teaspoon of salt 30 minutes before your exercise will, therefore, help mitigate sodium loss.
Going keto affects electrolyte levels. This happens because of the reduce carbs intake resulting in your body utilizing stored glycogen, which is a large part of water.
Sodium is a very significant electrolyte and controls many significant functions in our body.
Low sodium levels result in what is commonly known as keto symptoms, which are very unpleasant. The best way to mitigate those symptoms is by bumping up your sodium intake.