Salty Sweater? Use These Tips for Hydration for Running

The recommended water intake for athletes may vary if you’re a salty sweater. This article will describe proper hydration for runners, different high-sodium products, and how to form a hydration plan.

blue sports drink with pair of running shoes

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The human body is around 60% water. As a person acquires more lean muscle mass, their water percentage actually increases, which highlights the importance of proper hydration to maintain optimal performance.

Water balance is incredibly important, especially for the brain, heart, and muscles, and obviously, performance of exercise.

A general rule of thumb for hydration is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water or other noncaloric beverages per day.

Hydration for running will likely include increased measures, depending on activity and sweat rate.

For example, a 160 pound athlete will need to drink a minimum of 80 oz. per day. Additional fluids and electrolytes for running will likely be needed before, during, and after exercise as well.

Thinking about all of these things is imperative for hydration for runners and hydration during long runs.

runner with a red hydration vest on

Signs You May be a Salty Sweater

Here are some signs you may be a salty sweater and may need to hone in on your hydration for running more carefully.

  • Salt on skin after running
  • Sweat that stings your eyes or cuts
  • White streaks on your clothes, face or hat
  • Your sweat tastes salty
  • You may feel dizzy, or faint when standing

Sound like you? If so, make sure you are taking electrolyte products in and around exercise, and likely during your normal day too.

The next thing to do is to determine your sweat rate.

blue shirt with salty sweat on it

How to Determine Sweat Rate

Since we are all individuals and have our differences, we all have varying sweat rates.

Our sweat rate is dependent on many factors, such as body weight, genetics, heat acclimatization, and metabolism, and our sweat rate can help determine our fluid needs.

We have a few ways that we can estimate sweat rate, and here’s a great resource from Ironman about calculating your sweat rate.

Hydration needs for running can be practically determined by measuring body weight. After you wake up in the morning and after urinating, weigh yourself naked. Do this for three consecutive mornings and monitor your average weight of the three days.

You can then plug those numbers into the GSSI Fluid Loss Calculator to estimate how much fluid you lose per hour.

fluid loss calculator from GSSI website

Hydration status can also be determined by checking your urine color. Urine can range from light yellow to dark yellow or almost brown.

Leaning towards a light yellow indicates proper hydration; whereas, a darker yellow indicates dehydration and the need to consume more fluids.

8 color scale urine chart

However, measuring your sweat rate using the methods above (weighing and urine) doesn’t tell you the quantity of electrolytes you are losing in sweat.

The main electrolyte we are concerned about in endurance exercise is sodium. Other electrolytes include magnesium (more info on magnesium for runners), potassium and chloride.

If you are someone who has a high sweat rate (1 liter or more per hour) or you are a salty sweater (can see/feel/taste salt on your skin and clothes after a workout), you might benefit from determining your electrolyte levels also to help determine a proper hydration plan for running.

Electrolytes in Sweat

We all lose different amounts of sodium in our sweat, from as little as 200mg per liter of sweat, to as much as 2,000mg per liter. Again, this is a large range with many determinants, a main one being genetics.

If you are losing high amounts of sodium and not adequately replacing that sodium during exercise (i.e. you are only drinking water or you are only drinking products with low sodium), this can result in a serious condition known as hyponatremia.

Sodium loss through sweating and the development of hyponatremia will primarily occur during strenuous exercise lasting more than 4 hours, such as a marathon or ultramarathon.

Methods to Measure Salt in your Sweat

  • One method to test the sodium, or salt, in your sweat is to use a test such as the Gatorade sweat test. This is something you would purchase and use at home on your own. You wear it while exercising and it measures your fluid loss, sweat rate, and sodium loss. It then gives you a personalized plan for how to best hydrate in the future. Reviews are mixed on the efficacy and usability of the app, but it can at least help bring awareness to your sweat concentration.
  • Another option is to go into a performance training center, or a Precision Hydration location, and have them measure your sweat rate. This option may be limited for many people based on location. They also have an online sweat test, although it won’t be able to tell you how much sodium you are losing through sweat during exercise.

I also recommend working one-on-one with a sports dietitian to help you determine a hydration and electrolyte plan if you are struggling with hydration or dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, muscle cramps, etc.

runner stretching arms on greenway

Practical Tips for Hydration for Salty Sweaters

There are many general recommendations for adequate hydration before, during and after exercise, which we review in our guide to hydration for running.

Again, these are general guides for water intake for athletes, which means they may not apply to everyone, especially someone with a high sweat rate or high sodium loss rate.

Guidelines for Water intake for Athletes

Before exercise:

  • 500 to 600 ml (17 to 20 oz) of water or a sports drink 2 to 3 hours before exercise
  • 200 to 300 ml (7 to 10 oz) of water or a sports drink 10 to 20 minutes before exercise
  • pre-hydrate to produce a light colored urine

During exercise:

  • Drink before you are thirsty
  • Drink a couple of sips or gulps (approx. 4-8 oz. water or sports drink) every 15-20 minutes
  • Train yourself to drink during exercise if this is new to you
  • Aim to consume 500 to 1000mg or more sodium per hour
  • Consider fueling with carbohydrates for activity lasting more than an hour, such as long-distance running

After exercise:

  • Aim to drink 16-24 oz. water or sports drink for every pound of body weight lost during exercise. The best way to estimate this is to weigh yourself naked before and after runs.
  • Consume salty snacks or foods
  • Continue with hydration and electrolyte replacement, especially if you’re a salty sweater

Athletes who lose large volumes of sweat should consider ingesting additional sodium in the form of sports drinks with greater sodium content or bars, gels, electrolyte powders, salty snacks or tablets that provide extra sodium.

Hydration Refueling Chart

Weight lost (lbs.)Fluids lost (ounces)Sodium lost
116500 mg
2321000 mg
3481500 mg
4642000 mg
5802500 mg
6963000 mg

High Sodium Sports Products for Salty Sweater Runners

Consider one or more of these products to assist with replenishing your high sodium needs.

green, purple and red electrolyte drinks

Salt in Your Daily Diet

It’s quite common for athletes to worry about taking in too much sodium, especially since that is a typical message we get in our general culture. Many people with hypertension do have to monitor sodium in their diets.

However, as an endurance athlete, unless you have high blood pressure or a genetic predisposition for high blood pressure, athletes typically do not need to worry about their high sodium intake causing any changes in their blood pressure.

It is most important to adequately hydrate with fluids and electrolytes in order to avoid dehydration, hyponatremia, and other dehydration-related consequences while exercising, especially for long distance, endurance exercise.

Know that many of the gels and chews on the market for long distance running aren’t always super high in sodium. We broke down some of the best energy chews for running

High Salt Food Products

It can be helpful to regularly salt your food and include some higher salt items in your diet.

  • Salted nuts/nut butters
  • Soups and broths
  • V8 juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Pickles or pickle juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Soy sauce
  • Sauerkraut (great for gut health and runner’s gut too!)

If you found this post on needs for salty sweaters helpful, check out some of these other posts:

References: 

Makranz C, Heled Y, Shapiro Y, Epstein Y, Moran DS. [Fluid and sodium balance during exercise–standpoint]. Harefuah. 2012 Feb;151(2):107-10, 126. Hebrew. PMID: 22741213.\

National Athletic Training Association (2000). Fluid replacement for athletes. J. Ath. Training 35:212-224

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