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  1. #1
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    Salt ingestion in long rides

    Every time I go for a 3-4 hour ride with the usual Norcal hammerheads (and when I do a long solo ride) the outcome is invariably the same: a whooping headache starting about 10-15 after I finish the ride.

    No cramps, no exaustion, I finish the ride just fine. But after a few minutes I'm rushing for the Ibuprofen.

    At first I thought the obvious, dehydration. However after increasing the water consumption (usually 3 liters 50/50 water and gatorade for a 3-4 hr ride) the problem persisted. I actually noticed It got a bit worse when after the rides I drink some more water.

    A couple of days ago I was reading an article in this magazine where the author comments about a very common problem that affects outdoor enthusiasts and endurance athletes - Hiponatremia, the low levels of sodium in the blood. He said quite a few people are rescued every year in places like the Grand Canyon not because the go for a hike with little water, but because the drink too much of it and dont replace the salts.

    Although the causes are not yet fully known, it is possible that as you loose water/salt, replaces with water only (even drinking isotonics) and the blood get diluted it affects the osmotic balance of your cells, they start absorbing more water and swell. This may cause the brain to swell and you may experience headache, dizziness and in severe cases, seizures.

    It is interesting that it is common to see many recomendations about consuming enough water, while the salt loss is somewhat less important, "you only loose a bit" I've read in many places. Probably these reccomendations are not taking into account long, intense activities. According to this guy (http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/salt.html) it is very common to endurance athletes finish competitions intoxicated with too much water and very low sodium in their blood (the other ones not in this condition are dehydrated).

    Isotonic alone may not cut it for everybody (it certainly does not seem to be enough for me). It would take about 74 ounces of Gatorade to give you 1g gram of salt. When I look at my helmet straps totally impregnated with salt crusts after those rides it makes me wonder.

    So, morale of the story, this stuff seems to be more important than it looks (at least in my experience).

    I'll get a bag of pretzels for my next ride and see what happens.

    Gui

  2. #2
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    Hyponatremia

    We see hundreds of cases of dehydration and/or heat exhaustion through the Moab ER each year. We also see several cases of hyponatremia (low sodium). I know of two cases which resulted in expensive ICU stays in Grand Junction for no other reasons than poor salt intake coupled with excessive activity and massive free water ingestion. Seems like the prime people who suffer from this are those with high blood pressure and therefore follow a salt-restricted diet. Such people must adjust the salt intake to meet the demands of exercise: which depletes salt through continuously evaporating sweat.

    The other interesting thing about hyponatremia is that the RAPIDITY OF DECLINE of the sodium level determines the severity of symptoms moreso than absolute level to which the sodium falls. In other words, a person with a sodium level of 130 (though barely low) may be severely neurologically impaired if that level was reached very quickly, whereas a person with a level of 115 may not be symptomatic at all if that level were obtained over a matter of weeks or months. There is probably no greater way to RAPIDLY deplete your sodium level than to exercise vigorously in a hot, dry climate while chugging free water. Salty snacks are a MUST as such (carbohydrates increase sodium absorption).

    Blah, blah, blah.

    hfly <-- preparing for spring season at work

  3. #3
    Ride what you want!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spiff
    Every time I go for a 3-4 hour ride with the usual Norcal hammerheads (and when I do a long solo ride) the outcome is invariably the same: a whooping headache starting about 10-15 after I finish the ride.
    Gui
    The same thing happens to me on the very hottest rides mid summer. Only IBU won't help and they can last until bed time. It sucks. I try to get as many electrolytes as possible on those hot hot days and go so far as to drink saltwater when I get home in order to restore some balance. Maybe adding straight salt to my water will fend it off. It's something for me to try this summer.

    I too get those salt encrusted helmet straps and even a fine layer of salt all over my skin. I feel your pain, and I still haven't found out how to get ride of those headaches.
    Trogs: Too Tough for Carbon Fiber

  4. #4
    Steep Hill
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    Salt? Why, Yes!!!

    This is very interesting. I am also a sweater (compared to my counterparts). For example, just after this morning's ride I removed my helmet only to see a about a cup of sweat pore out of my dew rag and helmet pads. I also have the salt encrusted on all my apparel. Anyways, I've been told many times to restrict my salt intake and I am glad I have not done so. I use a essential mineral concerntration in my water, one teaspoon will make a cup of water equal to seawater.....but I use only drops in approx 70 oz. Anyways, I feel my body absorb it and it seems to work for me.

    I gained valuabled insight on this thread...thanks, Steve

  5. #5
    Yummy
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    That said, most energy drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are pretty high in both sodium and potassium salts, aren't they? My understanding is that if you eat a bit and drink some of these drinks, you should be okay.

    Kn.
    I used to be with it. Then, they changed what "it" is, and now what I'm with is no longer "it". And whatever "it" is, is strange and confusing.

  6. #6
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    Old roadie trick...

    Put a bit of Morton's Lite Salt in your water bottle. Experiment with the amount. When you get it right, it actually makes the water a tad sweeter. Please note, I said Lite Salt.

  7. #7
    Code Burr
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    me too

    Oh man i've been dieing from those headaches all year.
    I even posted something about it in the training forum,
    but no one diagnosed it correctly. I thought it had something to do
    with salt since I hydrate like a mofo and always find a thin layer of
    white salt everywhere in my helmet. I'm wondering what the best
    supplement or snack might be. I have tried taking a bag of pretzels
    with me and munch them in between rides but I dont think thats enough.
    I may try a bag of beef jerky, it makes your breath stink like hell but has a
    ton of sodium in it I think. How do the gels rate for sodium and electrolytes?
    I'm not really a fan of manufactured nutrition like that but if it helps its worth
    a shot.

  8. #8
    Sweat is just fat crying.
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    You should try...

    ...the Mojo bars from Clif. When I first ate one, I was startled by how salty it was. If the lack of salt is your prob, maybe these would help. Plus, they taste pretty damn good.

    fp
    Mountain Biking Is Not A Crime stickers, free! (You pay postage. PM me for details.)

  9. #9
    Jed Peters
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    One bottle of water with full lemon squeezed in, pinch of salt (2 shakes) and 2 teaspoons of sugar per hour in hot, one every 2 hours if it's not hot.

    That's what the majority of the TdF riders use in the pro peleton. Of course, they have guys bringing them the fluids too. Gatorade, cytomax, gu, clif bars, power bars etc. are too hard on the belly to be taken for more than an hour ride.

    My doc recommends eating real food on rides at hour 2 and ever hour thereafter. Last hour have your fake sugars for the quick bursts.

  10. #10
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    yes! salt very very good to me

    I put a little salt in my 100 oz camel back with a little lemon.....in the summer I add one 20 oz bottle of gatorade with extra salt added to it. Taking a few swigs here and there really helps me during and after the ride.

  11. #11
    Seriously ?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Finch Platte
    ...the Mojo bars from Clif. When I first ate one, I was startled by how salty it was. If the lack of salt is your prob, maybe these would help. Plus, they taste pretty damn good.

    fp

    Sounds interesting Gary, more expensive than pretzels but worth a try.

    George, I'm curious to find out what would be the appropriate replenishment rate, or at least how many grams of salt a rider loses in a situation like that. K'endo, by By providing only 1 gram per 74 ounces (check the nutrition facts table) I think Gatorate may be falling short if you are loosing too much salt.

    Gui

  12. #12
    Jm.
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    Salt is just one part of the equation. There are other eletrolytes in your system that need replenishment. Also, your symptom spiff is kind of strange, usually it's an extreme muscle cramp that is the classic symptom. I've done this before, and in fact it was during an activity where I was sucking down water from a camelback like there was no tomorrow. I simply didn't have any salt and a few minutes after resting I tried to get up and my legs cramped up and "siezed". Your headache may have something to do with sodium chloride...and then it may not. It's definitely worth a try to take something on a ride that is salty, and really it's what most people should do.
    I know in my heart that Ellsworth bikes are more durable by as much as double. AND they are all lighter...Tony Ellsworth

  13. #13
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    I agree with what everyone else has said

    and will just ad 1 thing ENDUROX! I've tried everything and it's the only product that I really can tell a huge differance. FYI, This is a recovery drink.

  14. #14
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    mmm.... salt...

    I rode a road ride called the "Hotter'n'Hell" last summer in Wichita, TX. Only did the metric century and it was about 105* or so by the time I finished. I kept well hydrated and had some of the snacks in the rest stops and power bars. After my post ride nap, I went out for dinner and I couldn't eat enough salt. It's a good think I like salt, because I just couldn't pour enough on my taters. I knew what was happeneing, but the strength of my body telling me what I needed really surprised me.

  15. #15
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    Salt Good!

    During the 24 hour races I will you usually take a salt tablet or a small pack of salt (Jack in the Box's salt is just right) after every other lap or sometimes every lap. I have found that it keeps head aches as well as cramps away.

    Bill Porter

  16. #16
    "Ride Lots" - Eddie Mercx
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    not discounting any of the other informative posts

    because everybody seems to be providing very accurate information.

    but......

    I used to get a terrible migraine type headache after any king of long ride or high output event such as a 15-20 mile race. I couldn't figure it out because I was generally fine on the shorter recreational rides and the lord knows my salt intake is just fine!

    I thought it was dehydration at first but I made sure to try and drink much more before the ride (day before too) and plenty on the ride. It didn't seem to work.

    Anyway, what I found was that I was riding with my shoulders to scrunched (sp?) up so I was tight in the neck area for the whole ride. After I sort of figured this part out, I began to make sure that I periodically loosened my shoulders and just tried to relax more often. The more I thought about it, the more often I did it. I still got headaches after rides for a while but I think I improved my ability to ride less tight and now I rarely will get one.

    Just something else to consider besides salt intake though.

    hope you figure it out.

    YR

  17. #17
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    Gotta Agree

    I've gotta agree that the headaches do not sound salt or hyponatremia-related. I too have suffered from such headaches after long, hot rides. For awhile I thought they might be glare-related, since I never used to wear sunglasses. However, I still haven't nailed down their exact cause. They do seem vascular, like pseudo-migraines (though I've never had a real migraine to compare), and are similarly photophobic (light-sensitive).

    I'll have to try the mid-ride exercises as suggested above, though the geometry of my bike keeps me from being scrunched.

    Very interesting thread.

    hfly

  18. #18
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    You may be right. My headache symptom is kinda isolated (i.e. I dont get the other common symptoms such as cramps,as Jm pointed out). I'll give the salt a try and pay attention to other stuff.

    Gui

  19. #19
    Crash Gordon
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    I had the same problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Spiff
    Every time I go for a 3-4 hour ride with the usual Norcal hammerheads (and when I do a long solo ride) the outcome is invariably the same: a whooping headache starting about 10-15 after I finish the ride.

    Gui

    Headaches after the ride, no cramps. I started taking salt tablets during long hot rides and have had no problems since. I bought some empty gelcaps, filled them up with plain salt and keep them in my camebak. If I don't think I need a full tablet I just dump out some of the salt. It's a bit tough of the stomach for a minute or 2, but with lots of water it okay. For me it has worked great.

  20. #20
    Skinny legged XC geek
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    Good job! Zonic's recipe is pretty good, BUT . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by Zonic Man
    One bottle of water with full lemon squeezed in, pinch of salt (2 shakes) and 2 teaspoons of sugar per hour in hot, one every 2 hours if it's not hot.

    That's what the majority of the TdF riders use in the pro peleton. Of course, they have guys bringing them the fluids too. Gatorade, cytomax, gu, clif bars, power bars etc. are too hard on the belly to be taken for more than an hour ride.

    My doc recommends eating real food on rides at hour 2 and ever hour thereafter. Last hour have your fake sugars for the quick bursts.
    I've been using this mix on longer rides and like it. I went to 2 small-medium lemons, 3 teaspooons sugar, one teaspoon salt, all in a large (28oz) water bottle. Tastes pretty good, actually, and leaves me feeling a lot better than on just water and snack/energy bars. I have tried some of the mixes, like Accelerade, but I found these were hard on my stomach. This more natural mix has gone down easy.

    Hey Spiff, could the headaches be from who you are riding with?

  21. #21
    Do It Yourself
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    Try some electrolyte tabs. There is a brand Essential Electrolytes I get at Whole Foods that only costs about $6 for 100. I pop a few of these on long hot rides and they seem to help ward off cramping and post ride headaches. I've given them to other folks who were cramping and they have taken care of it quickly. On long epic rides, I try to bring a variety of foods including Clif bars, nuts, dried fruit, dried bananas, carrots etc. Also, I like to have at least some straight water. If I carry a drink mix, I prefer to have it in a separate container (extra bladder or water bottle).

    http://www.nutribiotic.com/Electrolytes.htm

  22. #22
    Jed Peters
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    That's why my doc gave it to his pro riders on race days. The guys can't use the fake stuff over the course of a 200km race or for days on end.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zonic Man
    Of course, they have guys bringing them the fluids too. Gatorade, cytomax, gu, clif bars, power bars etc. are too hard on the belly to be taken for more than an hour ride.
    ?????????????????????????

    I guess it depends upon the belly, but I know tons of folks ( and so do you) who do just fine eating those foods/fluids on rides that are longer than an hour.
    Last edited by Pete; 02-02-2004 at 11:10 AM. Reason: removed picture of my colon

  24. #24
    lurker spaz
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    Planning on trying ElectroMIX in the spring

    http://www.alacer.com/cgi-bin/dbsear...eturntitle.htm

    I was given a box of Alacer Electromix (same company that does Emergen-C) late this fall. I've tried a packet of it at the recommended strength and it tastes like a less tasty mineral water. I'm going to try using one packet per 70-100 oz. camebak this summer and see how it works at that dilution.

    I ride with a camelbak filled with plain tap water and a large water bottle of Gatorade or equivalent. This is usually sufficient, but on long (over 4 hours) hot summer rides I definitely feel like I need more salt/mineral intake.

    FWIW,
    Dr.F

  25. #25
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    Potasssium defiecent?

    I used to cramp up really bad after 3-4hr rides and during depending on who I was riding with. :-) I also got headaches after wards also.
    What has worked for me is potassium tablets. I, like a few others, end up salt encrusted after a hot 4hr ride. I usually take a tablet before a ride and sometimes during if I start cramping alot (probably a little too late) and things have been much better since.
    Maybe give a banana a try mid way thru a ride?

    good luck,

    -Sp

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