LMNT - The Low-Down on Sodium, and Why We Became Salt Dealers

LMNT electrolyte ratios explained

Sodium has gotten a little bit of a bad reputation for the last several decades; unfairly vilified as the big bad component of your food that will make you bloated, puffy, give you high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and inevitably cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, reducing sodium intake in the efforts to improve cardiovascular health, including the mitigation of health issues like blood pressure, has proven largely ineffective.

Urinary Excretion of sodium chartThe current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. This recommendation is based on a handful of studies evaluating the effects restricting sodium intake on blood pressure. The findings were consistent that moderate sodium restriction shows a decrease in cardiovascular events. However, the study was completed with a relatively small sample size that was taken through a short-term clinical trial. This data is also not the most repeatable, being that resulting studies observing the association between sodium and cardiovascular mortality have shown conflicting results  (some report a positive association between sodium intake and cardiovascular mortality, while others do not). A 2011 study out of Purdue University published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looked at the relationship between sodium excretion (representative of sodium intake) and cardiovascular events (including cardiovascular death, stroke, heart attack, and congestive heart failure hospitalizations). The study, including 31,546 participants, showed a J-shaped association between sodium excretion and cardiovascular events. The lowest incidence of cardiovascular events was actually seen in sodium excretion of 4 to 5.99 g per day. Sodium

excretion of more than 7 g per day was associated with an increased risk of all cardiovascular events and a sodium excretion of less than 3 g per day was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events. Unfortunately, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming NO MORE than 2,300 mg (2.3 g) of sodium per day, which falls within the parameters of increased risk of cardiovascular events. To reiterate, the lowest incidence of cardiovascular events was seen in sodium intake of 4 to 5.00 g per day, which is actually about double what is recommended by the CDC, AHA, and FDA. To drive this point home even further, the graph also shows that one must consume upwards of 8 g per day to see the same degree of cardiovascular problems associated with 2 g of consumption a day. This is pretty astounding.

 

This is where LMNT steps in. LMNT’s co-founder, Robb Wolf is a former research biochemist and author. He found himself struggling with his jiu jitsu performance and learned from his coaches that he needed to get his electrolyte balance right (sodium specifically). He took their advice and immediately felt better mentally and physically. This instilled the importance of electrolytes into him and led him to spread this knowledge with those around him. He noticed that his peers were also exhibiting symptoms of sodium, potassium, and magnesium deficiencies, despite following ‘generally healthy’ diets. It did not take them long to realize how good they feel when they consume the right amount of sodium and other electrolytes. 

So, there are a lot of electrolytes on the market – why LMNT? Robb Wolf found that the electrolyte market had a glaring gap in it: the drinks did not have enough sodium and they were loaded with sugar. Sweat isn’t sweet – why are your sports drinks sweet? The LMNT team believes that the ingredients they include are just as important as the ingredients they left out: calcium, phosphorus, and sugar

So let’s talk about electrolyte ratios and signs of deficiency!

sodium:

There is 1 g of sodium in every LMNT packet. This may seem like a lot, but if you recall the studies posted in the last 10 years or so, our sodium intake guidelines are lower than they should be. This 1000 mg of sodium is enough to replace heavy sodium losses through sweat (some athletes log up to 10 g of sodium loss in a hard practice or game!), to increase sodium in diets that encourage rapid loss of sodium (including low-carb, keto, and whole-foods based nutrition practices), and to help people reach the baseline of 4-6 g of daily sodium intake for optimal health. What does 4-6 g of daily sodium look like? About 2-3 teaspoons of salt.

Symptoms of sodium deficiency include (but are not limited to): headaches, weakness, low energy, fatigue, muscle cramps, brain fog, insomnia, salt cravings (often mistaken for carb cravings), irritability and other mood disruptions.

potassium:

There are 200 mg of potassium in every LMNT packet, giving a 5:1 ratio of sodium to potassium. Potassium is another common deficiency seen in the population. The standard daily potassium intake is set to 4.7 grams per day based on evidence showing that potassium aids in lowering blood pressure and reduces the risk of kidney stones. Unfortunately, the average potassium intake of participating adults was roughly 2700 mg per day, which is not enough to meet the body’s potassium needs. Potassium can be a hard goal to reach when you establish nutrition principles that are lower in carbs, but 3.5-5 g of potassium is the recommended daily intake to stay healthy and help prevent cardiovascular disease.

So why are there only 200 mg of potassium in the packet? Shouldn’t there be more, considering the dietary guidelines call for 3.5-5 g? This is for a few reasons. First, it is better to get your potassium mostly through diet. Good dietary sources of potassium are sweet potatoes (and other potatoes), tomato sauce, fruit, spinach, beans, yogurt, avocado, and high-quality meat. This is by no means an exhaustive list! Second, there is a small risk of hyperkalemia (high serum potassium) if you have impaired kidney function and you take potassium. It is easier and more dangerous to overdo potassium compared to sodium. This is why they ended up with 200 mg in each packet.

Signs of potassium deficiency are elevated blood pressure, lower bone mineral density, increased calcium excretion through urine (higher risk of kidney stones), and insulin resistance. The easiest marker here to measure is blood pressure. Chronic low intake of potassium can also lead to symptoms such as muscle cramps, fatigue, constipation, muscle weakness, and malaise. Just keep in mind that these are also symptoms that can suggest low sodium and magnesium.

Magnesium:

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the studio, you’ve probably heard a magnesium discussion. Magnesium is a crucial mineral that aids in energy production, DNA repair, muscle synthesis, sleep quality, and many other things that we must have working in our favor for optimal health. Magnesium is necessary for the proper functioning of approximately 300 enzymes in the human body (enzymes drive chemical reactions). Evidence suggests that anywhere from 30-70% of the population is deficient in magnesium. Historically, anthropological evidence shows that our ancestors consumed about 600 mg of magnesium per day through food. Dietary assessments show that today, most people are 200-300 mg short of magnesium, despite eating magnesium-rich diets. You may notice that LMNT’s electrolyte ratios are roughly ⅕ of their respective needed doses, and magnesium is no exception. There are 60 mg in one LMNT packet. This helps bridge the gap that whole foods can’t fill, and is ⅕ of the 300 mg that we miss in our daily nutrition. It is recommended that you obtain magnesium from other whole foods sources (dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, legumes, and high-quality meat).

As far as magnesium deficiency is concerned, there is no single indicator of magnesium deficiency. There are a variety of symptoms one could experience with a magnesium deficiency. A mild or moderate deficiency can present as irritability, muscle cramps (charley horse included), muscle weakness, tremors, tinnitus, fatigue, anxiety, light sensitivity, confusion, vertigo, and problems absorbing vitamin D. A severe deficiency can present with cardiovascular problems like heart failure, arrhythmias, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), coronary artery disease, migraines, osteoporosis, seizures, etc. Magnesium deficiencies have such a wide presentation that it is very hard to diagnose. The best way to assess your magnesium intake is through tracking your nutritional intake and aim for the guidelines. The RDA for adults is 420 mg (men) and 320 mg (women), but as the anthropological evidence suggests, 400-600 mg may be optimal, regardless of gender.

The foods highest in magnesium are pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, spinach, black beans, edamame, swiss chard, brown rice, cashews, salmon, potatoes, yogurt, kale, and dark chocolate.

At the end of the day, it is important that you self-monitor how you are feeling when you are switching up electrolyte levels. How is your energy, mood, and exercise performance at 5, 6, or 7 g of sodium per day? What about potassium? If you aren’t feeling optimal, it’s because the balance isn’t right. The best thing you can do is learn to self-regulate your supplementation based on how you are feeling and what works best for you. Grab an LMNT packet post-workout the next time you come into the studio. If you like the LMNT as much as we do, inquire about placing a custom order for a convenient in-studio pick up. Stay Salty!

Written by:

Picture of Erica Moore

Erica Moore

NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Stick Mobility Level 1 Certified