We sat down with one of the founders of Flow Sports, Dr. Stuart Porter, to ask him 10 oft-heard questions about salt and exercise.

So, Doc, why do we need extra salt?

Even the newer electrolyte replacement drinks with higher sodium content don’t have enough sodium to adequately replace losses during intense training. The range of recommended sodium replacement for endurance athletes is 750mg-1000mg per hour. In extreme conditions some people require up to 1200mg/hour. The bottom line is we need to take in extra salt and water for optimal hydration and performance. A study out of Italy on half Ironman distance tri-athletes compared typical salt replacement to much higher (optimal) salt replacement and the higher salt use group was on average 28 minutes faster! So, how would you like to shave off 28 minutes on your next half Ironman? Look no further…

(Effects of Oral Salt Supplementation on Physical Performance During a Half Ironman: A Randomized Control Trial)

What makes Flow Core so great?

It’s the ease of use; with just one cap per serving FlowCore provides just the right amount of salt, potassium, and magnesium, and the all important trace minerals, which occur naturally in Real Salt. It’s easy to use-pop one capsule, swig & go (FAST).

Why are trace minerals important?

Every second of the day your body relies on ionic minerals for critical electrical and chemical processes. These important minerals include well known electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium but also include over 60 trace minerals which are essential for optimal energy production and overall health. Its important to constantly replenish our bodies with these vital nutrients. This is one of the main reasons that Flow products win over its competitors. The Real Salt™ in Flow products makes available those trace minerals in each of its designed products.

How do I know how much salt (sodium) to consume during training and racing?

Most athletes significantly underestimate their sodium needs. The range of hourly sodium loss in athletes is between 800mg and 4000mg per hour. The sodium content in your carbohydrate/electrolyte drinks should have AT LEAST 8mg of sodium per gram of carbohydrate. So, if an athlete consumes 320 calories per hour of carbs that is 80mg of carbs. This means, at a minimum,  their drink needs 640mg of sodium. It’s a good idea to err on the side of more, not less. Individual needs vary based on heat, humidity, level of intensity, genetics, fitness and more. If you tend to cramp, or if you’re a “heavy sweater”, or you just want to make sure you perform optimally—use more! Always, always, always carry extra salt with you and take a salt capsule (with at least 200mg of sodium per cap, FlowCore contains 300 mg of sodium per capsule.) at the first hint of a cramp or intestinal symptoms.

I personally take 800mg of sodium per hour in cooler conditions but in locations like in Chattanooga or Kona, it’s probably double that- and I don’t sweat heavily. You can assume a sodium loss between 500mg to 800mg in sodium per 16oz of sweat. And the typical athlete looses double that per hour which makes typical hourly replacement between 1000mg-1600mg Na+ per hour. Bottom line; if you want to optimally replenish and perform, use plenty of salt, and use the good stuff—FlowCore. Even Gatorade endurance with 200mg sodium per 8 oz would only give 800mg sodium if you consume 32 oz per hour.

Isn’t too much salt bad for you?

Great question. In 2013, the institute of medicine (IOM) published a report that basically turned upside down (salt shaker pun intended) the previous guidelines on salt intake. Without going into too much detail, the notion that lower is better is out. The evidence just isn’t there. In fact, the IOM review failed to identify any benefit with sodium intake below 2300mg per day. The science is powerful and current evidence suggests we have been wrong about salt. There is evidence that unrefined salts like The Real Salt™ in Flow products is healthier than refined salts. Furthermore, our intake of potassium is typically quite suboptimal. The best way to keep potassium intake optimized is by eating unrefined food, especially vegetables—and plenty of them.

Note: There are certain medical conditions where sodium restriction should be considered. Please seek advice from your health care provider.

Flow Boost has added selenium. Why selenium and what is the best form of selenium?

Selenium is a trace mineral and an antioxidant that is important for an array of cellular functions. Selenium is found in abundance in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains but if soil is depleted of this trace mineral then our diets are short of this important antioxidant. Athletes who have intense training programs typically need additional antioxidants to fight the highly reactive and damaging free radicals their bodies produce. FlowBoost provides supplementation of 50 mcg of SelenoExcell™, a natural product made from high selenium yeast. It is easily assimilated by the body and has been shown in numerous trials to support the glutathione peroxidase enzymes in humans. This means that under extreme conditions, like endurance athletes, people are getting the maximum protection against free radicals.

The orthodox view in sports nutrition is that while athletes may need more nutrients than their sedentary counterparts, they don’t need to worry because athletes eat more food to fuel their training, which automatically supplies any extra needs. However, new research into the essential trace mineral selenium suggests that this view may be over complacent.

A French study on well-trained athletes examined how closely selenium intake related to energy expenditure, and also whether the amount of selenium consumed was sufficient to maximize the effectiveness of the selenium-dependent enzyme glutathione peroxidase, a key enzyme in the body’s antioxidant defense systems, which helps to neutralize highly reactive and damaging free radicals. The study was conclusive, many athletes may not be consuming even the basic amounts of selenium for their needs, let alone the optimum amounts required to protect cells from the higher throughputs of oxygen and consequent potentially damaging free radical production associated with sports activity. The study also concluded that the selenium concentrations of all but the most elite athletes were below those needed to maximize the activity of the protective glutathione peroxidase enzyme. Indicating that just relying on a large caloric intake to provide extra selenium may not be a foolproof strategy.

Are there others who benefit from extra salt intake besides athletes?

Absolutely yes. One of the conditions we see a lot of in my medical practice is that of chronic fatigue as well as many other related conditions. Many of those patients can benefit from trying higher salt intake (under medical supervision). I’ve been amazed at how many patients feel significant improvement, especially when coupled with a diet void of refined and processed foods and rich in vegetables and healthy fats. But it has to be the right kind of salt and Real Salt is abundant in minerals which are important for optimal health.

Why do Flow Core and Flow Boost only come in capsule form?

The portability, stability, and ease of use of capsules can’t be beat. Whether on the bike, on the run, on the road or at home, capsules are easy to use—not to mention consistent in their dose and strength. We do have other products in the Flow pipeline that will be in powder form to be conveniently mixed with water. Be patient-salt before fluid!

Besides training, what other things are important to be consistently competitive in the world of endurance athletics?

A certain level of consistent training is a must, but I know far too many athletes who over train, under-recover, and definitely under hydrate. There may be a few young athletes out there who can get by without proper recovery but for most of us, I believe, recovery should trump exercise-which includes 8-9 hours of proper sleep, nutrition, and hydration. Additionally, based on what I see in practice, I think we should always assume we are under hydrating and should increase salt intake accordingly. The liquid consumption aspect will more likely be optimal if we first get the right type and quantity of salt intake dialed in.

Why the addition of magnesium and potassium to Flow Core?

I’ll try to keep it short, but magnesium is required by everyone and its vital for more than 300 chemical processes that sustain basic health. It is also crucial for energy metabolism in the cell.  A significant portion of the population is deficient in magnesium and the endurance athlete is at even higher risk of deficiency. As far as potassium goes—it plays a crucial role in nerve functioning, glycogen processing, fluid regulation, and blood pressure regulation. Many studies confirm the fact that replenishing potassium during exercise makes a difference in performance, especially in exercising at moderate to high intensity for over three hours. Keep in mind, we still need to eat potassium rich foods regularly, especially vegetables.