As someone who hates sweating, it’s a little odd how I frequently put myself in situations that cause me to sweat. Training for my first half marathon, I work out between 4 and 6 days per week. Let’s do some simple math and call it an average of 5 days per week where I’m intentionally sweating.
Apparently I’m a glutton for self-inflicted punishment.
As someone who sweats an average of 5 days per week, I’ve recently noticed new and strange things about my sweat:
- When I workout indoors I sweat a lot on my face, chest, in the creases of my elbows, and behind my knees
- When I workout outdoors I sweat EVERYWHERE (do the backs of YOUR hands sweat? mine do!)
- I have very salty sweat
I don’t remember having salty sweat – this is a new development. I can taste it at the corners of my mouth, it stings when it gets in my eyes, and the newest phenomenon: when I run more than 5mi outdoors (I haven’t tested this indoors, because long runs on the treadmill = death by boredom), post-run the sweat on my face cools and it looks like a bag of flour exploded all over me. My sweat dries into a salty film that collects at the inner corners of my eyes, around my nose, on my upper lip, and on my chin.
The first time I noticed this, I just wiped it off and moved on with my day.
The second time I noticed this, I Googled what’s up – MISTAKE. This is akin to self-diagnosing cancer via WebMD. Just a bad idea. I got freaked out by the word hyponatremia and all of the scary symptoms that went with it: nausea and vomiting, seizures, coma, and others… fun!
I mentioned this salt phenomenon to my running buddy and at the end of our last run, she pointed out that my face was really crusty. THAT’S RIGHT… MY FACE WAS CRUSTY. Just what every girl wants to hear.
I don’t have any photos to share, because every time it happens, I wipe it off my face immediately. I’m a little sensitive about it. I can’t help but wonder if this is going to happen after my next road race… while I know that I’m not the only person on the planet this happens to (evidence here, here, and here), I can’t help but be a little self-conscious.
Let’s focus on the reason this is happening on long runs:
- I drink a lot of water – at least 3L – every day
- I tend not to add salt to my food (however I certainly don’t avoid it! I love salty snacks and ramen noodles!)
According to MedlinePlus.gov, “Healthy adults should limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day” (source). I’m not sure what I’m getting – I don’t keep track. I should probably start, eh?
Coach.ca has a great article about sodium facts for athletes (OOOOOoooh! Am I an athlete now??), and I found this particularly interesting:
“However, while the previously mentioned sodium guidelines apply to the majority of the population, the needs of athletes are different. Consider the following:
Athletes sweat between 400-1800 mL per hour of exercise, on average 1200 mL per hour;
In addition to water, the main electrolyte lost in sweat is sodium;
The sodium content of sweat varies substantially from 115 mg-5000 mg per 1000 mL of sweat;
Thus, an athlete who is a “salty sweater” (i.e., has a high amount of sodium in their sweat) may lose well in excess of the recommended intakes;
MOST athletes should not follow a low-sodium diet!”
Apparently all of the water I drink and the reduced sodium in my diet is the perfect storm for what’s happening to me – I’m sweating a lot while I run and I’m losing a lot of electrolytes (mostly sodium) while I sweat, which dries up into that salty crust on my face. Awesome!
I am now on a quest to figure out the right hydration/fuel mix for long runs. Here’s my fuel plan as it stands now:
BEFORE: I carb-load and drink 8oz of electrolyte water the night before a long run, and 8oz the morning-of (I don’t want to drink so much that I have to pee mid-run!). I usually eat half of a protein bar for breakfast to get some carbs and protein in my system, but not so much that I feel weighed down.
DURING: I wear a hydration belt with diluted electrolyte mix to avoid tummy issues. I’m not fan of chews and gu – they upset my stomach. I recently started bringing pretzels and gummy bears with me, and eat a couple of each every 45 minutes to stay ahead of fatigue.
AFTER: When I’m done running, I drink another 16oz of electrolyte water… and then I usually go to town and eat whatever I feel like stuffing in my mouth, because I’m a ravenous beast after long runs.
I’m not sure what else I can do DURING my run, but it seems like the moral of the story is I need to add more sodium to my diet, in general. I guess I’m going to pop a big bowl of popcorn now…
Are you a salty sweater? How do you hydrate and fuel before, during, and after long runs?