SALT and Sodium in Meal Prep
Salt is always in the news. We hear about it and read about it all the time. And everyone has an opinion about it, although those opinions are typically not too helpful. In the end, the whole debate about what is a proper amount of dietary salt and sodium in your meal prep is at best, confusing.
Below, I am providing a link to a PDF research paper I recently compiled. The purpose of this “deep dive” research paper is two-fold:
First, I want to help you understand the competing arguments in the sodium debate.
Second, I’ll distill from those arguments what I have determined are the most salient scientifically supported conclusions to help you find value in your own research.
In the end, according to my wide-ranging research, there are some clear principles to understand and some simple concrete steps you can take to ensure you’re using best health practices. In fact, all the research has led me to firmly conclude that, like so many other matters in the area of proper nutrition, much of it is “YOU” dependent.
We are going to address some fundamental questions about salt and sodium, including the following:
1. What is it? (pages 1-2)
2. What are different sources of salt, and is there a best source? (pages 2-4)
3. What are its benefits to human health? (pages 4, 12-20)
4. Why does the US Government regulate sodium? (pages 4-16)
5. What you should know about the recommended daily amounts published by the FDA? (pages 4-16)
6. I lead a very active lifestyle; how much sodium do I need? (pages 12-19)
What about the sodium found in ELEMENTS MEALS? Is it a healthy amount?
Let’s answer this important question here.
The most important point to understand here regarding Elements Meals for Athletes and sodium is this: over 95% of the sodium in the meals occur naturally in the whole food!
While some of our meals include added salt, the amounts are miniscule. If you review our ingredient lists (organized in descending order by weight), you’ll find salt is always one of the last three minor ingredients.
Elements Meals for Athletes are made for health-conscious people who are on the lookout for meal prep ideas, including high-performance, active people … athletes. Active, high-performance people have daily sodium consumptions needs much different than the general US population (who don’t exercise, who are overweight, obese, and … fill in the blank).
Now, maybe the USDA’s guidelines apply somewhat to the majority of the US population; If so, I think we must conclude that they fail as accurate guidelines for active, high-performance people.
Consider the following fundamental facts:
1. Active, high-performance people sweat between 400-2400 mL per hour of exercise, on average 1200 mL per hour;
2. The main electrolyte lost in sweat is sodium;
3. From person to person, the sodium concentration of sweat varies substantially, i.e. from 115 mg to more than 2000 mg per 1000 mL of sweat;
So, an active, high-performance person with a high sweat rate (see research paper for more on finding out your own personal “sweat rate”) and high sodium concentration in his/her sweat, can easily lose much more sodium during an hour of physical activity/training than the USDA recommends for total daily intake.
And take note: the consequences of low sodium intake can be dire, even dangerous.
These facts starkly show why knowing your sweat rate and sodium concentration is so critical. They also demonstrate the danger of blindly following government guidelines.
Consider the following example:
Joann, female marathoner who sweats approximately 800mL per hour in 85 degree weather is hoping to do a 3-hour marathon. She knows she sweats a lot during physical exercise, but doesn’t know her sweat rate or sodium concentration. In preparation for her marathon, she calculates her sweat rate and volumes. She discovers that her sweat has a 1500mg of sodium/1000mL of sweat ratio. Her muscles have cramped up in previous races around mile 20.
Doing the math, Joann now understands that during her 3-hour marathon, she’ll lose about 2400mL of fluid . . . which means she’ll lose about 3600mg of sodium during the race. If she limits her diet and consumes only the recommended daily intake of 1500mg of sodium, she is going to have some serious problems and will probably be unable to finish.
If she doesn’t plan to prevent such depletions, she’ll experience nausea, clouded thinking and disorientation, muscle cramping, exhaustion, and more.
On non-race days, when she trains an hour or more a day, she now knows that she’ll likely sweat between 800mL to 1,200mL per hour, and lose between 1,200mg to 1,800mg of sodium.
Bottom line: Active, high-performance people’s daily sodium needs are idiosyncratic and exceed government guidelines.
So, what about that Elements Meals/Sodium intersection?
Currently, all Elements Meals for Athletes include animal proteins: turkey, chicken, pork, whole eggs and egg whites. Moreover, we have several more recipes that are finalized and awaiting production scheduling that include beef, clean pork sausage, and chicken. AND . . . one of the new meals is vegetarian!
Let’s look at naturally occurring sodium in our whole food ingredients.
Animal proteins and naturally occurring sodium.
Chicken, Turkey and Other Poultry
Fresh poultry is naturally low in sodium. For example, 3 ounces of light meat chicken have 64 mg of sodium, while 3 ounces of turkey breast have 54 mg of sodium. A similar-size serving of duck meat has slightly less sodium, with 50 mg, and a 3-ounce portion of Cornish game hen has 54 mg. Elements meals contained cooked chicken and turkey breast meat, which is then freeze dried. These ingredients contain the highest amounts of protein and essential amino acids per gram compared to other portions of the bird (legs, wings, thigh, etc.)
Beef and Pork
Cuts of beef will be similar in the amount of sodium they contain. Some examples include 3 ounces of grilled porterhouse steak with 57 mg of sodium, and the same-size serving of bottom round roast with 31 mg of sodium. Natural pork loin meat has slightly more sodium, with 63 mg in a 3-ounce serving. Elements meals use premium cuts of high quality beef. A full panoply of amino acids are served in each meal.
A large hard-boiled egg contains 62 mg of sodium. One large hard-boiled egg also contains 6.28 grams of protein, and all nine essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lycine, methionine, phenylalanine,threonine, tryptophan and valine. Of the four nonessential amino acids, eggs have alanine, aspartic acid and glutamic acid. As you all know, the egg is a fabulous source of whole protein and amino acids. Eat up!
Elements meals do include carbohydrates. Just check our macro counts or our nutritional charts. In fact, in our non-vegetarian meals, vegetables are the only carbohydrates in Elements Meals. If you want to add other types, such as lentils, legumes, grains, rice, seeds and other stuff, go for it. We give you that liberty. Our vegetarian and vegan meals will contain legumes and lentils. They are a great source of quality, naturally occurring proteins, carbohydrates and fiber.
Bottom line for Sodium contained in Elements Meals for Athletes
The lion share of the sodium in Elements Meals occurs naturally in the whole food ingredients. So feel good . . . really good . . . about eating and enjoying our High-Performance Food. It will bless your body, your mind and soul.