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Experience with salt pills?(19 posts)

Experience with salt pills?Steve Davis
Jul 24, 2001 7:54 AM
I recently read the posts regarding riding in the heat and was intrigued by Doug's comment on salt pills. Since the post has fallen off the board, I wanted to put it here hoping others might comment.

I usually do all my long rides early in the morning (leave around 5:30 so that I can be back, showered and changed to have lunch with the family and spend the rest of Saturday doing other "things". As a result, I don't have to deal with the excessive heat too often.

When I ride in organized centuries, however, I often find myself riding through the heat of the day. It's not unusual for me to experience head aches and other symptoms of heat exposure. I think I drink enough downing a bottle(Gatorade) every 30 to 45 minutes.

In two weeks, I'm planning to ride across Massachusetts (300 miles from West Stockbridge to Provincetown over 3 days). Because of my past experience with headaches (especially), I'm thinking of using some buffered salt tablets in addition to the usual sport drinks.

If you have used these types of pills, what are your recommendations for dosage, etc. Also, have any of you experienced any negative problems using salt pills? Finally, any other comments/suggestions on preventing headaches while riding?


Jul 24, 2001 8:37 AM
My parents used to make us swallow them when we traveled in Arizona by car. I'd always get nauseous and throw up.
In 1073 I did a tour through Canada and back to San Francisco. There was one particular 100+ mile day where I was sweating pretty good and decided.. "I'd better take a salt tablet" (parents talking in my head) Well, I started to get nauseous like usual, then I started hammering, and I got through it without ralphing.
I think calt tablets are a pretty extreme measure. I'd personally drink an energy drink with a high Potassium and Sodium balance and leave out salt tablets.
which one??Rusty McNasty
Jul 24, 2001 9:06 AM
it seems that even the sport-drink manufacturers have gotten on this "low sodium" bandwagon lately. Do any of the sport drinks commonly available even have high amounts of sodium/potassium? I'm relatively potassium intolerant (due to a kidney disorder), and I'm seriously considering just making my own Gatorade from a mix, then adding salt to it.
Don't Use Them!sidley
Jul 24, 2001 10:08 AM
See this link for why not to use salt tablets. The bottom line is that it is near impossible for humans to expell enough salt to require ingestion of salt tablets. Gatorade will meet our needs just fine.

Salt tablets are remnants from tropical military service 40 years ago.
that's not what the article says, really...Dog
Jul 24, 2001 11:00 AM
Here is that the article says about salt tablets:

"What about salt tablets?
It is best if you strive to get your sodium from both sports drinks and salty foods -- as opposed to salt tablets -- for two reasons. Salty foods stimulate thirst, and it is possible to ingest too much salt with tablets but very difficult with food. If you don't think that your food and sports drink is providing enough sodium, then consider salt tablets. Make sure you know how much you are taking!"

Sure, it says that the preferred method is to get salt from salty food, but consider them if you think you're not getting enough.

Do a century or double century in California in the summer, and it's hot, especially if there are big hills to climb. I sweat profusely, and need salt. I just cannot get enough from Gatorade. Since I have started taking the tablets, I've not had a single cramp or heat related problem. Hey, works for me, and absolutely no ill effects.

Hey, Doug...4bykn
Jul 24, 2001 12:16 PM
where do you get salt tablets, I just was looking in Walgreens and couldn't find them. I'm interested because I prefer water in my bottles, much easier to keep clean, and when I'm really hot, warm Gatorade just tastes like crap.
Long's Drugs, hereDog
Jul 24, 2001 12:22 PM
I get them at Long's Drug store. You may have to ask, as they are hard to find, and may be called something else. Mine are called something like "heat stress tablets."

I agree. When you get all hot and tired, somewhat dehydrated, I tend not to like sweet liquids. Pure water is so much more palatable then. But, you gotta have the salt.

Doug, you should move to the coast, its about 30 degreesrailer
Jul 24, 2001 3:51 PM
cooler over here. Isnt it hard to get motivated to ride when its 106 outside??!! Yuck. That would be hard for me. It probably makes your system that much stronger though.
the faster you go, the cooler it gets :-)Dog
Jul 25, 2001 9:36 AM
I remember that from some old joke...

I like the heat. As long as I have plenty of water (and my salt tablets!), the heat doesn't bother me. Yes, it will slow me down a bit, but not that much.

I can't stand cold. While it is refreshing to visit the coast for a sunny 72 degree summer day, all those 55 degree foggy days would make me depressed. I like wearing as little as possible when I ride.

Also, don't forget that the majority of the riding around here in the summer, at least the long rides, is in the mountains, and we start early in the morning when it's in the 60's. The temp drops about 4 degrees every 1,000 feet up, and we'll go upwards of 5,000 to 9,000 feet on our weekend rides.

Yeah the fog can get old. Luckily, for the most part, werailer
Jul 26, 2001 9:10 AM
only have it bad during June and July here. It rolls in at night as the earth cools down. THe cooling dirt sucks it off the ocean and brings it inland. The cool thing is you can climb out of it. ANd most of the mtns act as a blockade so it just infiltrates the lower points. Its quite a view to look down on it.

The heat does make deciding what to wear easy. All we ever bring is arm warmers and were set for any summer evening ride. I think you really have to acclimate to the temp here. My wife comes from a hot place and her system was so used to trying to cool her down that she was constantly cold. Shed have goose bumps in 75 degree weather. But now she likes it. Anyway, sounds like youve got some great climbs out there. I love seeing the plants and foliage change as your altitude increases on those long climbs. Its great when you start smelling the pine way up high.
Thanks for the inputSteve Davis
Jul 25, 2001 7:50 AM
I'm going to try to get the sodium I lose through sweating back via the foods I eat, but I'm going to bring some salt pills with me just in case.

I picked some Thermatabs up at CVS last night.


You don't need salt pills!!!TommyBoy
Jul 24, 2001 10:12 AM
Every doctor I've ever spoken to has said that the average person gets way more salt than they actually need within normal diet parameters. A hotdog has more salt than anyone needs for an entire week!
Out of Contextgrzy mnky
Jul 25, 2001 10:02 AM
A generic statement about the diet of the average American doesn't have a lot of relevance for cyclist doing long and extremely hot physical excercise. There isn't anything "normal" about this scenario.

Salt pills are standard offerings for road crews during the summer, the military in hot climates, and "ultra" athletes of all types. You obviously haven't done a long event in very hot weather.
Lot's of headache experiencemk_42
Jul 24, 2001 11:16 AM
I don't personally have salt pill experience but I DO have LOTS of headache experience. I get headaches from everything (heat, pressure changes, dehydration, etc.) and I've seen doctors about it and here's what I get most often. I'm not a doctor so take this with a grain of slat (funny yeah?).
Standard headache: This is what I have all the time. It's the kind of headache you feel during a hangover, from dehydration, pressure change, etc. It's the brain not getting enough blood flow. Often it's (in lay terms) the brain swelling and pressing against the skull constricting blood flow. A temporary solution to this is caffeine because it dilates blood vessels but in the long run caffeine will make you dehydrated which will make it worse. But trying to even it out by drinking water takes too long to get any real sense of releif. Ibuprofen works.
Eye/neck strain generated heacaches. I rarely get these but every doctor I've asked about it throws this out first so I'll throw it out too. People usually describe these as hurting "behind their eyes" "base of their head" and "on top of their head." People who need glasses and don't wear them get these a lot. This is the type you get from a watching TV, staring at a computer all day, etc. These are caused by muscle tension. Ibuprofen is best. (Perhaps you get these from the brightness of the day and not the heat? Do you wear sunglasses? Are you supposed to wear glasses and don't?)

The pattern is ibuprofen. If you don't have a stomach problem with it take it on the ride. If it hasn't worked in the past perhaps you're not taking enough. For minor non headaches I take 2 advil (400 or 500 mg ibuprofen) for my headaches I take 800 or 1000 mg (okayed by doctors).
Jul 24, 2001 11:45 AM
I read the Rice University article from the link above. It says this about ibuporfen and other similar drugs:

Aspirin, ibuprofen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents interfere with kidney function and may contribute to the development of hyponatremia in triathletes. The same applies to acetaminophen (Tylenol). I have seen many athletes taking these drugs during Ironman races, and I strongly recommend against this practice. They won't make you faster and may hurt you. Under tough conditions, your kidneys need to function at 100%. Other drugs that may contribute to hyponatremia are diuretics, narcotics, and certain psychiatric medications.

I have no personal experience nor do I have an opinion on this point. I just thought others reading this thread might want to see this.
You beat me to the post, I was one min behind you (nm)mk_42
Jul 24, 2001 12:16 PM
A thing about the ibuprofen...mk_42
Jul 24, 2001 11:46 AM
I read that article and it specifically says not to use ibuprofen, acetometaphen or aspirin during exercise. I don't know why but you might want to look into it.
I've been told it's okay if my body doesn't complain about digesting it. Though I never do I'm told to take it with some food.
I also want to add that my experience is limited to good exercise in the heat and pressure changes NOT Ironman in Hawaii kind of output. Perhaps in really high output all out activities it's not a good idea.

I don't wear prescription sunglassesSteve Davis
Jul 25, 2001 7:42 AM
I always wear sunglasses, but have never needed prescriptions... maybe its time to have my eyesight checked (I turn 38 tommorow).

I've occasionally taken NAISDs for the headaches, and especially for tendonitis in my knee. Given the above reference link, now I'm wondering about whether that's a good idea or not.

I think I'll just stop worrying and ride! :-)
Experience with salt pillsdavee
Jul 24, 2001 4:38 PM
Having worked outdoors and being an on again-off again cyclist since Nixon was president, I know you need salt sometimes.
Hell, I salt watermelon. Be careful of salt if you are hypertensive, but if your sweat ever tastes sweet, you're in trouble and salt may save you. Heat, like hills, can kill you or make you strong.

Good luck,