8 Salt Tablets for Runners + How to Use Them - RunToTheFinish (2024)

Have you ever heard about or seen runners or cyclists using salt tablets? Does it sound to you like runners are taking in straight salt?! It’s an unfortunate name. Salt tablets for runners are about so much more.

You may have wondered why on earth someone would intentionally be adding more salt to their bodies. After all, we’re often told too much salt can be bad for our health.

But, there’s another side to the story, especially for endurance athletes like runners.

Salt tablets or supplements have benefits when it comes to helping us perform and recover. This is particularly true when it’s hot and humid and we’re sweating quite a bit. A fact, I learned in my years of training through the Miami heat and humidity!

After multiple marathons with intense calf cramps, I learned a lot about the causes (which go beyond electrolytes), but found that taking Saltstick really did make a different. I’ll tell you more about this option below and what else to consider.

Keep reading to learn more about salt, why our bodies need it, the benefits of using salt tablets, how you can incorporate their use into your training, and some good options when it comes to products.

Are Salt Tablets Good For Runners?

If you’ve ever gone for a run on a hot and humid day, then looked in the mirror to find white crusty stuff along your hairline or down your face. Meet sodium, the electrolyte most lost during heavy sweat sessions.

Or maybe you’ve found that after a run, you’re craving salty things like pretzels or chips.

Why?

Once again, sweat is why. You’ve depleted your sodium stores and the body wants to balance things back out.

Me…I am a sweaty, sweaty monster. Hot, cold, whatever. That’s right, you can be a heavy sweater even in the winter it just dries on your skin faster!

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As you know, sweat is salty because sodium is one of the main components excreted from our bodies via sweat. It’s an essential mineral and an electrolyte. Other electrolytes include magnesium, potassium, calcium, phosphate, and chlorine.

When you sweat, you lose these electrolytes. Of these electrolytes, the loss of sodium is the greatest and arguably the most critical to replace.

Electrolytes, including sodium, play an important role in hydration, balancing the body’s pH level, moving nutrients to cells and removing cell waste, and ensuring our nerves, muscles, heart, and brain can work properly.

If we lose these electrolytes, and specifically sodium, while exercising and don’t replace them, it can lead to issues, including:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Hyponatremia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness

Replacing sodium and the other electrolytes is important, both during and after running or other intense exercise. You can do this through specific nutrition sources, electrolyte drinks, and salt tablets.

So yes, salt tablets for runners can be a really valuable tool. But on par with the right electrolyte drink, if the amounts are correct.

Let’s learn a bit more about the how much, when and what.

How Much Sodium You Lose in Sweat?

This is known as your sweat rate and sweat concentration.

Sweat rate refers to the amount of sweat produced by the body over a given period of time. It is usually measured in milliliters per hour (ml/hr) or liters per hour (L/hr). Sweat concentration, on the other hand, refers to the amount of sodium and chloride, present in the sweat. It is usually measured in millimoles per liter (mmol/L) or grams per liter (g/L).

Many athletes have started doing testing to find out these numbers because then you can customize your hydration strategy.

If a runner has a high sweat rate, for example, they will need to drink more fluids to replace the lost sweat. Meanwhile, some runners may lose more sodium in their sweat than others, and therefore need to consume more sodium during exercise to prevent hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels).

No time for a test? No worries.

Precision Hydration did a study with runners and found “a strong correlation between what how much sodium athletes’ think they lose in their sweat and their actual sweat sodium concentration.”

  • Is your face, your hat, your tights, covered in white salt (like me??), salty sweater
  • You can actually taste the salt if you lick your lips or it stings when dripping in your eyes
  • Endurance races often lead to muscle cramps for you
  • High craving for salty foods when finish long workouts

What Are Salt Tablets?

“Salt tablets” is overall just a generic term for a number of different kinds of electrolyte supplements. As their name implies, salt tablets contain the key electrolyte sodium. They may come in tablet or capsule form.

They ARE NOT just a little block of salt.

Realistically they are just electrolytes. Period. Full stop.

Blocks of salt are for things like water softners or a salt only tablet should probably be prescribed to you.

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Regardless of brand, it’s important to note that they’re highly concentrated and often should be dissolved in water. Each brand will specify the amount of sodium and other electrolytes in the tablet (capsule) and how much water you will need to dissolve them.

Some salt tablets only contain sodium chloride, while others may contain a combination of sodium chloride and the other various electrolytes I mentioned earlier.

Salt Tablets Can Help Overall Hydration

A 2015 randomized controlled trial looking at half-Ironman participants found that salt supplementation increased the concentration of electrolytes, including sodium, in the blood of the participants and helped with their hydration.

In addition, the review found that sodium intake can mitigate blood electrolyte concentration drops, but can’t eliminate those drops entirely, and that the most important thing athletes can do is to pay attention to their overall fluid intake.

Because salt tablets contain the all-important sodium and other electrolytes, they are a great option to replace lost electrolytes during and after exercise. They can even be used ahead of a tough workout to help maintain our internal electrolyte balance and keep us hydrated throughout our workouts.

How to Use Salt Tablets for Running?

As mentioned, when you run or exercise you sweat and thus lose sodium and other electrolytes in various amounts. The amount depends on a number of factors, such as the intensity of your workout, weight, diet, weather (heat), genetics, and more.

Replacing those lost electrolytes can be key to our continued performance and our recovery. However, it is important to note that the science on sodium supplementation is mixed.

A review of studies looking at endurance and ultra-endurance athletes determined that endurance athletes generally need to supplement with additional sodium, about 300-600 mg of sodium per hour, but that there’s no evidence that doing so will prevent muscle cramps.

  • Start your run fully hydrated
  • During hot, humid weather, you may want to be sipping electrolyte drinks the day before long workouts
  • In your workout, try to sip consistently rather than guzzling at any one point. This will avoid GI issues.
  • Look at all of the products in your fueling kit to ensure you aren’t overdoing it on sodium. You’ll find it in gels, electrolyte drinks and the salt tablet options mentioned below.

High Sodium Risks

While there are obviously benefits to sodium consumption, there are also risks.

You’ve probably heard through the years that high sodium diets are responsible for many avoidable health issues. Consistently having too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure, kidney diseases, heart disease, and stroke.

For athletes, generally, doing some sodium and electrolyte supplementation won’t cause those issues. However, it’s important to not overdo it with the salt tablets as they can cause GI distress.

When Should I Take Salt Tablets?

For those running less than 60 minutes, supplementing with sodium and other electrolytes is probably not needed. But there are times when it may be beneficial even on shorter runs.

  • Getting acclimated to hot weather
  • You’ve haven’t been on top of your daily hydration
  • Running at altitude
  • Hard interval workouts
  • Any long-distance runs over 60 minutes

As mentioned, a starting point for how much to supplement is around 300-600 milligrams of sodium per hour. If you’re using a sports drink, that’s very easy to track by looking at what’s already in it.

If you’re supplementing with salt tablets or other electrolyte mixes, you’ll want to pay attention to the amount in each tablet/mix and how much liquid the product wants you to use with it.

Timing of your supplementation is also something to think about. To help ensure optimal performance, consider supplementing before your long runs or more intensive efforts, as well as during.

Supplementing before and during can ensure you’re properly hydrated and can maintain your hydration levels throughout your workout. You can also supplement post-workout to help with recovery.

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8 Best Salt Tablets for Runners

Below is a list of 8 salt tablet products you may want to explore. For each product I’ve included a brief overview, their contents, and their recommended use.

Obviously this isn’t an all-encompassing list, but it is a good place to start your research.

#1 SaltStick Fastchews

SaltStick Fastchews are just that…chewable! These tablets dissolve while being chewed to allow for faster absorption. An easy option if you want to carry something with you during the race. I used these along side the rest of my nutrition during the Chicago marathon where it was about 80 at the start line.

Because of their lower electrolyte amounts, SaltStick recommended taking 1 FastChew every 15 minutes during exercise if you’re also consuming a sports drink or 2 FastChews every 15 minutes if you’re using plain water. When using, wait 2-3 minutes after chewing before eating or drinking.

The chews are vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free.

  • Recommended Use: 1-2 tablets every 15 minutes during exercise.
  • Sodium: 100 mg
  • Calcium: 10 mg
  • Potassium: 30 mg
  • Magnesium: 6 mg
  • Flavors: Orange, lemon-lime, mixed berry, mango, peach, watermelon, coconut pineapple
  • Price: $16 (60 ct bottle)

I personally still take the original SaltStick tablets BEFORE the start of any long distance race and at the end.

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#2 Precision Hydration 1500

A brand that is really focused on all the science and data around your hydration needs. For those that are heavy sweaters or are going in to a heavy sweat environment where you won’t be able to stay on top of hydration, this is a good solution.

This is a pre-event choice as it will help to enhance water absorption.

  • Recommended Use: 1 table in 16 oz of water night before or 90 minutes before events
  • Sodium: 750 mg
  • Calcium: 24 mg
  • Potassium: 125 mg
  • Magnesium: 12 mg
  • Flavors: no flavor
  • Price: $12 (10 ct bottle)

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#3 LMNT Electrolytes Powder

I’ll say right off the bat, I dislike that they are marketing this as KETO. Part of this is because folks who are low carb actually need to take in more salt. But I have a lot of athletes who love the salty, salty taste. It’s not my top pick for that reason, but could be exactly what you’re looking for.

We actually know that heavy sweating can increase our magnesium needs by 10-20%, so this drink mix tries to take that in to account. It’s also known that magnesium can help to move along your bowels. So maybe don’t test this drink during a race! Figure out how your body likes it because this is a slightly higher dose than other electrolytes.

  • Recommended Use: 1 stick in 16 oz of water (I diluted mine way down)
  • Sodium: 1000 mg
  • Calcium: 0 mg
  • Potassium: 220 mg
  • Magnesium: 60 mg
  • Flavors: Citrus salt, Chocolate salt, Lemon Habanero, Mango Chile, Orange Salt, Raspberry, Unflavored, Watermelon
  • Price: $45 (30 ct)

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#4 Hammer Endurolytes Fizz

Hammer Endurolyte Fizz tablets are a great addition to your water bottle. They provide both a light fizziness and flavor, which can encourage fluid consumption, especially during exercise.

Like most electrolyte supplements, these are not a calorie or carbohydrate source. They also do not contain sugar or artificial sweeteners.

The tablets come in 5 flavors, including one with 20 mg of added caffeine. They can be used before, during and after workouts. The tablets also break in the center to allow you to personalize your dosing.

  • Recommended Use: ½ tablet per 50-60 lbs of body weight.
  • Sodium: 200 mg
  • Calcium: 100 mg
  • Potassium: 100 mg
  • Magnesium: 50 mg
  • Chloride: 60 mg
  • Flavors: Cola (caffeine), grapefruit, grape, lemon-lime, mango
  • Price: $6.95/13 count tube, $14.95 (25 single serve packets)

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#5 Nuun Sport Hydration

Nuun Sport Hydration tablets are another great option for runners. They are vegan, kosher, gluten free, and banned substance tested by LGC Science. They also boast only 1g of sugar.

To be clear, this is not the basic Nuun. That’s a waste of time for your workout.

Pop one tablet into 16 oz of water and wait for it to dissolve and you’ll have a lightly fizzy drink ready to enjoy. An added bonus is they come in 13 flavors, including 4 with added caffeine.

These are recommended before, during, and after workouts depending on length and intensity.

  • Recommended Use: 1 tablet per 16 oz of water.
  • Sodium: 300 mg
  • Calcium: 13 mg
  • Potassium: 150 mg
  • Magnesium: 25 mg
  • Chloride: 40 mg
  • Flavors: Strawberry lemonade, citrus fruit, fruit punch, grape, lemon lime, orange, tri-berry, tropical, watermelon, cherry limeade (caffeine), fresh lime (caffeine), mango orange (caffeine), wild berry (caffeine)
  • Price: $7.49 (10 tablet tube)

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#6 Skratch Labs Hydration

Skratch Labs Hydration mix was created to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat and also provide some energy too. The goal was to create a product that tasted good but didn’t cause stomach troubles.

The mix boasts an electrolyte profile matching what’s lost in sweat and a ratio of sugar optimized to speed up absorption. You’re getting 20grams of carbs with this option, which means it’s also a good part of your fueling plan.

It also uses real fruit to provide a light flavor.

The mix is gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan. You may notice that after dissolving, you’ll still see some particles floating and that’s actually real fruit!

  • Recommended Use: 1 scoop for 12-16 oz of water.
  • Sodium: 380 mg
  • Calcium: 44 mg
  • Potassium: 39 mg
  • Magnesium: 39 mg
  • Flavors: Lemon and Lime, strawberry lemonade, pineapple, raspberry lineage, fruit punch, orange, matcha green tea and lemon.
  • Price: $1.95 (single serving), $21.95 (20 serving bag)

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#7 UCan Hydrate

UCan’s Hydrate Powder is a sugar-free, zero calorie electrolyte replacement drink mix. It comes in multiple flavors and both in single-serve packets or a bulk jar. I’ve used this off and on for years. It’s definitely on the sweeter side, but that works for me!

Formulated by an Olympic dietician, the product is known for having double the magnesium of other electrolyte drink mixes.

It’s recommended before, during, and after workouts and can be consumed every 1-2 hours to improve hydration and increase energy.

  • Recommended Use: 1 serving per 16-20 oz of water.
  • Sodium: 300 mg
  • Calcium: 15 mg
  • Potassium: 100 mg
  • Magnesium: 50 mg
  • Chloride: 150 mg
  • Flavors: Orange, berry, lemon-lime, watermelon, pineapple
  • Price: $15.95-$24.95

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#8 Safrel

If you’re looking for a salt-only supplement, Safrel may be a good option. This does not contain the other electrolytes listed in the other supplements.

Each tablet has 1000 mg of sodium chloride, which is 394 mg of sodium.

  • Recommended Use: 1-2 tablets every 15 minutes during exercise.
  • Sodium Chloride: 1000 mg
  • Flavors: N/A
  • Price: $12.99 (300 ct bottle)

All right, my sweaty friends. I hope this helped you better understand salt tablets for runners. Whether you need them and what’s going to be best for you based on how much you sweat.

Looking for more training tips:

  • My favorite electrolyte powders
  • Best Hydration Packs for Running
  • Best Running Bottles for Hydration
  • How to Avoid Bonking on Race Day

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8 Salt Tablets for Runners + How to Use Them - RunToTheFinish (2024)
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