FRIDAY, April 17, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Taking salt pills does little to boost the performance of endurance athletes, new research shows.
Although the study only involved 11 athletes, the findings challenge the widely held belief that salt pills can help these athletes do better during competitions, said the researchers from Saint Louis University, in St. Louis.
"I recommend that athletes use caution with sodium [salt] supplementation, especially when daily intake already exceeds the upper safe limit of 2,300 [milligrams] mg/day for most Americans," study author Edward Weiss, an assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics, said in a university news release.
During training and competitions, athletes sometimes consume large quantities of salt or electrolyte supplements containing sodium in the belief that it will help them perform better, but this can lead to excessive salt intake, the researchers explained.
The study was published recently in The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.
In the study, the athletes went through two exercise sessions, one in which they were given either an 1,800-mg salt pill or an inactive placebo. It was a "double-blind" study, where neither participants nor the researchers knew which person was getting the salt pill.
In each session, the athletes performed endurance exercise for two hours, and then were given an exercise performance test. The researchers found no significant differences in performance in either session.
When the results are combined with health concerns about high levels of salt in people's diets, guidelines that call for salt replenishment in athletes should be interpreted conservatively, Weiss added.
"While moderate sodium consumption is perfectly reasonable and should be encouraged, high sodium intake is associated with health concerns, like hypertension [high blood pressure]. Many Americans already consume too much salt on a daily basis," he said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration explains how to lower salt in your diet.