Salt Tablets for Endurance Athletes

This is another one of those topics that is controversial. Whether or not adding salt tablets to your nutrition plan will help prevent cramps for endurance athletes.

Recently I listened to a podcast from a sports doctor who specialises in nutrition for athletes. According to his studies and research, salt tablets do not work and at best gives a placebo effect to an athlete.  He further stated that researching this topic is extremely difficult to undertake and much of their research comes from talking to athletes and studying their power files and nutrition intake throughout a race or training session.

Scientists still have not worked out how to give an athlete cramps in a lab, (ie: if an athlete can take step A, B and C they will receive a cramp), and therefore are unable to undertake the kind of research needed to find a prevention to this problem.

When my coach Allan Pitman was racing Ironman Western Australia in 2011, he was suffering incredibly on the run. He was lucky enough to find some salt tablets that had been dropped by another athlete on the side of the road.  In desperation to save his race, Allan picked them up and took these salt tablets and went on to win his age group.

I recently read professional triathlete Jordon Rapp’s Ironman nutrition plan and I was surprised how many salt tablets he consumes during an Ironman race.  Significantly more than myself and I have between 18-20 salt sticks during an Ironman, (please note that I am a larger athlete and that amount of salt tablets is not recommended for a number of athletes).

I personally use salt stick tablets in my long training days and races.  I don’t always rely on scientific data to determine what is and what is not going to work for me. What works in a neatly controlled environment like a laboratory, does not necessarily work in the real world.

Like anything with nutrition, check, test, adjust, test again.

Tim Egge



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