July 6, 2021

Salt on the Whole30

A wooden spoon full of big flakes of salt rests on a black background with some salt flakes scattered about.

Why you may need MORE, not less, salt on your Whole30

You’re on your first week of the Whole30 enjoying your meals and feeling good about the process, when all of a sudden a headache, fatigue, and irritability strike. Sound familiar?

There are a few potential reasons for this that we outline in our Whole30 Timeline, but there’s a possible culprit our Timeline doesn’t address: the possibility of not enough salt in your Whole30 lifestyle. 

The majority of our sodium intake, over 70%, comes from packaged, processed foods and restaurant meals. Since the Whole30 focuses on whole, unprocessed food you’re not eating convenience items or going to many restaurants, inadvertently cutting out a large percentage of the salt in your diet. 

I hear you. “Wait… what?! I thought we were supposed to limit salt?”
Let’s break this down so you feel equipped with information to choose whether or not an electrolyte supplement such as our Whole30 Approved Partner LMNT makes sense to use during your Whole30 (the raw, unflavored version) or in your Food Freedom (raw and flavored versions).

1 https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/sodium-your-diet

Do You NEED to Limit Salt?

Not necessarily!

Nutrition is complicated. Just when we think we have all the answers, a new study comes out showing the opposite. Even experts disagree, leaving the general public confused.

That’s why it isn’t surprising that an electrolyte powder with 1000 mg of sodium, makes some of our Whole30’ers a little concerned.  That amount can seem outrageous or maybe even dangerous if  you’ve been told that the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines recommends less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

But first, a quick distinction:

Salt: Made up of sodium + chloride.

Sodium: The substance that may cause blood pressure to increase.

Salt + High Blood Pressure

The theory is that high sodium diets cause the body to retain extra water, which puts stress on the heart and blood vessels and can cause blood pressure to rise. For this reason, some providers tell their patients to limit salt to 2,300 mg a day (or less).

Does sodium restriction help everyone with high blood pressure?

Only about 25% of the population is salt-sensitive, meaning dietary salt may increase their blood pressure. The government loudly proclaims there’s a link between high sodium intake and high blood pressure, whereas other studies find no link between sodium intake and blood pressure, even after adjusting for things like age, sex, race, and BMI. And a 2011 JAMA study found that 5 grams per day (as opposed to the government recommendation of less than 2.3 grams) was beneficial for heart health outcomes in type 2 diabetics. Confusing, right?

Signs You May Need More Salt

Inadequate sodium intake can lead to symptoms like:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased mental performance (confusion, brain fog)
  • Decreased physical performance (less energy for workouts, poor recovery)

Conventional recommendations would tell you that you simply need to drink more water to resolve these issues. From a physiological standpoint, this could be true and helpful, but what happens when you drink more water? You need more electrolytes to balance the increased fluids you’re consuming.

It’s a fine balance. Too little salt can be just as problematic as too much.

If you were told to follow a low sodium diet by your provider, provider rules trump Whole30 recommendations, always. Products like LMNT may not be appropriate for people with kidney problems and individuals on certain medications may require a low-sodium diet.

Who can benefit from an electrolyte supplement like LMNT?

  • Those following a low-carbohydrate or keto diet since they excrete more sodium
  • Those who are nursing and thus losing water and electrolytes at feedings
  • Those who sweat a lot and/or workout in hot/humid climates
  • Strength and endurance athletes
  • Those under chronic stress, experiencing “adrenal fatigue” (known as HPA-axis dysfunction) may feel better since low sodium levels elevates stress hormones.
  • Those with low blood pressure may find it helps with orthostatic hypotension (feeling dizzy upon standing)

2 https://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-researchers-new-diagnostic-test-can-identify-each-person-s-optimal-salt-intake

3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4061250/

4 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22110105/

If LMNT isn’t the best option, here are some things Melissa Urban suggests that can support electrolytes as we head into the summer months:

  • Don’t be afraid of salt! Use salt in recipes, salt your food, and enjoy naturally salty foods like olives, sardines, prosciutto, and sea vegetables on a regular basis.
  • Be especially aware of intake during summer months, when you’re more likely to be outside and active.

Using LMNT is Fun and Easy!

Just open the pack, add to 16 fl oz of water (or more to suit your taste), and mix well, then sip throughout the day. Use it to kickstart your morning, power your workouts or movement sessions, or when you feel an afternoon energy crash.

How Our HQ Team Members and Certified Coaches Use LMNT:

  • I LOVE LMNT! I use it every day! I’ve noticed improvements in my sleep and energy!” – Whole30® Certified Coach Ashley Parik
  • My husband uses LMNT often and really likes it. He’s a marathon runner, triathlete and is actually doing a 10 hour adventure race this weekend and has them packed up for his nutrition and fuel during the race” – Whole30® Certified Coach Emily Nichols
  • I’ve had a few cycling friends start using it and love it. Our biggest challenge is finding something that’s easy on the gut. Of course, no issues with LMNT!” – Whole30® Certified Coach Staci P
  • “As a nursing mama, I dissolve a packet of LMNT in 32oz of ice water every day and sip, sip, sip. I need SO much more hydration now than I needed previously!” – Shanna Keller, Whole30 Chief Content Officer
  • “LMNT electrolytes are one of the supplements I take religiously. I’m active and I’ve found my sodium needs are higher than what I can get from just salting my food. I’ve been adding a packet of LMNT to my gym water bottle and hiking hydration pack almost two years now, and have noticed an improvement in energy both on and off the trail. (Plus, I no longer get leg cramps after a long hike.) A cold sip of LMNT flavored water on a hike is like heaven.” – Melissa Urban, Whole30 CEO and Co-founder

Try LMNT For Free!

If you’ve been curious to try LMNT, now’s your chance! You can get the LMNT Sample Pack for FREE. It includes seven flavors (1 each of Citrus Salt, Raspberry Salt, Orange Salt, Raw Unflavored, Mango Chili, Chocolate Salt, and Lemon Habanero) for just $5 shipping (and they ship fast!). Test them out and see the difference a balanced daily electrolyte supplement can make in your energy, performance, and health. Click to snag yours today!

This post was sponsored and hydrated by LMNT. Thank you for supporting our Whole30 Approved partners!