Don’t Be Afraid of Sodium

Na_(Sodium)We sell a lot of freeze-dried backpacking meals. They’re great lightweight food options that don’t take up a lot of space. As with any food, people like to check the nutritional facts on the back of these freeze-dried meals. Their eyes will dart back and forth like a typewriter and then, after a few seconds, an eyebrow peaks and they say, “Hmph, sure has a lot of sodium!”

It’s true that many of the instant backpacking meals you can buy have quite a bit of sodium, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s important to replenish calories and sodium if you’ve been walking through the woods for 10 hours straight, especially if you plan on doing the same thing the next day.

Your body sweats as a means of staying cool. Whenever you engage in physical activity, or if it’s hot outside, your body temperature rises and perspiration is your body’s way of trying to lower that temperature. Sweat is mostly water, but it also contains electrolytes and minerals among other things.

We all know the importance of staying hydrated when active, but it’s also important to replenish the electrolytes that your body loses through sweat.  Drinking water replenishes the fluid that you lose, but it does not replenish the electrolytes and minerals.

If you’re vigilant about staying hydrated but neglect refueling minerals and electrolytes, you run the risk of hyponatremia. This is a fancy term meaning that your electrolyte levels are diluted, and there’s not enough sodium in  your blood. When this occurs, your body doesn’t function properly. Hyponatremia is fairly common, and there are 3 million cases reported annually.

To prevent hyponatremia, you need to be sure to replenish sodium levels in your body. Some people go so far as to carry salt packets or tablets with them on hikes just as a safety precaution. But you shouldn’t just rely on salt packets. It’s best to get your nutrients from actual food.

Be sure to eat food to get calories and nutrients while on the trail. Jerky, crackers, nuts, dried fruit, or food bars are quick and easy trail foods that can help keep you going strong.

So the next time you take a look at that nutritional information on the back of a freeze-dried meal, don’t be afraid of the sodium. It’s an important nutrient that will help keep you going while you’re on the trail.

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