Benefits of Pink Himalayan Salt for Athletic Performance

The benefits of pink Himalayan salt for athletic performance

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between pink Himalayan salt and regular table salt? Perhaps you have wondered why it is a different color, or questioned why people choose to use it over regular table salt. You may have heard the claims that pink Himalayan salt is the purest form of all salts, and because of its purity it also holds additional health benefits that regular table salt does not. There are a lot of health claims about pink Himalayan salt, regarding it as an ancient form of healing. You may be wondering how accurate these claims are. Or you may be asking yourself, is pink Himalayan salt healthier than regular salt, and if so, how will it affect your athletic performance? This article dives into the accuracy behind pink Himalayan salt and the potential benefits.

What is salt?

Before you can understand what pink Himalayan salt is, you first have to understand what salt is. Salt is a mineral, largely made up of crystalized sodium chloride. Since salt is primarily made up of sodium, people tend to use the words “sodium” and “salt” interchangeably. Salt is produced from one of two ways. Salt can be produced through the solar evaporation method, which consists of collecting salt from shallow ponds. In this method the sun evaporates majority of the water. The second method is the rock salt mining method, in which salt appears in natural occurring domes in the earth. In this method, salt is either harvested by hand or through heavy machinery. 

No matter the method of extraction, regular table salt goes through a heavy refining process, which includes removing impurities and all other minerals besides sodium chloride. Additional compounds are added to table salt, including anticaking agents as well as iodine to prevent consumers from developing an iodine deficiency. 

Uses of salt

Salt has been used for thousands of years to enhance flavor, and preserve food. However sodium plays a larger role in our bodies than just adding flavor. This electrolyte supports the body in nerve transmission, maintains proper hydration and fluid balance, prevents low blood pressure, and regulates the contraction and relaxation of muscles. Sodium is an essential trace mineral, and because of that it is absolutely necessary to have sodium in the diet. With that being said, overconsumption of sodium can also be detrimental to your health, leading to diseases such as hypertension, and heart disease. Due to the potential health risks that high amounts of sodium can cause people have turned to a more natural form of salt, pink Himalayan salt, as a healthy alternative.

What is pink Himalayan salt?

Pink Himalayan salts are rock salt crystals mined near the Himalayas in Pakistan. The mine that pink Himalayan salt comes from is the Khewra Salt Mine, one of the oldest salt mines in the world. As one of the oldest mines in the world, the salt in the mine was formed millions of years ago from an evaporating ancient inland sea. Pink Himalayan salt is a sustainable, hand-harvested mineral, yielding no pollution or waste products from manufacturing [1].

Pink Himalayan salt is minimally processed leaving you with a natural, unrefined product, free from additives. Similar to table salt, Himalayan salt is primarily made up of sodium. However because it is harvested naturally and goes through minimal processing, Himalayan salt also contains additional trace minerals that are not found in regular table salt. You may be wondering where the pink color comes from. Well, studies have shown that Himalayan salt may contain up to 84 different trace minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron, which gives the salt its notable pink color. Additionally, studies have shown that because regular table salt has more refined crystals, it contains more sodium than pink Himalayan salt. This is a benefit for individuals who are concerned about high sodium consumption.

How is pink Himalayan used?

Pink Himalayan salt has many uses both dietary and non-dietary. The most common way to use pink Himalayan salt is to cook with it. Himalayan salt can completely replace table salt in every dietary aspect. Unlike table salt, Himalayan salt can be bought in large crystal sizes. However most grocery stores also sell finely ground Himalayan salt for your convenience.

It is important to note that you may need to use larger quantities of coarse salt in order to match the flavor of finely ground salt when cooking. Finely ground salt is packed closer together than coarse salt, condensing the amount of product in a specific volume. Also as mentioned earlier, Himalayan salt contains less sodium than regular table salt, which can cause taste differences when swapping a specified amount of Himalayan salt for regular table salt.

Pink Himalayan salt can also be used in a number of non-dietary ways. Using Himalayan salt in bath salts is very popular to help soothe aching muscles, and improve skin conditions. While more research needs to be done, salt lamps are commonly made with large pink Himalayan crystals to help clear air pollutants. Salt caves are also popular to help individuals with respiratory problems. 

Benefits of Himalayan salt for athletic performance

  • Rich in mineral content
  • A natural alternative to table salt
  • Aids in hydration and electrolyte balance
  • Soothe sore muscles

Rich in mineral content

One of the most talked about benefits of Himalayan salt is its rich mineral content. Some research has shown that Himalayan salt may contain up to 84 additional trace minerals, which regular table salt does not contain. The additional minerals that it contains including potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron all plays an important role in the body [2].

The following are some benefits these minerals can provide for athletic performance:

Potassium is needed for fluid and electrolyte balance, nerve transmission, and glucose metabolism. Hydration and electrolyte balance is vital for a performing athlete. Potassium also aids in glucose metabolism, which is what helps to convert the food we eat into energy. 

Both calcium and magnesium play an important role in bone health, and muscle contraction. A deficiency in these minerals could lead to brittle bones. Additionally, a deficiency in magnesium and calcium could cause muscle cramps and spasms [3]. As an athlete, muscle cramps and spasms could greatly affect performance and recovery. Magnesium can also be a lifesaver for athletes, as it is also used to treat muscle cramps [4].

Another important mineral that pink Himalayan salt contains is iron. Iron is vital for red blood cells and the transport of oxygen. Inadequate iron could cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. When iron is depleted, your heart also has to work harder in order to move the more oxygen rich red blood cells around your body. In addition to your body working harder, some tissues and muscles receive less oxygen and are deprived of energy, making it more difficult to complete everyday tasks let alone exercise [5]. These are just a few of the additional minerals present in pink Himalayan salt, which can greatly impact athletic performance. 

Pink Himalayan salt is primarily made up of sodium chloride; therefore it does not contain large amounts of these minerals. However if you are using salt, wouldn’t you rather use a product that has additional health benefits? As an athlete, workouts can be intense, and maintaining adequate hydration can be a challenge. Prolonged exercise can lead to excessive amounts of water and electrolyte loss from the body as sweat to maintain regular body temperature. The sweat rate of an individual is highly variable, however any dehydration will impair exercise capacity and can pose certain health risks to an individual. Research has found that sodium and potassium is important for hydration after exercise [6].

Aids in hydration and electrolyte balance

Sodium and potassium are electrolytes that help to maintain proper fluid balance in the body. Regular table salt only contains sodium, however pink Himalayan salt is rich in both sodium and potassium. Why is this important? Well, adequate hydration greatly affects an athlete during and after their performance. Hydration is required for the body to maintain proper blood volume, regulate body temperature, and control muscle contractions. During a work out, water and electrolytes are lost through perspiration in order to maintain optimal body temperature. Ensuring that you are not depleted in important electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, as well as replenishing fluids throughout a work out restores muscle function, reduces heat stress, and helps to prevent a decrease in physical performance [7].

A natural alternative to table salt

Not only is pink Himalayan salt richer in minerals, but it also a more natural product. Regular table salt is stripped of its nutrients, and bleached during the manufacturing process. Since Himalayan salt is harvested by hand, it is kept in its natural state. This means that Himalayan salt does not contain any additives such as sodium aluminosilicate, magnesium carbonate, or anti-caking agents.

It is important to know what type of products you are putting in to your body. Your body is a temple, and as an athlete the products you use, food you eat, and the beverages you drink can all affect your performance. When you are pushing yourself to your max, proper nutrition can truly make a difference.

Soothe sore muscles

As an athlete, sore muscles are an expected consequence. Though more studies need to be done on the effectiveness of Himalayan salt as an aid for soothing sore muscles, many individuals use pink Himalayan salt to soothe their muscles in mineral baths. It has been claimed that a mineral bath of Himalayan salt seeps through the skin not only providing relief for sore muscles, but also benefiting for your skin. Proper care of your muscles can prevent injuries, and aid in recovery. Adequate rest is just as important for athletes as proper nutrition, and hydration. Himalayan salt may provide additional benefits for aching muscles due to its rich mineral content.

Bottom line

Pink Himalayan salt is a great natural alternative to regular table salt. Not only does Himalayan salt contain additional minerals, it is also free from additives. These benefits can help improve your athletic performance by aiding in hydration, maintaining electrolyte balance, and helping muscles contract. It is important to note that regular table salt is a major source of iodine for the general public. Pink Himalayan salt does not contain any iodine, therefore getting iodine from other foods such as seaweed, dairy products, and fish is important to prevent an iodine deficiency [8].

Switching out your regular table salt to pink Himalayan salt may seem like a trivial change. However small changes to everyday practices can have a huge impact on your health and athletic performance over time. Pink Himalayan salt is a great natural alternative to regular table salt and can potentially help you reach your athletic goals. 

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References
  1. Himalayan Pink Salt Sustainability. (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://www.seasalt.com/himalayan-pink-salt-sustainability
  2. Drake, S., & Drake, M. (2010). Comparison Of Salty Taste And Time Intensity Of Sea And Land Salts From Around The World. Journal of Sensory Studies,26(1), 25-34. doi:10.1111/j.1745-459x.2010.00317.x
  3. Ebashi, S. (1983). Regulation of Muscle Contraction. Cell and Muscle Motility,79-87. doi:10.1007/978-1-4615-9296-9_4
  4. Bilbey, DL., Prabhakaren, VM. (1996). Muscle Cramps and Magnesium Deficiency: case reports. Canadian Family Physician. 1348-51.
  5. Camaschella, C. (2015). Iron-Deficiency Anemia. New England Journal of Medicine. 372(19):1832-43. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1401038.
  6. Maughan, R. J. (n.d.). Water and Electrolyte Loss and Replacement in Exercise. Nutrition in Sport,226-240. doi:10.1002/9780470693766.ch17
  7. Harrison, D. M. (2013). Fluids and electrolytes. Oxford Medicine Online. doi:10.1093/med/9780199583836.003.0044
  8. Office of Dietary Supplements - Iodine. (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/

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