ATC 333: St. George Becomes World Champs, The “Sweet Spot” With Salt (And Why Too Little Isn’t Good), Plus: A Quick Gut Health Protocol

October 22, 2021


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On this episode of Ask The Coaches with Tawnee and Lucho:


  • Tawnee shares a few cute mis-pronunciations that Cora is saying these days.
  • Lucho shares some innovative ideas and tweaks he’s making to his Ironman training.
    • Sweet spot—how and why it’s useful, works and is ok for seasoned athletes but also making sure you don’t get into trouble with it.
    • What he’s doing:
      • Sweet spot on the bike
      • MAF/polarized on the run

Kara asks:

Lucho’s Doing the Ironman World Championships, Say What?!

You guys, I’m pretty sure this is the most important question ever: Did Lucho have some sort of insider info where he knew that his Ironman comeback would end up being the freaking Ironman world championships?! Seriously, what the heck!? Haha. (And in all seriousness, how do you guys see this mix of races unfolding? Lucho how does this change things for you if at all?)

What the coaches say:

  • We discuss the recent news that Kona 2021 is postponed again and how the Ironman World Championships will unfold in 2022 with two world championship events—the first in May at Ironman St. George and the second in October in Hawaii.
  • How the May IMWC race in St. George impacts racers.
  • Thoughts on racing in Hawaii these days and what must go into it, i.e. cost!
  • Our thoughts on this decision.

James asks:

Pass the Salt?

I’d love for Tawnee and Lucho to elaborate more on eating salt, which was mentioned in the last episode–where Lucho said he doesn’t salt his food and Tawnee was a bit shocked by it, from what it sounded like and told him to have some sort of other “salt and mineral cocktail”. I know this isn’t a sports nutrition show, but love your guys’ take on things and some good banter 😉 Basically: Does lower sodium intake result in better health? Or is that idea outdated? How much is too much? How little is too little?

What the coaches say:

  • We draw our answer off this new open access review article, which you can read too:
  • Sodium Intake and Health: What Should We Recommend Based on the Current Evidence?
  • Below are quotes pulled from this scientific review article:
    • Sodium and Cardiovascular Events: Randomized trials to specifically determine the effect of low sodium intake (i.e., below 2.3 g/day) compared to moderate intake on clinical outcomes are still not available.
    • Sodium Intake and Blood Pressure: The impact of sodium intake on BP has been evaluated in numerous clinical trials. Most were short-term trials (95% with less than 6 months duration) with relatively few participants [22,23].
    • Several health organizations recommend low sodium intake (<2.3 g/day, ~1 teaspoon of salt) for the entire population [1,2,3], a level that has not been achieved by any modern population in the world.
    • Fewer than 5–10% consume below 2.3 g/day.
    • Most people (95%) around the world consume a moderate range of dietary sodium of 3 to 6g/day. 
    • Globally looking at 187 countries: the mean intake of sodium was estimated at 3.95 g/day [7].
    • In the United States, mean sodium intakes for the eight population samples ranged from 4.1 to 4.4 g/day in men and 3.0 to 3.5 g/day in women.
    • Current evidence from cohort studies suggests a J-shaped relationship between sodium intake and cardiovascular events, and suggests that the lowest risk of death or cardiovascular disease occurs in populations consuming an average sodium intake (3 to 5 g/day) [9,10,11,12,13]. 
    • 3-5g/day = This level of intake is associated with the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.
    • The risk of adverse health outcomes increases when sodium intakes exceeds 5 g/day or is below 3 g/day.
    • The evidence linking sodium consumption with cardiovascular disease has been inconsistent, with no study reporting lower risk of cardiovascular events with low sodium intake (below 2.3 g/day). 
    • In the majority of people with normal kidney function and blood pressure (BP), the kidney is sufficiently able to deal with wide variations in sodium intake, without eliciting increases in BP. However, in some individuals, moderate changes (1 to 2 g/day) in sodium intake can result in marked increases in BP, a concept called salt sensitivity [18]. This can be mitigated by a high potassium diet [19].
    • Sodium restriction is increasingly shown to activate the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system (RAAS), which itself is associated with increased cardiovascular risk [20,21]. 
    • Observational study on BP: The largest international study of sodium intake and BP was the PURE study [35], which included more than 102,000 adults from 18 countries. PURE reported a positive, threshold association of sodium intake with BP (2.11/0.78 mmHg increment in BP per 1 g daily increase in sodium), which was only statistically significant for sodium intakes above 3 g/day and was strongest in those with consumption exceeding 5 g/day (2.58 mmHg increment in BP per 1 g increase in sodium) [35].
    • In addition, targeting a very low sodium intake may have implications for overall dietary quality. An analysis of the NHANES cohort suggests that achieving an overall high-quality diet is more difficult with sodium intake of below 2.3 g/day than with higher sodium intakes [69].
    • PURE also showed that in those with high potassium intake and higher-quality diets, the association of high sodium and cardiovascular events was mitigated [47].
    • Collectively, there is no robust evidence that lowering sodium below an intake of 3 g/day is likely to lead to a lowering of cardiovascular disease or death compared to a sodium intake of 3 to 5 g/day. There are, however, concerns that sodium intake below 3 g/day may be associated with a higher risk of death compared to intakes between 3 and 5 g/day.

Christian asks:

Long-Time Gut Issues, Finally Ready To Heal This…

Hey Tawnee and Lucho!
Long time listener and question asker here! I’ve been listening since the very beginning! It has been a fun transition in my endurance journey of short to long triathlon to ultra running, back to fast 5K’’s and now back to Half and full marathon distance.Throughout the whole process I have struggled with gut issues. I switched to gluten-free nearly 8 years ago which has helped a lot. I still constantly battle leaky gut and stomach distress when my heart rate and intensity increase. My goal is to run a sub 1:35 half at the end of November (12 weeks away today).I would really like to get my gut fixed long term. I know that occasional alcohol drinking is not helping me as well as other sugars. I’m willing to really hunker down and be committed to a cleaner diet and lifestyle leading up to this important race and a marathon and or 50K I plan to do in January to celebrate my 40th birthday. I want to still run fast and not settle for slower speeds because of my stomach.I know that you’ve done quite a bit of info on leaky gut and stomach issues. I have never found the magic bullet. This is a journey that I’ve been on for almost 10 years trying to get it figured out. Help! Thank you for all you do! And you have improved my running and triathlons so much over the years!

What the coaches say:

  • No magic bullet exists. Hard, consistent, intentional work (and moderation!) lead to success.
  • First! Look to mental health and stress management. Healing won’t effectively take place if you’re too stuck in the sympathetic fight or flight or parasympathetic freeze state. Healing only takes place in a relaxed body and vagal tone is adequate. May require some time off from training if that is putting body over the edge with stress and depletion.
    • Check breathing- are you nasal breathing?
  • Test don’t guess, is always our first recommendation but if you can’t afford testing right now you can still do some things to help including:
    • Avoid NSAIDs and whenever possible avoid antibiotics, medications that can affect GI health
    • ION Gut Support
      • Soil-derived mineral supplement that strengthens the gut wall.
      • Not a probiotic.
      • Defends from environmental toxins (antibiotics and pesticides etc) and diversifies your gut microbiome naturally.
      • Communication network that gives our bodies the tools to create their own bacterial ecosystem again.
      • Helps good bacteria flourish.
    • Probiotics
      • Either supplement or whole food types (eg fermented foods).
      • Can take a few different kinds of probiotics.
      • Sally Fallon Nourishing Traditions.
    • Colostrum
      • Colostrum acts as passive immunity and can enhance your GI health.
      • Can help heal leaky gut issues, which is common for most athletes to experience to some degree, often severe. Growth factors stimulate the gut to heal and “patch up” the holes.
      • Recommended: Mt. Capra Colostrum
    • Also watch your diet—minimize inflammatory foods, junk foods, sugar, alcohol, etc.

One Comment

  • Kathy S Dreiblatt says:

    I don’t add salt, either! One thing I worry about is getting low on iodine, but otherwise, I feel good about it!

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