8 Reasons Why Sodium is Not the Enemy

Is sodium's bad rap justified? Here are 8 reasons why it's not.


Cutting sodium may be benef icial for sedentary individuals, but it doesn’t really hold water (pun intended) for hardcore bodybuilders. Here’s why:

  • For starters, you lose sodium in your sweat. And with all the sweating you do when lifting and doing cardio, your sodium requirements are higher than those who sit around all day.
  • Every rep you perform in a workout is dependent on sodium for the muscle contraction to occur. Without adequate levels of sodium, muscle contraction won’t be optimal and your strength and muscle endurance could suffer.
  • Last but not least is the fact that exercise has been shown to reverse salt sensitivity; in other words, there are some people who are more sensitive to sodium’s effects on raising blood pressure. But University of Minnesota researchers reported in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Human Hypertension that in a group of hypertensive adults who worked out for six months, a good proportion of those who were salt sensitive before the workout program no longer were sensitive afterward.


The research has shown that the sweet spot for sodium appears to fall in the range between 2,000 and 4,000 mg per day. Any less than 2,000 and you’ll likely experience health consequences; an excess of 4,000 mg could wreck your health, too. 

We’ve analyzed the typical FLEX meal plans and they fall somewhere between 3,000 and 3,800 mg of sodium per day — right in the aforementioned sweet spot to keep your muscle strength and size maximized.


Dennis James’ rules for manipulating sodium for a contest: At the beginning of my career, I was always called the “Two-weeks out Mr. Olympia” because I looked great then but by contest time, not so much. The problem stemmed from ridding my diet of sodium at 10 days out. Through trial and error, I came up with this protocol. I don’t go by any set numbers, but here are the guidelines I use to determine when and how much to cut.

  • DO eat plenty of sodium at the beginning of your diet. Cutting it too early will put your body into emergency mode, cause you to retain water and make it even harder to get dry for the contest.
  • DO cut your sodium intake in half seven days out from the contest. The reduction should be enough for your body to push out any extra water.
  • DON’T cut sodium and expect to train all-out. You will cramp and be vulnerable to injury.
  • DO cut out all added sodium (no spices, sauces, etc.) one to two days before the contest. You will still be getting a little that is naturally found in your foods.
  • DO experiment to figure out your body’s reaction to sodium — especially when you’re real lean. A test run is a good idea so that you’re not leaving anything to chance on the day of the contest.