As the temperatures have been rising across the United States this summer, there's been a rise in TikToks touting the benefits of drinking water with salt. But is this trend worth its weight in salt, or another empty promise from influencers?
Here's what to know about drinking salt water.
What are the benefits of drinking salt water?
The primary benefit of drinking salt water pertains to increasing hydration. Some have claimed that it can also help with detoxing your body and aiding in digestion, but the truth isn't that simple.
The two components of table salt — sodium and chloride — are electrolytes, which help you hydrate by delivering water to your body’s cells. Not getting enough salt can increase your risk of dehydration. That’s why sports drinks include a considerable amount of sodium, about 300 milligrams.
Sweating is one way our bodies lose sodium. One study found that men who exercised in the heat for 10 hours lost between 4,800 and 6,000 milligrams of sodium, about 12,000 to 15,000 milligrams of salt. While these numbers are staggering, the amount of sodium you lose during a 30-minute workout is far less significant.
So, drinking a glass of water with some salt can be beneficial if you've been working out in extreme heat and lost a lot of sweat.
Some supporters of this trend have also asserted that salt water can aid in digestion. While sodium chloride is necessary for the absorption and transportation of nutrients in the intestines after they’ve been broken down during digestion, adding extra salt to your diet isn’t necessary. We get plenty through our food.
Does salt water cleanse your system?
Many TikTokers have asserted that drinking salt water can have a detoxing or cleansing affect. But the truth is your kidneys and liver due a top-notch job of removing any toxins from your body and flushing them out through urine or processing and eliminating them in your poop all on their own. Consuming additional sodium doesn’t make the process more efficient.
Is it good to drink water with salt?
When it comes to hydration, it can be good to drink salt water if you've been exercising in extreme heat, just sweat a ton and enjoy the taste of salty water. Adding a little fruit juice, such as orange or watermelon, to the salty mix would also be smart because carbohydrates stimulate the absorption of sodium and water, both during and after exercise.
However, for most people, it's not good to drink salt water multiple times a day because the amount of sodium lost through sweating is usually replaced with your next meal or snack. And most Americans already consume more than the recommended daily intake of sodium, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration —about 3,400 milligrams versus the limit of 2,300 milligrams, about 1 teaspoon of table salt.
If you're exercising longer than one hour, you can also opt for a sports drink with sodium to replace electrolytes instead of salt water.
How much salt should I add to my water?
If you’d like to try adding salt to your water, stick to one-sixteenth of a teaspoon and add it to a 8- to 12-ounce glass of water or bottle.
Many people say they add a “pinch” of salt to a glass of water, but because this isn't a precise measurement, doing so may risk adding too much. For example, a pinch could be one-eighth of a teaspoon (291 milligrams of sodium), which is too much if you’re drinking salt water throughout the day, as many TikTokers recommend. Imagine eight glasses of water with 291 milligrams of sodium — that’s your daily recommended intake right there!
I tried adding a pinch of sea salt to a tall glass of water and added in two to three tablespoons of lemonade. I also made the concoction with watermelon juice. Both drinks were refreshing, not overly salty and would be delicious post-workout or during a long walk. But I’d recommend sticking to one glass or sports bottle. As with most wellness trends, it’s easy to get too much of a good thing.
How often should you drink water with salt?
As a dietitian, I would only recommend drinking water with salt after you've exercised in extreme heat and lost a lot of sweat. I also would avoid drinking it more than once a day.
That's because, while sodium is an electrolyte and can help boost hydration, most people get more than the recommended amount of sodium in their diets. And you'd have to lose a lot of sweat in order to need more sodium than what your next meal or snack will provide.
What happens when you drink salt water in the morning?
Another salt water claim circulating online is that you should drink it first thing in the morning for optimal hydration and digestion. The reality is there’s nothing magical about drinking it when you get up, but as with many things, like taking your vitamins or feeding the dog, you may be more likely to remember to sprinkle salt into your glass in the morning if you're looking to make of for sodium lost during an intense workout.
Drinking salt water is unlikely to aid in your digestion because you're likely already getting enough through your food.