Sodium is mineral which is essential for human life, and one of the body's primary electrolytes. Too little of it, and your body enters a deficit which results in reduced organ function. Too much of it, and one can suffer negative health effects. If you're a bodybuilder, your sodium intake is even more important, as your body has additional demands. Plus, your sport requires a level of dryness (lack of water) that sodium has a direct effect upon. Finally, manipulating sodium levels can have very positive effects on your training. Let's jump in!
Too little sodium
When the body doesn't get enough sodium, as will happen on super-clean diets, there are some negative side effects. Muscle cramping and dizziness are the most common symptoms. In more advanced deficiencies, an electrolyte disturbance can occur. This can lead to severe problems of a neurological nature. Additionally, water can cause harm to the body (in the form of water intoxication) without enough of the essential electrolyte sodium there to do its job.
Too much sodium
Consuming too much sodium (through salt intake) has its own set of negative effects on the body. Asthma, hypertension (high blood pressure), heartburn, osteoporosis, cardiac enlargement, ulcers, and edema have all been known to occur in people that simply consume too much salt. So while sodium is a terrific piece of your daily intake, too much of it can indeed be fatal in the long-term.
Daily recommended amounts of salt vary from nation to nation. The uniform agreement is somewhere between 2.5 and 5.0 grams per day. This is completely subject to individual medical requirements, however.
With heavy training
The strain upon the body from heavy weight training does lead to a greater requirement of both macro (protein, carbs, and fats) and micro (vitamins and minerals) nutrients. Bodybuilders do require slightly more sodium each day than their untrained counterparts, but no more than an additional 2.5 grams.
Many athletes, particularly natural bodybuilders, employ a tactic known as "sodium loading" in order to gain an advantage in the weight room. Essentially, it involves purposely raising the sodium intake to high levels, to enjoy the side effect of increased water retention. This puts more water into the muscle and makes for heavier lifts. Trainers should always be careful using this method, knowing full aware the side effects of long term sodium abuse.
Most bodybuilders remove all excess (and some required!) water from their bodies before a show, through sodium removal from diet and often, diuretic use. This is a dangerous practice and should only be done under the watchful eye of a doctor experienced in this arena.
The importance of water
An essential note which should be observed by all readers, both bodybuilders and non-athletes, is that water consumption can help you overcome a lot of mistakes with sodium level manipulation. Unless you're two days out form a show, you should always drink a gallon of water per day in order to ensure essential organ function, and that your body is able to flush out toxins and operate at maximum levels.
The bottom line is that sodium is a good thing. But, as you may know, too much of a good thing can kill you. Bodybuilders need to take special notice of their unique needs when manipulating sodium levels. Being knowledgeable in this area leads to advantages both on the stage, and in long term health and viability.