What are they and do you need them?
They are not actually tablets but capsules. Capsules tend to go down much easier than a tablet would. I think every runner agrees that electrolyte replacement during exercise is important. This applies to all athletes not just runners.
Salt tablets are electrolytes in a handy dandy pill. I suggest them to anyone who runs for more than an hour in the heat, over 75 degrees Fahrenheit. But isn’t my Gatorade enough? Maybe. If you are running two hours or less, your Gatorade is probably enough. However, if you experience muscle cramps it could be because you are not replenishing your electrolytes fast enough to replace what you have sweated out.
Stomach issues and mental slowing/disorientation are also good indicators that you need more electrolytes. Water/liquid sloshing in your stomach is uncomfortable and nauseating. Water sloshes when you don’t have enough sodium to soak it up. If you can’t soak up water, you will become dehydrated.
Hyponatremia is a medical condition caused by low sodium levels in your blood leading to the buildup of water in and around your cells. Sodium helps transport water throughout your body. Hyponatremia can be life threatening. The symptoms of hyponatremia are:
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of energy and fatigue
Restlessness and irritability
Muscle weakness, spasms or cramps
For those runners who only drink water rather than a sports drink, salt tablets are an excellent supplement. This is what I do because sports drinks are too sweet for me. If I use them, I water them down. Plus, sports drinks have way too much sugar and not enough electrolytes for me causing my stomach to get upset (feel full and heavy) especially when I am also using any Gu or other similar product.
Depending upon which product you choose, you take one or two tablets per hour when running. You can adjust this as needed to fit your particular needs of course. You may need to take them more frequently if you are not experienced with running in hotter temperatures.
When you are deciding on a for electrolyte replacement, remember there are five electrolytes. Sodium gets a lot of hype, but chloride, calcium, magnesium, and potassium are the other four electrolytes. Look for a product containing all five electrolytes. You don’t lose them at the same rate as sodium, but you do lose them and they need to be replaced in order to maintain a good balance.
You need to maintain a balanced level of electrolytes because if you don’t your muscles and nerves do not work properly. For the laymen (me), what this amounts to is electrical charges sent through nerves are what make your muscles function, electrolytes are metals carrying either a positive or negative charge without them your nerves cannot make your muscles fire correctly.
FYI, you need your muscles to run!