Sodium may bring on the bloat, but it won't make you gain fat. However, eating too much sodium is unhealthy, whether or not you lose weight. Along with monitoring your caloric consumption, it's wise to keep an eye on your sodium intake to avoid health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Healthy weight loss comes from the combination of a sensible eating plan and an exercise program that includes aerobic activity and resistance training.
Sodium and Weight
Retaining water is no fun, and sodium contributes to excess fluid in a major way. An extra 400 mg of sodium, found in a single gram of table salt, adds 2 pounds of water to your frame. However, water weight is different than weight from fat: you must burn off the fat to shed it, but water is expelled naturally once salt levels return to normal. Similarly, reducing sodium below normal levels will make you lose water weight through dehydration -- but it will come right back as soon as you eat normally again.
Calories and Weight
If you're dieting, fat loss is what you're after, and reducing calories is the biggest step toward reaching this goal. A pound of fat is roughly equal to 3,500 calories. Eating 500 fewer calories a day than you burn will allow you to shed that pound in a week. Because water retention also affects weight, the scale may not immediately reflect the loss. Plus, muscle gained from exercise may replace some of the weight lost from fat. However, continuing this calorie reduction will lead to safe, lasting weight loss over time.
Healthy Weight Loss
To lose weight the healthy way, think beyond calories and strive for permanent changes in your diet. This means forgoing the junk food -- which is seriously high in sodium -- and replacing it with whole foods. Go for fruits and vegetables, which have fiber and water to help keep your stomach full. Choose whole grains, which help slow digestion for lasting satiety and won't spike your blood glucose like white flours. Lean proteins also help curb hunger while providing important nutrients.
The water weight may be temporary, but other sodium side effects may not be. Too much salt is connected to hypertension, or high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease over time. For optimal health, limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day, or just 1,500 mg per day if you already have high blood pressure. Control sodium intake by ignoring the salt shaker and steering clear of processed foods.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.