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Is salt making you fat?

Most everyone knows that too much salt in your diet leads to high blood pressure and cardiovascular health risks. But could eating too much salt in your diet be making you fat? In today’s post I’m going to answer that question and fill you in on everything you need to know about salt.

Many so called weight loss experts dismiss the role of salt in weight gain because it doesn’t have any calories. While this is true, saying that weight loss or gain all comes down to calories in versus calories out is an indication they’re really not an expert at all.

Make no mistake about it, fat loss is 100% controlled by hormonal balances in your body. Sure, calories will play a role in these balances but it’s not the only player. Before I get into the impact salt has on fat loss it’s important to first address a common misconception.

But Shane I don’t salt my food…

A lot of times when talking with consulting clients about sodium levels in their diet, they’ll be quick to tell me they don’t have a problem because they don’t salt their food. There’s a big misconception that the salt shaker is the main culprit. It’s not…in fact the majority of sodium in a person’s diet comes from the food itself.

You may add a little table salt (sodium chloride) during cooking or at the dinner table to enhance the flavor of your food. However, food manufacturers add sodium chloride to foods in mass quantities mostly to preserve them and add shelf life.

If you’re eating processed and refined foods, you’re getting a ton of sodium. As you’ll see this creates more of a problem than just increasing your risk for high blood pressure and making you feel bloated.

How salt impacts hunger and cravings…

Excess salt in the diet impacts several hormonal balances in the body which can not only make fat loss more difficult but it also promotes weight gain. The first way it does this is by affecting grehlin and leptin sensitivity.

In short, excess salt makes you tend to over-eat even when you’re not hungry. It does this by blocking the normal hormonal signals that signal you’re full. This is one of the reasons why you can eat a whole bag of potato chips and still feel hungry.

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How salt increases fat storage…

Researchers in Brazil recently studied the impact on adding salt to the feed for beef cattle. Their findings prove something farmers have known for a long time. If you add salt to grain it fattens up the animal much quicker.

The same thing happens with humans. Excess salt in the diet interferes with the liver’s ability to turn stored fat into energy, so it stores the fat in the body. One of the reasons it does this is because high levels of salt increases insulin production.

Insulin resistance problems are common in the majority of people who are overweight. Increased insulin production over time decreases sensitivity and eventually the cell receptors start shutting down. This causes the body to become flooded with blood sugar and fatty acids.

Bottom line is low insulin sensitivity will result in more fat being stored for fuel instead of being used for energy production.

So is salt bad for you?

The short answer is absolutely not. The problem is not isolated with sodium levels but rather the electrolyte balances between sodium, potassium, magnesium, and others. Sodium ions present in salt are needed in the body to perform a variety of essential functions.

Salt helps maintain the fluid in our blood cells, is used for nutrient uptake in the small intestine, and is key player in muscle contraction just to name a few. We need sodium because the body cannot produce it on its own. This is generally not a problem to meet demands.

The issues arise when sodium levels far exceed that of other electrolytes. We see this in individuals who are eating lots of processed and refined foods. When you’re not eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, you’re robbing your body of vital electrolytes that balance out sodium.

How salt causes water retention…

Like we just discussed our bodies rely on electrolytes, most significantly sodium and potassium, to carry the electrical impulses that control our bodily functions. In order for our bodies to function properly, it is important that the concentration of electrolytes in our bodies remain constant.

A high concentration of sodium electrolytes in our blood triggers our thirst mechanism, causing us to consume more water to return to the proper concentration of electrolytes. When we consume more water, our kidneys are able to keep the concentration of electrolytes in our blood balanced by increasing or decreasing the amount of water we retain.

Through the process of osmosis, water flows from a lower salinity environment to a higher one in an attempt to balance the levels of salinity. After we consume large amounts of salt, it is the water moving from our bloodstream into our skin that gives us that “puffy” look. Then, when we consume lesser amounts of salt, the same process works in reverse to remove the excess water from our bodies.

Bottom line: excess salt in the diet can and will make you fat!

As it is with everything in nature, balance is essential. The human body needs sodium to function optimally. Too little or too much and there will be a problem. Don’t be fooled into believing salt won’t impact your weight because it doesn’t contain calories.

There’s no question that excess salt in your diet causes dysfunction in hormonal balances which affect fat loss.

The root cause behind just about any hormonal imbalance and health problem is inflammation. While this is a whole subject within itself, just know that excess salt in the diet is an instant recipe for increased inflammation. If you want to lose weight and keep it off you’ll have to look to decrease inflammation.

One of the best ways to do this naturally is by following a Primal Blueprint diet of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils. Eliminating processed and refined foods in the diet is critical if you want to establish hormonal balances.

An alkaline based diet with lots of greens and fruits will go a long way towards reducing inflammation and reversing tissue degeneration at the glands.

If you want to add a little salt to your food for flavor during cooking or at the dinner table, go ahead, just make sure you’re balancing the sodium out by eating lots of greens and fruits. Remember it’s all about balance.

The problem is not the salt shaker but rather the foods that make up your diet. Salt used to preserve food is significantly higher than the salt you’d add during cooking. If you’re going to use salt during cooking or at the dinner table I’d recommend natural sea salt as your best option.

So there you have it. I hope this gives you a better understanding of the role salt plays in fat loss. If you’ve been struggling with weight loss by counting calories and eating things like Lean Cuisine’s now you know why.

If you drastically reduce your sodium intake by following a Primal Blueprint or Paleo type diet of whole, natural foods for just 30 days I have no doubt you’ll look and feel a thousand times better.

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts, a Charleston personal fitness training studio that specializes in weight loss and body transformation. You can receive a FREE, no-obligations (2) session personal training trial and consultation to experience the difference for yourself.

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