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Last Updated: 12.06.23

Using Salt to Optimize Mental & Physical Performance

Huberman delves into the significance of salt in the nervous system, mental and physical performance, and health. He explores its impact on thirst, renal system physiology, stress, immune function, and neuron activity. Huberman highlights individual variability and offers strategies to optimize sodium intake for improved mental and physical well-​​being. He also discusses the hidden sugars in processed foods.

Key Takeaways

High level takeaways from the episode.

Salt regulates blood pressure.

Sensing salty tastes mediates sugar cravings and consumption.

Neuropod cells are neurons in the gut that detect fatty acids, amino acids, and sugar.

Neuropod cells can distinguish between sweet, caloric substances (sugar) and sweet, non-​​caloric substances (artificial sweeteners).

Artificial sweeteners can evoke an insulin response under certain conditions.

Artificial sweeteners may disrupt gut microbiome in animal models, but unclear if this applies to humans.

Salt (sodium) has many important functions in the brain and body

  • Regulates fluid balance, salt appetite, and appetite for other nutrients
  • Technically a mineral; 1 gram of table salt contains about 388 milligrams of sodium

Thirst is the body’s way of seeking to balance osmolarity

  • Osmolarity: balance between sodium and water in the body

No simple formula for sodium levels and water balance

  • Depends on blood pressure, hormone levels, exercise, etc.

Knowing your blood pressure is crucial for determining appropriate salt intake.

Sodium intake can affect blood pressure

  • High blood pressure: caution with increasing sodium intake
  • Low blood pressure: may benefit from increased sodium intake

Moderate increase in salt intake generally not detrimental if consuming enough water.

Salt intake is homeostatically regulated: if craving salt, likely need it

  • Follow salt cravings in the context of healthy, non-​​processed foods

Galpin Equation: body weight (in pounds) divided by 30 = ounces of fluid to drink every 15 minutes

  • Designed for exercise, but also applicable for mental capacity

Start exercise hydrated with electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium).

Fluid and salt intake important in hot, cold, and dry environments.

Most people are probably under hydrating and not getting enough electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium).

Sea salt contains other minerals that can be beneficial to health vs table salt.

Craving for salty foods during stress is a hardwired biological phenomenon.

Magnesium malate: reduces muscle soreness from exercise.

Magnesium threonate: promotes transition into sleep, depth of sleep, and possibly cognitive function.

Magnesium bisglycinate: alternative to threonate for sleep promotion.

Magnesium citrate: effective laxative.

Low-​​carb diets may require more sodium and potassium intake

  • High-​​carb diets may require less sodium and potassium intake

Consuming fluids during fasting periods, especially caffeinated beverages, can lead to sodium excretion and the need for increased salt intake.

Caffeine consumption leads to excretion of water, salt, and potassium

  • Replenish fluids and electrolytes, including sodium, especially after exercise

Salty-​​sweet combinations can lead to consuming more than if the food was just salty or sweet

  • Both sweet and salty tastes have a homeostatic balance
  • Masking one taste with the other can disrupt this balance and lead to overconsumption

Increasing salt intake with unprocessed foods can reduce sugar cravings.

Sodium is essential for the nervous system to function.

Disruption of sodium balance (e.g., drinking too much water) can lead to hypernatremia and negatively impact brain function.


Dr James D. Nicolantonio’s Recommended Sodium Intake


Fluid Intake After Caffeine for Hydration



We recommend using this distillation as a supplemental resource to the source material.

  • Using Salt to Optimize Mental & Physical Performance

    Huberman Lab #63

    Huberman explores salt’s role in the nervous system, mental and physical performance, and overall health. He discusses optimal sodium intake and hidden sugars in processed foods.

Full Notes

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