"The use of salt for athletes has been overemphasized," says Dr. Richard L. Westerman of Kalamazoo, Mich., who with team trainer Charles Martin tested Northeast Louisiana University football players for two years. The athletes were divided into three groups, one taking water, a second taking water and salt tablets, a third taking a solution that included salt and potassium. The third group showed much the best reaction after vigorous practice sessions, indicating that not salt but potassium is the key. When potassium is lost, Dr. Westerman says, the cells cannot function properly, and this creates fatigue and exhaustion.
"Too much salt can hurt the body," the doctor says, "and regardless of how much salt an athlete takes, heavy work will still cause a potassium loss."