Saturday, December 11, 2010

Salt and Cramp Tips

This is a post from nutritionist Ellen Coleman that was made in this post and she allowed me to repost it here.

Howdy All :)

A lot of people were having muscle cramps on Skyline yesterday. Although it wasn't hot, it was warm for those of us who live in more temperate climates (Riverside, Orange County, San Diego) and who normally start hiking at 5 to 6 K.

Warm, dry weather can cause significant sweat losses and people may not be aware of how much fluid they're losing. In addition to water losses, sweating results in losses of electrolytes, especially sodium and chloride (salt). Muscle cramps are caused by sodium losses, not potassium or magnesium.

Although the amount of salt in sweat varies, most people lose about 800 mg for every two pounds (one quart) of sweat. Some people are salty sweaters and lose much more, regardless of their fitness level or degree of heat acclimation. Salty sweaters generally have white stains on their shirts/shorts and the sweat burns the eyes. 

Heat-related muscle cramps occur during prolonged exercise when there has been profuse and prolonged sweating. Muscle cramps can occur when the salt lost in sweat isn't replaced. Hikers/athletes who are prone to heat cramps have high sweat rates and/or lose a considerable amount of salt in their sweat.

Prevention is always best. Eating salty foods and/or consuming a sports drink with salt can replace sodium losses and maintain hydration (the body needs salt to retain water).