Calf Cramping and Salt/Hydration Balance - Member Case Study

author : AMSSM
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Question from madcow:

 

 

I am training for my first IM and lately I have been getting cramps in my calves. I was told that if you are not a fast runner that this happens frequently because of the shuffling motion of your running. I was more concerned about dehydration or lack of salt. I am a heavy salt sweater and I was wondering if that has anything to do with it?

 



Answer:

I am not aware of any documented correlation between running style and cramp incidence, but there are certainly other reasons for your problem. If you are a heavy salt sweater, there is a possibility that you carry one of the genes for cystic fibrosis trait. It is fairly common throughout the Caucasian population, and these people lose larger amounts of sodium through sweat than their unaffected peers. One study on University of Oklahoma football players showed that players labeled “crampers” lost an average of 5.2 grams of sodium during twice-daily practices (as compared to 2.4 grams in the “non-cramper” group). They also had a higher level of total sweat loss as a result of this, which led to a tendency towards dehydration, and thus, the cramps. These individuals should not be rehydrating themselves exclusively with water, but should be using things such as sport drinks that also restore body salts.

There are recipes online which you can use to make your own sport drinks to conserve cost, and one of the sport drink companies also sells an additive mix that can be added to a normal sport drink to increase the sodium content of the drink. If you lose a lot of salt from your sweat, don’t be afraid to use the salt shaker at the dinner table, either. Just remember the importance of staying hydrated. It is a good idea to weigh yourself before and after your workouts, and to use this as a marker towards fluid replacement.

There are other causes for cramping too, some benign, and some which may indicate a problem at the muscular level with energy utilization, so if your problem is persisting despite honest attempts at optimizing salt repletion and hydration status, then see your physician.

Chad Carlson, MD
Member AMSSM

www.amssm.org

 

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date: April 9, 2005

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AMSSM

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

FIND A SPORTS MEDICINE DOCTOR

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