Hydration is more than just Water.
Recently, it has been a scorcher outside. Here in Southern Kentucky, it has been in the mid to upper 90’s for what has seemed like a long stretch. But worse than that, we have been dealing with oppressive humidity. It has been so thick that it feels like you’re wearing it. In the words of Charlie Brown, “UHHHHH”. As a soccer coach, I see the effects of the weather and their performances. The frequency in muscle cramps always significantly increase through this period. Most of the time, this is attributed to loss of electrolytes through activity.
Recently, during a night game, we had many players fall victim to the dreaded leg cramp. If you’ve never had one, consider yourself extremely blessed. I can tell you, I’ve suffered my fair share of them and they are AWFUL. But during the game, each and every player that I helped stretch out stated that they had consumed tons of water. I don’t doubt it, but the issue was over saturation of water that decreased the concentration of Na (Sodium), Cl (Chloride), Ca (Calcium), Mg (Magnesium), and K (Potassium). My advice to them was to drink a 32 oz. sports drink or Pedialyte to help replenish the electrolytes loss during the game. I also advised them to drink about a ¼ cup of pickle juice to aid in the reduction of cramps. We’ll discuss that in a little bit. But let’s first talk about the different actions of the elements and why they are so important.
Na- Helps maintain fluid balance, constricts smooth muscles, needed for muscle contractions, and helps with nerve signaling
Ca- Initiator of muscle contraction cycle, nerve signaling, and other systemic benefits
Mg- Initiator of muscle contraction cycle, proper heart rhythms, nerve functioning, and keeping a stable protein-fluid balance
K- Regulates (relaxes) muscle contractions, helps with muscle functions, keeps blood pressure levels stable
Typically, the body loses the supply of all during intense activity or heavy perspiration days. Potassium is an element that is not stored in the body. So, as the intensity ramps up during activity, it fades quickly. Of course the other elements are lost, causing the muscle to remain in a contracted state.
Ok, ok… the pickle juice. I know that everyone is on the fence about pickle juice and its purpose with leg cramps. Pickle juice is essentially vinegar, a.k.a acetic acid. Vinegar is used to remove sodium from the body, so drinking pickle juice will, in a way, tend to help balance the lack of K and low Mg.
I hope this helps, especially my neighbors in the South Central KY region, with the increase in leg cramps. Athletes, I encourage you to be aware of any signs of leg cramps and maintain your electrolyte levels for optimal performance.
Have a Great Day!
Dr. Chad Folk, DC
Feel Better, Faster, For Good.