Researchers from Edith Cowen University have found that consuming electrolytes instead of clean water can help prevent muscle cramps.
They found that people who drank water with electrolytes during and after exercise were less susceptible to muscle cramps than those who drank pure water.
The study was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition and was conducted by Professor Ken Nosak et al.
Muscle cramps are a common painful condition that affects many people, including about 39% of marathoners, 52% of rugby players and 60% of cyclists.
The current study is based on evidence that electrolyte deficiency contributes to muscle cramps rather than dehydration.
The researchers tested 10 men who ran on a treadmill in a hot (35ºC) room for 40-60 minutes to lose 1.5 to 2% of their body weight through sweat in two conditions.
They drank plain water during and after training for one state and took an aqueous solution containing electrolytes in another state.
Participants received electrical stimulation on the calves to cause muscle cramps. The lower the required frequency of electrical stimulation, the more the participant is prone to muscle cramps.
The team found that the electrical frequency needed to cause seizures increased when people drank water with electrolyte, but decreased when they drank plain water.
This shows that muscles become more prone to cramps when drinking plain water, but are more susceptible to muscle cramps when drinking water with electrolyte.
Electrolytes are minerals including sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride. They are essential for muscle health and help the body absorb water.
Oral rehydration solutions contain electrolytes in certain proportions and can be prepared from water, salt and sugar. They can usually be found in supermarkets and pharmacies.
The team says electrolytes have many benefits for both athletes and the general public.
Electrolytes are vital for good health – they help the body absorb water more efficiently than plain water, and replace essential minerals lost with sweat or disease.
People should consider using a liquid for oral rehydration instead of regular water during moderate and intense exercise when it is very hot, or if they are vomiting diarrhea or vomiting.
If you are worried about pain, read the research why some people get muscle pain after taking statinsand this painkiller is associated with hip fractures in the elderly.
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