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Heat Cramps

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Heat cramps-painful spasms in the legs and abdomen-are typically the result of a fluid and electrolyte imbalance caused by severe dehydration. They are most likely to occur in people who sweat heavily and who lose a higher than normal amount of sodium and other electrolytes (including potassium, calcium, and magnesium) in the sweat.

For these individuals, drinking adequate amounts of sodium-containing beverages during exercise is particularly useful.Heat cramps appear to occur late in the day after consumption of large volumes of plain water. At the first sign of involuntary muscle twitching or mild muscle cramping, athletes should consume 16 ounces (480 milliliters) of a sports drink that has been supplemented with a teaspoon of table salt. This should then be followed by a steady intake of sodium-supplemented sports drinks for the remainder of the exercise session. To help meet the needs of athletes who experience frequent cramping, companies have developed products that provide a measured amount of sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium for adding to a given volume of sports beverage. (Dan Benardot, PhD, RD, FACSM)

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