Muscle Cramps

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideDehydration: Causes, Symptoms and Tips to Stay Hydrated

Dehydration: Causes, Symptoms and Tips to Stay Hydrated

How can muscle cramps be prevented? (Part 2)

How much should I drink? Hydration guidelines should be individualized for each person. The goal is to prevent excessive weight loss (>2% of body weight). You should weigh yourself before and after exercise to see how much fluid you lose through sweat. One liter of water weighs 2.25 pounds. Depending on the amount of exercise, temperature and humidity, body weight, and other factors, you can lose anywhere from approximately .4 to 1.8 liters per hour.

Pre-exercise hydration (if needed):

  1. 0.5 liters per hour for a 180-pound person several hours (three to four hours) prior to exercise.
  2. Consuming beverages with sodium and/or small amounts of salted snacks or sodium-containing foods at meals will help to stimulate thirst and retain the consumed fluids.

During exercise:

  1. Suggested starting points for marathon runners are 0.4 to 0.8 liters per hour, but again, this should be individualized based on body weight loss.
  2. There should be no more than 10% carbohydrate in the beverage, and 7% has generally been considered close to optimal. Carbohydrate consumption is generally recommended only after one hour of exertion.
  3. Electrolyte repletion (sodium and potassium) can help sustain electrolyte balance during exercise, particularly when
    • there is inadequate access to meals or meals are not eaten,
    • physical activity exceeds four hours in duration, or
    • during the initial days of hot weather.

Under these conditions, adding modest amounts of salt (0.3 g/L to 0.7 g/L) can offset salt loss in sweat and minimize medical events associated with electrolyte imbalances (for example, muscle cramps, hyponatremia).

Post-exercise:

  1. Drink approximately 0.5 liters of water for every pound of body weight lost.
  2. Consuming beverages and snacks with sodium will help expedite rapid and complete recovery by stimulating thirst and fluid retention. Continue Reading
Reviewed on 4/21/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Longo, D.L., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2011.

"Muscle Spasms, Cramps, and Charley Horse." WebMD.com. Sept. 5, 2012. <http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/muscle-spasms-cramps-charley-horse>.

United States. Food and Drug Administration. "FDA Drug Safety Communication: New Risk Management Plan and Patient Information Guide for Qualapin (Quinine Sulfate)." July, 8, 2010.

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