Sodium Depletion & Muscle Cramps

Depleting sodium during precontest diet is a debatable subject. Some folks don’t believe it is needed. Maybe that’s true for some folks, but everyone’s body is different. You have to do what works for your body. I found that my body retains water, so I have to deplete sodium. When you are depleting sodium you have to be careful, it can lead to problems… most common is cramping. The first thing people advise is to add potassium when you are cramping, but in this case that is the worst thing you can do. Why?

One of the primary roles of sodium and potassium is to regulate the body’s fluids. Of course there are other functions that sodium and potassium do, but we are going to talk about how depleting sodium affects your body. Potassium, which is also known as an electrolyte, is located in fluids inside the cells. Sodium is found in the fluids outside the cells. The cells in your body carry on many functions such as nerve impulse, muscle contraction, heart functions, etc. The fluids in the cells help sustain life. Our bodies depend on the tight regulation of sodium and potassium inside and outside the cells.

What happens when sodium or potassium get low? Some symptoms of low potassium include: fatigue, muscle weakness and cramps, and intestinal paralysis, which may lead to bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain. Some symptoms of low sodium include: headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, fatigue, disorientation, and fainting. As you can see the symptoms of low sodium and potassium are very similar. This is why people get confused to which one to add. When you get muscle cramps, people automatically think to they need more potassium when they may need more sodium or reduce their potassium intake.

When you are depleting sodium and you get muscle cramps, you don’t need more potassium. The problem is that your sodium and potassium balance is off. You are not taking in very much sodium. Your water intake is very high, so your body is not retaining water. When you are training, you are losing more water and sodium by sweating. Most of the time you are eating white, red and/ sweet potatoes, which are very high in potassium. Your multi-vitamin contains potassium. This is how Your sodium gets too low and your potassium gets too high. The best way to correct the imbalance is to reduce potassium intake. By rotating rice at one meal and potatoes for your next meal, you can reduce your potassium intake.

This is very critical! At my last competition two competitors crashed. One of the competitors was taken to the hospital by ambulance before prejudging even got started. They other had to drop out in the middle of prejudging because he was cramping so bad. I learned about the importance of sodium/potassium from my first competition. Lucky, it was during precontest training. I was suffering from muscle cramps, and my trainer told me I needed a banana. When I asked my diet coach about it, she told me about the dangers of too much potassium. She crashed during a competition from too much potassium.

Most of our lives we hear about the dangers of too much sodium, but what about too much potassium. Well that got my curiosity up, so I did some further research.

Potassium toxicity is also know as Hyperkalemia. It occurs when the plasma levels of potassium ions get too high. This is most found in the elderly. For most normal people the body regulates the level of potassium through various cells and organs, the kidneys or, lastly, vomiting. When you get too much potassium it can cause the development of an abnormal heart rhythm, which can lead to cardiac arrest. Potassium toxicity can be dangerous, but it is highly unlike because our body naturally regulates it through vomiting.

Potassium deficency is hypokalemia. The most common cause of potassium loss is severe vomiting and/ diarrhea, use of diuretics, certain kidney disease, or major changes of metabolism. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, “…recent research indicates that insufficient dietary potassium increases the risk of a number of chronic diseases.” So there maybe a link to increase risk to infections.

Sodium toxicity is very dangeous. It can lead to seizures or even death. Other complications that too much sodium can cause are swelling, hypertension, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, convulsions. It can lead too high blood pressure or congestive heart failure.

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