Water intake after dehydration makes muscles more susceptible to cramp but electrolytes reverse that effect

BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2019 Mar 5;5(1):e000478. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2018-000478. eCollection 2019.


Objective: No previous study has compared water and oral rehydration solution (ORS) intake after dehydration induced by exercise in the heat for the effect on muscle cramps. The present study tested the hypothesis that water ingestion after dehydration would increase muscle cramp susceptibility, but this would be prevented by ORS ingestion.

Methods: Ten men performed two bouts of downhill running (DHR; -5%) in the heat (35°C-36 °C) until their body mass was reduced by 2%. Ten minutes after DHR, either spring water or electrolyte water similar to ORS (OS-1®) was ingested in a counter-balanced order on two different days separated by a week. Muscle cramp susceptibility was assessed by a threshold frequency (TF) of electrical train stimulation to induce cramp before, immediately after (0), and 30 and 60 min after the ingestion. Blood samples were taken before, immediately and 80 min after DHR to measure serum electrolyte concentrations.

Results: Muscle cramp susceptibility assessed by TF did not change from baseline to immediately after DHR for both conditions (water: 24.6 ± 2.1 Hz, OS-1®: 24.7 ± 1.4 Hz). TF decreased after water intake by 4.3 Hz (30 min) and 5.1 Hz (60 min post-ingestion), but increased after OS-1® intake by 3.7 and 5.4 Hz, respectively. Serum sodium and chloride concentrations decreased after water intake but maintained after OS-1® intake.

Conclusion: These results suggest that water intake after dehydration makes muscles more susceptible to electrical simulation-induced muscle cramp, probably due to dilution of electrolytes, and when OS-1® is consumed, the susceptibility to muscle cramp decreases.

Keywords: chloride; downhill running; electrical train stimulation; oral rehydration solution; potassium; sodium; threshold frequency.