Preventing Cramps: electrolyte balance, dehyration, stretching, exhaustion or all 4?

There is considerable medical controversy over the use of “sports drinks”,  the need to replace lost electrolyte, the dangers of over/under hydration, and treatment of cramps (see the last reference given below). The following article is only a personal opinion as the author has no medical training.

I’ve realised over the past few years that maintaining my electrolyte levels on long days is extremely important to prevent tiredness and cramps.

I use either of 2 ways to do this;

1) Eat salted nuts during the day (usually mixed salted nuts or cashews), or
2) add Gatorade to my water.

Both seem to work fine, although on really long days (12+ hrs) I often use both. Then on arrival back at camp I am usually dehydrated and I find the best way to rehydrate is to make bouillon or broth, using a stock cube. I add 1 cube to 1L hot water and drink this. Sometimes I’ll have 2 servings of this if I’m really dehydrated, and I also add a tablespoon of butter if I have any to make it taste better and help start to recharge my energy. eg. for the Becky-Chouinard route in the Bugaboos, Canada (17hr round trip) I had about 1-1.5L water/tea before I left camp, then 1L of water and 1L Gatorade on route + salted nuts, then 2-3L bouillon cubes with hot water when I got back to camp. I find bouillon cubes are better than soup because they contain more salt and are way smaller and lighter. (Contributed by AJG)

More information

Heat Induced Conditions in Australian First Aid: St John Ambulance Australia 2006  pp371-379
Exposure to Heat and Cold (2010 St John  Senior First Aid online refresher course)
Heat Related Illnesses : The Backpacker’s Field Manual by Rick Curtis (first edition published by Random House March, 1998)
Water, Salt, Cramps, Electrolytes and Sports Drinks:  (Roger Caffin, The Australian Bushwalking  FAQ)
Creative Commons License
This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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