Sodium replacement during exercise in the heat prevents plasma sodium drop when fluid intake matches fluid loss.


March 2009

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Sodium replacement during prolonged exercise in the heat may be critically important to maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance and muscle contractility.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the effectiveness of sodium-containing sports drinks in preventing hyponatremia and muscle cramping during prolonged exercise in the heat.

DESIGN: Randomized crossover study. PATIENTS OR OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Thirteen active men.

INTERVENTION(S): Participants completed 4 trials of an exercise protocol in the heat (30 degrees C) consisting of 3 hours of exercise (alternating 30 minutes of walking and cycling at a heart rate of 130 and 140 beats per minute, respectively); a set of standing calf raises (8 sets of 30 repetitions); and 45 minutes of steep, brisk walking (5.5 km x h(-1) on a 12% grade). During exercise, participants consumed fluids to match body mass loss. A different drink was consumed for each trial: carbohydrate-electrolyte drink containing 36.2 mmol/L sodium (HNa), carbohydrate-electrolyte drink containing 19.9 mmol/L sodium (LNa), mineral water (W), and colored and flavored distilled water (PL).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): Serum sodium, plasma osmolality, plasma volume changes, and muscle cramping frequency.

RESULTS: During both HNa and LNa trials, serum sodium remained relatively constant (serum sodium concentration at the end of the protocol was 137.3 mmol/L and 136.7 mmol/L, respectively). However, a clear decrease was observed in W (134.5 +/- 0.8 mmol/L) and PL (134.4 +/- 0.8 mmol/L) trials compared with HNa and LNa trials (P< .05). The same trends were observed for plasma osmolality (P < .05). Albeit not significant, plasma volume was preserved during the HNa and LNa trials, but a reduction of 2.5% was observed in the W and PL trials. None of the volunteers experienced cramping.

CONCLUSIONS: The data suggest that sodium intake during prolonged exercise in the heat plays a significant role in preventing sodium losses that may lead to hyponatremia when fluid intake matches sweat losses.

J Athl Train. 44(2):117-123.

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