Game 1 of the NBA Finals aired yesterday evening (Thursday June 5, 2014) between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio’s AT&T Center had a malfunction – the air-conditioning system failed mid game and the arena reached a temperature of more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit (about 32 Celsius). By the 4th quarter the extreme temperatures caused LeBron James’ legs to give out. James suffered major muscle cramps and was unable to walk; eventually being carried to the sidelines where he collapsed. The Spurs went on to take the lead in the last few minutes of the 4th quarter, winning 110-95.
We couldn’t help but wonder, what if LeBron James made an emergency phone call to Vitasave during half time of Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals and asked some questions to better his situation?
Well, it would probably look a little something like this…
LeBron dials Vitasave HQ…
Vitasaviour: Thank you for calling Vitasave, my name’s Dana, how can I add a little woohoo to your day?
Q: Do high temperatures contribute to muscle cramping?
A: Absolutely. When an individual partakes in any form of activity, regardless of their athletic ability the temperature can directly affect the likelihood of muscular cramping. Generally, when the external environmental temperature is high one perspires more to thermo-regulate (prevent overheating). During perspiration your body loses sodium, leading to a contracted interstitial fluid compartment and more widespread skeletal muscle cramping. This is can occur even when there is minimal or no muscular fatigue.
Q: Am I deficient in any vitamins or minerals?
A: There are multiple contributions to muscular cramps with regards to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. As mentioned above, sodium loss is a major contributor to muscle cramping. The loss of other electrolytes such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, and phosphorus can also lead to muscle cramping.
Q: Is Gatorade good? How does it stack up in comparison to other supplements and electrolyte sport drinks?
A: To remain hydrated and prevent muscular fatigue during exercise, Gatorade is obviously better than nothing. Gatorade contains sodium and other electrolytes. I’d choose your Gatorade wisely though, as a lot of their products contain high amounts of sugar as well as artificial colours and flavours. The sugar content may be negligible if you are burning a lot of calories, but if it is sourced from high fructose corn syrup the subsequent inflammation from consuming GMO’s really isn’t worth it. The newest line of Gatorade G Natural is made with “natural flavours and ingredients” and is sweetened with Stevia – so this may be the best Gatorade choice. You’re better off going with a more natural product added to filtered water or coconut water such as Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator. Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator does not contain any sugar but does contain a great ratio of water-soluble vitamins and minerals – ideal to keep your muscles pliable during intense activity and perspiration. Coconut water (often referred to as Nature’s sports drink) will also help replenish some of your burned calories as well electrolytes lost in sweat, such as, potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Q: I’m fatigued, exhausted, and overheating. What should I do different in Game 2 to play at my highest level of performance?
A: Prepare, Hydrate, Refuel, and Recover.
Preparation covers both mental and physical aspects of sport and athletic performance. Taking time to visualize and prepare by getting into a sports mindset is incredibly important. If you know you are going to be training in temperatures warmer than you are used to, you can prepare your mind and body to cope with such extremes. Engaging in a daily supplemental routine is also incredibly important. A highly absorbable multivitamin and mineral daily helps ensure that you are meeting the minimal vitamin/mineral requirements. A multivitamin supplement also ensures you are replenishing the water-soluble vitamins and minerals that are lost through sweat. If you are prone to cramping and delayed onset muscle soreness taking a Magnesium Bisglycinate supplement at night daily can help regulate and relieve such cramping. A ZMA supplement (Zinc, Magnesium Asparate & B6) is also a great option for high intensity athletes or heavy sweaters.
Hydration is incredibly important during athletic performance. When exposed to high temperatures (or if you are prone to sweating) adding some form of additional electrolytes to your water bottle instead of drinking just plain water is a lot more beneficial. Adding a squeeze of lemon is also a good idea too, as the vitamin C is a great antioxidant helping to reduce the oxidative damage, stress and inflammation that inevitably occur at varying degrees during a workout.
Refueling after a workout is just as important as preparing for a workout. Taking a protein-rich shake post workout within 45 minutes after completing exercise is the ideal time to target muscular repair and ensure proper recovery. Add additional BCAA’s and Glutamine to your shake, as these amino acids are the building blocks for protein and can also help reduce muscular fatigue. Also, it’s a great idea to ensure you consciously supplement or consume foods rich in antioxidants to help reduce any delayed onset muscle soreness.
Recovery time is also incredibly important for ideal athletic performance as you can adequately rehydrate, rebuild and repair muscle, as well as replenish your glycogen stores during this time. You are also allowing your nervous system time to process the physical movements, building new neural pathways and establishing patterns of movement. To learn more about sports recovery products, read our blog Vega Sport Nutrition System: Prepare, Sustain, Recover.
Author: Dana Johnston RHN, BSc. Hon Human Kinetics