The Australian Open 2014 is already becoming famous because of the sweltering heat that is causing heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and difficulty sleeping among many of the players. Serena Williams has been quoted saying that she finds herself waking up in the middle of the night paranoid, and Canada’s Frank Dancevic did more than cramp in the heat on Tuesday, collapsing during his match against to No. 27 Benoit Paire after seeing Snoopy in a hallucination. After two days of temperatures touching 42 degrees C (108 degrees F), the forecast is for 44 C (111 F) on Thursday- and many players are complaining of muscle cramps during their matches, despite their elite training regimens in preparation for the competition.
Here are Samir Becic’s and the Health Fitness Revolution team’s emergency tips for the players of the Australian Open 2014:
- Drink 4 Liters of water (including 1/4 coconut water) a day and an extra liter for each hour of physical activity.
- Drink coconut water because it naturally contains sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and electrolytes. Read more about the benefits of coconut water in an article we wrote here.
- If coconut water is not available, you can make you own sodium-based solution with 1/4 teaspoon sea salt mixed in a quart of water. Alternatively, any sports drink will work to rehydrate the body.
- Do not drink alcohol or beverages with caffeine because they increase the rate of dehydration.
- Before going to bed the night before a match:
- have a light dinner 2-3 hours before bedtime so that the digestive system will not be overworked and deeper sleep can be achieved, which will regenerate the muscle more efficiently. Rested muscles will aid with preventing muscle cramps the next day.
- Do 5-10 minutes of light stretching, this will relax the muscles. The muscles will be less fatigued the next morning.
- Take 10-15 minutes of quiet time before bed to meditate and relax.
- Before the match:
- Upon waking, drink .5 liters of coconut water (or other electrolyte filled beverage) and .5 liters of water to rehydrate the body. This jump start of hydration in the morning will be a key component in curbing heat exhaustion and heat cramps.
- Let your body acclimatize to the heat, and leave air conditioned room 45 minutes to one hour before the match- this will give the body time to adjust.
- Hydrate during the entire day, especially during the matches. During matches hydrate in small quantities.
- Add some extra sodium to food, because the body will be depleting it in the sweat.
- Take some quiet time before the match to calm down.
What is a heat cramp and what causes it?
Heat cramps are painful muscles spasms that occur in the arms, legs, or abdomen that usually occur after several hours of exertion in the heat. In addition to muscle cramps, other symptoms of heat cramps may include faintness, dizziness, weakness, and excessive sweating. A large cause of heat cramps is dehydration.
The exact cause of heat cramps is unknown, but the theories most commonly cited include:
- Altered neuromuscular control
- Electrolyte depletion
- Poor conditioning
- Muscle fatigue
Muscle cramps are more common during exercise in the heat because sweat contains fluids as well as electrolyte (salt, potassium, magnesium and calcium). When these nutrients, particularly sodium, fall to certain levels due to excessive sweating, the incidence of heat cramps increase.
Heat Cramp Symptoms:
- painful cramps, especially in the legs
- flushed, moist skin
- mild fever, usually less than 102º F
Treating Heat Cramps:
- Taking a break from the activity (in the case of a competitive match, this is not possible but
- Rehydrating, especially with fresh coconut water, which naturally contains sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and electrolytes.
- Stretch the muscle gently.
- Hold the accompanying joint in an extended position until muscle stops spasming.
Preventing Heat Cramps:
- Avoid exercising at the peak of the heat mid-day, opt instead to workout in the morning and in the early evening.
- If you are going to exercise in hot weather, it’s important to acclimatize to the heat for about a week before beginning any intense exercise. This allows your body to gradually adapt to the heat.
- Warm up before exercise.
- Wear light, loose clothing while exercising.
- Do not drink alcohol or beverages with caffeine before exercise because they increase the rate of dehydration.