What Is Rhabdomyolysis (Rhabdo) And How To Prevent It

Rhabdomyolysis or commonly referred to as rhabdo is a rare condition of when muscle breaks down from severe overtraining and overexertion. When you’re going hard pushing your limits in the gym, with high intensity workouts, CrossFit, or high-intensity functional training, you put your body under severe physical stress and deplete vital and key nutrients which can have severe consequences. We’re going to talk more about rhabdo, how to avoid it, and what to do if you get it.

What Is Rhabdo (Rhabdomyolysis) 

Rhabdo is a rare, but significantly serous and life-threatening condition, caused by muscle death when muscle cells burst and contaminate the blood stream with proteins. Overtraining and over exertion from intense physical exercise can lead to several symptoms such as muscle weakness, soreness, dark brown urine, and even lead to kidney damage.

How To Avoid Rhabdo

Although rhabdo is rare, it can happen to anyone, and certain groups have much higher risks than others. One group in particular are endurance athletes and those that participate in CrossFit or high-intensity functional training protocols.

Endurance athletes, triathletes, and marathon runners are at higher risk of contracting rhabdo due to severe dehydration, nutrient depletion, and demanding training schedules. These training protocols, require more vigorous training schedules, which places higher demand on the body especially for elite athletes which can lead to overtraining.

Proper hydration and easing into higher training volumes, is important to avoid rhabdo. Going all out after a training hiatus or break can increase your risk for rhabdo. Pacing and increasing volume over time is key.

What Causes Rhabdomyolysis

More common factors which can lead to rhabdo include

  • High intensity exercise and overtraining
  • Severe dehydration which can lead to over exhaustion and faster muscle breakdown. Your kidneys also can’t dispose of waste without proper and adequate fluid intake.
  • Illegal drugs and alcohol can cause your muscle mass to breakdown and cause blood toxicity.

Although working out can leave you extremely sore, rhabdo can cause severe physical pain, which is beyond normal muscle soreness associated with high intensity training. If your urine is extremely dark or brown, this can be a sure sign of rhabdomyolysis. 

However, the classic findings of muscular aches, weakness and tea-colored urine are non-specific and may not always be present. Elevated creatine kinase levels are the best sign pertaining to muscle injury [R]. If you believe you have rhabdo, consult your physician immediately. 

Treatments For Rhabdo

If you believe you have rhabdomyolysis, hospitalization is required. Fluids and electrolytes will help flush toxins from your system intravenously followed by physical therapy and resistance training to improve strength. Contact your physician immediately if you display any signs of rhabdomyolysis for potential treatment. Listen to your body, if you have intense muscle pain during or after your workout beyond normal exercise induced muscle soreness seek treatment.

Importance Of Electrolytes For Recovery

When the human body gets hot, the nervous system needs to regulate the temperature change, which encourages the body to begin to sweat. When our bodies perspire, we deplete our body’s water levels, and with the loss of water, comes the reduction of important things in water, such as electrolytes.

An electrolyte imbalance can lead to some pretty serious consequences if not monitored and taken seriously. And often, it’s not until we’re getting pummeled in a workout or waking up in the middle of the night that we’re craving something to quench our thirst. A loss of fluids can also lead to inflammation as well as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS or even worse rhabdomyolysis. 

To put this into perspective, with just a 1-2% reduction in body weight from fluid loss alone, performance takes a dive and perceived exertion goes down. In a typical workout, you can lose anywhere from 2-6% of your body’s water weight just by sweating. The loss of water and electrolytes, coupled with not replenishing them, effects recovery times, oxygen levels, and nutrient deliveries contributing to muscle wasting and a poor removal of waste from the blood stream. 

If you're going hard in the gym and pushing your workouts, always supplement with electrolytes and amino acids during your workouts with either a BCAA and electrolytes mix or essential amino acids and electrolytes, such as an INTRA workout supplement. 

PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS INTRA (Frost, 30 Servings), BCAA+Electrolytes (Lemon Lime, 60 Servings)

What Is Rhabdo: Takeaway

Some soreness is expected and normal post workout. However if you feel that you are in severe pain, discomfort, or experience other side effects such as discolored urine, consult your physician immediately, replenish fluids and rest. Pushing your limits in the gym is great, but sometimes, on rare occasions, it could be too much. 

 


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