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Know when to stop

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Beginners beware Unless you are a trained athlete, refrain from going too far
Beginners beware Unless you are a trained athlete, refrain from going too far

Too much of a good thing does no good; in fact, it can lead to rhabdomylosis

Muscles suffer during strenuous exercise. Walking the line between tough exercise and muscle-shredding insanity is not easy.

However, if your urine looks dark brown after a workout, trust me, you’ve gone too far.

Dark brown urine in this case represents muscle protein leaked into blood; the underlying condition is rhabdomyolysis, which can lead to acute renal failure. Apart from dark urine, athletes typically present with muscle weakness, tenderness, and swelling.

Unaccustomed exercise in untrained bodies (think army recruits on a five-mile run in the hot sun) is a classic risk factor.

The gym is all too often a rhabdomyolysis zone.

The newcomer who goes for a “burn” by jacking on more and more weights, the gym rats who go for the local weight-lifting record, and well trained athletes with more power than sense, can all suffer this condition.

Even Olympic athletes on the edge of human endurance are vulnerable: one study found evidence of rhabdomyolysis in more than half the runners in a marathon.

Hot, humid conditions aside, not drinking enough water, using diuretics, anti-cholinergic drugs or amphetamines, anti-perspirant sprays and heat-trapping clothes make muscle damage more likely during severe exercise.

Watch out

Even kicking a water-soaked or heavier-than-usual soccer ball can cause the condition. Those with sickle-cell trait have a greater risk – especially when they exercise at high altitude.

An athlete with the signs and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis should see a doctor immediately. It is dangerous to attempt home remedies.

A patient might need dialysis, administration of intravenous fluids and careful monitoring of blood electrolyte levels –– all of which require a hospital setting.

Prevention is really the best option. Muscle pain is an indicator of muscle damage, and one ignores it only at the peril of acute renal failure or worse.

Forcing armed forces and police recruits to run a few miles during the selection process without judging whether their level of physical conditioning allows it is stupid and dangerous.

Athletes must drink water at regular intervals before, during and after strenuous exercise. Breathable fabrics dissipate heat and lessen muscle damage.

Some drugs that increase the risk of rhabdomyolysis are in widespread use. Diuretics, for example, are among the most common anti-hypertensive drugs.

Before beginning a programme of exercise, talk to your doctor about how your medication will affect exercise.

RAJIV M.

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