Cramping is something I’ve struggled with in a lot of my races. It’s also no mystery that I’m a heavy sweater. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, I’ll find a way to sweat when I’m doing even the slightest bit of physical activity. As I was training for my first marathon in 2013, I began to notice salt stains on my clothes after a lot of my longer training runs. It turns out that not only am I a sweater, but I’m also a salty sweater. Cut to the marathon day and everything was going well until I started cramping up at mile 20. I made it to the finish, but I was marching a fine line of full body spasms and shuffle trotting. After that I researched some ways to fight race cramps and that’s when I discovered SaltStick Caps.
SaltStick Caps are a special blend of concentrated electrolytes in a convenient pill form. The simple science behind the pills is that they replace all the electrolytes that are lost in sweat, not just the sodium. This helps keep the body’s electrolyte levels in balance to prevent cramping and fatigue. While I can’t say I’ve never cramped up on a run while taking the pills, I do believe that since I started using the pills regularly in my training, I have never cramped up due to electrolyte imbalance.
The nutritional information of SaltStick Caps
The pills come in a standard size “00” vegetarian capsule that is easy on the stomach and quick to absorb into the body. The label suggests taking one pill every 30-60 minutes, up to 10 pills daily. On a typical day, I take one pill every 45 minutes during my long runs. If it’s going to be an unusually warmer day, I’ll take the pills at a quicker interval.
The SaltStick Mini dispenser
The size of the pills make them convenient to carry around. I used to carry them in a tiny ziplock bag in my hydration pack, but found that was a little awkward as I tried to access the pills and remain on the go. Fortunately, the manufacturers at SaltStick also make an even more convenient dispenser for their pills. These dispensers come in two different sizes: one that holds 6 pills (appropriately named the SaltStick), and one that holds 3 pills (the SaltStick Mini). The dispensers are easy to operate and only require a simple twist of the top portion to produce a pill that is ready to grab. They come with an interchangeable cap (red or yellow) as well as a removable clip to attach to a waistband or race belt. The instructions also include steps to mount the dispenser inside the handlebars of a a bicycle.
The removable clip that comes with the SaltStick
While the conventional uses of SaltStick Caps are pretty straightforward, I do want to point out a nontraditional use I have found for the pills. Living in Buffalo, NY comes with its own set of challenges, one of which being the weather. Before I started using insulated water bottles, I noticed that my plain water would be a little more solid than I would have liked during my winter training runs (who would have thought?). One winter, I revisited a fourth grade science lesson. I remembered that salt and other electrolytes raise the freezing point of water. So I opened up a cap, dumped it into my bottle, and set out for my run. I was pleased to see that my water was no longer solid by the middle of my run. Not only that, but the flavor was not affected much either. There was a mild salty taste to the water, but it was not overpowering or off-putting. Of course, my electrolyte drink I also carry was not affected by the outside temperature due to the same principles. Yay science!!!
I highly recommend SaltStick Caps to any endurance athlete, even those that don’t suffer from cramps. Keeping your electrolytes in balance could be the difference between finishing and a DNF. There are several options within the SaltStick brand, including SaltStick Caps Plus that contain caffeine and the new SaltStick Fast Chews. My recommendation is to experiment with what is out there and find what works best for you. Happy cramp free running!