How Intense Exercises Cause Rhabdo In Fitness Enthusiasts

How Intense Exercises Cause Rhabdo In Fitness Enthusiasts

In the eagerness to build the body and take fitness to the next level, some people do extreme workouts in the gym and overexert themselves. This often leads to adverse effects and a rare, but dangerous health condition called rhabdomyolysis, in which skeletal muscle breakdown, releasing muscle enzymes and electrolytes from inside the muscle cells.

This can result in kidney failure as myoglobin, a red protein similar to hemoglobin that carries and stores oxygen in muscle cells, is toxic to the kidneys. Certain drugs or toxins and underlying diseases such as collagen vascular diseases may also cause this disorder. Here’s everything you need to know about rhabdo and some tips on how to avoid it.


What Is Rhabdo?

Rhabdo causes rapid dissolution of damaged or injured skeletal muscles

Rhabdomyolysis is a complex medical condition that causes the rapid dissolution of damaged or injured skeletal muscle. This disruption of skeletal muscle integrity results in the direct release of intracellular muscle components, including myoglobin, creatine kinase (CK), aldolase, lactate dehydrogenase, and electrolytes into the bloodstream and extracellular space.


Rhabdomyolysis may manifest as an asymptomatic illness with increased creatine levels or even as a potentially fatal condition linked to high levels of CK, electrolyte imbalances, acute renal failure (ARF), and disseminated intravascular coagulation.1 Though rhabdomyolysis is relatively uncommon, it generally occurs from extensive muscle damage like crush injury or electrical shock.

How Does Exercise Cause Rhabdo?

Overexerting yourself during exercise or fitness sessions can lead to rhabdo


In recent years, exercise classes and gym instructors push people to increase their cardio, which results in rhabdo. Experts say that intense workouts are not only affecting extreme athletes, but also the weekend warriors who push their bodies beyond its capacity. Overworked muscles release their cell contents into the bloodstream, causing injury to the kidneys.

Many sports medicine specialists have reported that gyms and coach-driven fitness classes sometimes force amateur athletes to push themselves beyond their physical capacity. Besides gyms, experts have also noticed the occurrence of rhabdo in spin classes and intense Zumba workout sessions.


Fitness enthusiasts may occasionally fail to recognize the limitations of the body and try to outdo themselves and in the process, they may inadvertently cause permanent muscular damage.

What Happens When You Push Yourself?

Overworked muscles release myoglobin into the blood and may affect the kidneys


When you push yourself beyond your physical capability, the overworked muscles release a protein called myoglobin in the blood, which is filtered by the kidneys. When this happens, people experience symptoms such as aches, pains, flu-like symptoms, and dark brown or “tea-colored” urine that require intravenous hydration or even kidney dialysis.

How Can You Prevent Rhabdo?

Drinking water regularly flushes out myoglobin from the kidneys


Precaution is the best method to avoid rhabdo. Despite the urge to push yourself, it is important that you exercise well within your body’s abilities. Keep your trainer aware that you don’t want to achieve extreme fitness at the cost of your health.

At the same time, keep your body well-hydrated by drinking adequate water or other fluids. Experts suggest drinking more water than usual as the myoglobin that is released from the muscles will be flushed out much faster if you’re well-hydrated.


How Can You Train Safely?

It is vital to workout within your physical limits and avoid overexertion

Generally, people who are affected by rhabdo are in good shape, but may be unfamiliar with or not acclimated to a new exercise. Researchers published an article in 2012 about three amateur triathletes who developed rhabdo during their training.2

Triathlon training is popular among amateur sportspersons and they must be made aware of how to train appropriately under the right conditions. Another study published in the American Journal of Medicine indicates that spin classes have caused a number of cases of rhabdo.3

The study authors suggested that people who are into workout or fitness regimes must become aware of the possible adverse effects of extreme exercise and that they should develop their endurance levels gradually.

Rhabdo has also been observed in people with certain genetic conditions, drug or substance abuse problems, crush injuries, and in rare cases with certain prescription drugs, including statins. Sadly, there are no early warning signs that alert you during your workout that you’re at risk for rhabdo. Those who are trying out a new class or workout must learn to take it easy.