Nothing stops you in your tracks like a muscle cramp. They tend to come at the most inopportune time in your workout: toward the end, when you’re tired and ready to finish!
There is no single answer that will apply to all of us. Cramps can come from simple muscle fatigue (strenuous activity or unfamiliar, new exercises), or other common issues: dehydration and electrolyte deficiencies.
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that affect the amount of water you retain and your muscle function, among other things. You lose electrolytes through sweat, so it’s important to prepare your body before workouts and replenish it afterwards!
Although it doesn’t contain electrolytes, water is essential in hydrating your body. Plan to drink 8-9 glasses of water per day. Add an extra 1-3 glasses depending on the intensity of your workout and how much you sweat. You’ll need more water for cardio or outdoor workouts than for a gentle yoga or low impact class.
Lower sugar sports drinks like Gatorade are a good source of vitamins and electrolytes after long or high intensity workouts, but these drinks should be consumed in moderation because even low sugar options can contain up to 7 grams of sugar/12 ounces (or 18 grams in a 32 ounce bottle).
You might have heard that a banana a day can prevent muscle cramping. This will certainly help, but you’ll benefit from a more holistic approach. A well-rounded diet that includes nutrient rich foods is your best bet!
These foods contain electrolytes…see the connection?
- Bananas and citrus fruits
- Dark leafy greens (including spinach), avocado
- Beans (black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils or edamame)
- Mean and fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Milk and cheese (calcium)
While you’re working out, be mindful of what you’re doing. Your activity, the duration of your workout, the temperature, and how much you sweat will determine what you need. There’s no universal answer but keeping track of the conditions in which you do or don’t get cramps will help you find your groove sooner rather than later.
If you do experience a muscle cramp, stop what you’re doing and try stretching, gently massaging or icing the area. If cramping persists, consult your doctor to assess a potential injury or nutrient deficiency.
Alison is a lover of sports and wellness. She recently decided to take her passion for wellness to the next level by going back to school to become a registered dietitian. Alison hopes to eventually work with kid in patient care. Alison’s hobbies include rooting on our Cincinnati sports teams, yoga, pole fitness, and mud runs. Her biggest passion is helping others and empowering those around her to live a healthy and active lifestyle. Got a question for Alison? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. She’d love to hear from you!