(2 minute read)
Muscle cramps are annoying, painful and very inconvenient sometimes but what causes then, why do some people get them more than others and how can you prevent them?
What causes muscle cramps?
Muscle cramps happen when the muscle forcibly contracts involuntarily, this can happen at any time; when exercising, at night or just walking around and there are two main reasons for this:
Tired muscles are a common cause of cramping, this can be when resting or working the muscle. Movement stimulates the muscles, they contact and lengthen in response to the movement or exercise, when they become tired this is when they are more likely to cramp as they find it harder to stop the muscle contractions.
Muscle dehydration can be a cause of muscle cramps especially if you are exercising in hot weather. When your body is losing fluids, you may not be left with enough sodium and electrolytes, both vital for your body to function. This can affect nerve function, causing muscles to contact involuntary.
Stopping muscle cramps:
Stopping the cramps from ever happening is impossible, however, there are very effective methods to reduce the chance of your muscles cramping:
Drink water - aim to drink 3 litres or more of water a day, this is even more important before during and after exercising.
Warm up - this gets your muscles ready to exercise, increases your heart rate and prepares your whole body to workout, preventing cramping and injury.
Cool down - stretching and cooling down not only helps with flexibility and prevents injury but also clears the lactic acid from your muscles and prevents your blood from pooling in areas of your body by slowly decreasing your heart rate.
Foam rolling - This helps to increase circulation which boosts the blood flow to your muscles and cells.
Treating muscle cramps:
When you get hit with bad cramps while exercising give these tips a go:
Gently stretch the muscle that is cramping.
Slow the pace of your exercise or rest until the cramp stops, then you can resume.
Give the muscle that is cramping a massage, relaxing the area and stimulating blood flow.
Foods that help prevent muscle cramps:
Food plays a vital role in the health of your muscles and nerve function, vitamin or mineral deficiency can lead to cramping, therefore, a well-balanced diet is very important. There are a few foods that can help reduce the risk of cramping.
Bananas - bananas contain potassium which your muscles need for sustained contraction during exercise. Potassium is an electrolyte that can lost through sweating therefore potentially leading to cramping.
Sweet potato - another great source of potassium. This great vegetable can also help with nervous system function.
Watermelon - the natural sugar content helps restore glycogen levels after exercise and also helps with water replenishing.
Pumpkin seeds - high in magnesium they can help the muscles contract and relax normally during exercise.
Green leafy vegetables - calcium to mention one of the very important vitamins and minerals in green leafy veg is very important for muscle contraction and nerve impulses.
So there you have it, your full report as to why muscles cramp, how to prevent it from happening and how to ease the cramp if it does happen.
I hope you find this useful and as always drop me an email with any questions.
BSc Sports Science, Women’s Fitness Specialist and Personal Trainer