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Workout Wednesday Muscle Cramps: Causes & How to Stop Them


You’re at the gym and in your workout flow. Maybe you’re out for a long training run, and it happens…

Muscle cramps.

They hurt, they make you cringe, and they slow down your progress. What causes them, though? More importantly, how can you avoid them?

We’ve got some great tips in this week’s post!

What Causes Muscle Cramps?

For the longest time, athletes, fitness buffs, and, well, just about everyone thought they knew what caused muscle cramping.

Exercise makes you sweat, and when you sweat, your body loses crucial electrolytes (potassium, sodium, magnesium, chloride, and calcium), as well as water. By the end of your workout, these things are likely depleted. But what does this have to do with cramps?

According to BenGreenfieldFitness.com:

Electrolytes help conduct nerve impulses throughout your body, which allows your muscles to contract. When your body loses enough water and/or electrolytes, the nerve impulses from your brain to your muscles become deranged. This makes your muscles cramp (Source).

drink more waterThis is what we’ve all been led to believe, but is this really the cause of muscle cramps? It’s hard to know, but the depletion of water and electrolytes clearly play a role in muscle cramping—they might just not be the only contributors.

A study that appeared in the July 2010 issue of Sports Health took a look at exercise-associated muscle cramps (EAMC). Results and conclusion were as follows:

Dehydration/electrolyte and neuromuscular causes are the most widely discussed theories for the cause of EAMC; however, strong experimental evidence for either theory is lacking … EAMC are likely due to several factors coalescing to cause EAMC. The variety of treatments and prevention strategies for EAMC are evidence of the uncertainty in their cause. Acute EAMC treatment should focus on moderate static stretching of the affected muscle followed by a proper medical history to determine any predisposing conditions that may have triggered the onset of EAMC. Based on physical findings, prevention programs should be implemented to include fluid and electrolyte balance strategies and/or neuromuscular training (Source).

While the jury may be out on what exactly causes muscle cramping when you’re working out, there are definitely ways you can avoid having to deal with them.

Putting an End to Your Muscle Cramps

Dehydration and electrolytes may play a role in muscle cramping, but they’re definitely not the only factor. Muscle cramps are a real pain (no pun intended), but there are things you can do to help avoid and get rid of them.

  • Prevent dehydration. While dehydration isn’t the sole cause of muscle cramps, it still may be a contributor. Keep a healthy fluid balance. Active.com states that “weight loss greater than 2 to 3 percent of your body weight increases your risk for muscle cramps,” (Source) so be sure to drink whenever you’re thirsty and avoid weight fluctuations during your workouts.
  • Don’t forget the sodium. When you sweat, you lose more sodium than any other electrolyte. If you’re drinking tons of water, but not replenishing sodium too, you may end up doing more harm than good. Fluids and sodium replenished together may help curb muscle cramps. Replenish the healthy way with this product from Bio Nativus!
  • Carb it up before and after your workout. Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates. Exercise, even if it’s only for an hour, can deplete your body’s glycogen stores. Get in some carbs before you workout, and replace those lost after your workout—you’ll have less chance of muscle cramps.
  • Keep your muscles flexible. This should be a no-brainer, but keeping your muscles in shape and flexible is a great way to avoid muscle cramps. You won’t be surprising your muscles if they’re in shape!

How do you avoid muscle cramps? Do you have any tips for avoiding them? Let us know in the comment section.

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