Muscle cramps come with agonize pain and can ruin a good workout. But if you know what causes cramps, then you can take steps to help prevent them! Read on!
Causes of Muscle Cramps
The most common cause of cramps is simple muscle fatigue. Muscle fatigue can be a result of overworking the muscles or due to the lack of a proper warm up. Overworking the muscle can be very easy to do. Pay attention to your muscles, if something feels sore, lay off of it for a while.
You can be dehydrated and not even know it, until you get hit with a cramp. Think of it like this: when your body aches, it acts as a warning system. It says, ‘Slow down! I need some maintenance!’ Before during and after your workout, make sure that you stay hydrated. And we mean it when we say ‘during’ your workout, because you are pushing out water all over your body and water in the form of sweat not only helps to keep your body cool, it helps keep blood vessels open, allowing for more oxygen-rich energy to flow to your muscles.
A common symptom of dehydration is headache, and this is due to the blood vessels becoming restricted. Another sign is cramping in the legs. However, while leg cramps are known to be a symptom of dehydration, it does not necessarily rule out other factors for leg cramping such as muscle fatigue from overusing the muscle.
It is highly recommended that you consume a sufficient amount of water before, during and after your workout to avoid becoming dehydrated and to keep away the cramps. For more about daily water intake, refer to our daily water chart.
Low sodium, and low potassium can be factors in muscle cramps. Sodium and potassium are electrolytes and electrolytes are electricity conducing minerals that assist in both balancing fluid levels in the body as well as regulating muscle and nerve function.
Low potassium can lead to a number of problems as it plays such a vital role in the body. And as a result, you may experience more muscle cramps during your workouts. Low potassium can also lead to irregular heartbeats, also known as heart palpitations. Remember that the heart is a muscle, and therefore potassium is essential to a healthy heart.
Sodium and Potassium Levels
Sodium levels: Recommended sodium intake is 2,400mg Potassium levels: Recommended potassium intake is 3,500 - 4,700mg
When and what you eat can play a big part in getting muscle cramps. This holds especially true for runners, when they experience stomach cramps, also known as side-stitches.
If you exercise too soon after eating, your lungs are compressed by the food in your belly, and therefore they cannot take in an adequate supply of oxygen. When your body doesn’t get enough oxygen, you feel it. Imagine cramps as a warning sign by your body; your body is telling you that you need to take in more oxygen. What you need to do is ‘take a breather.’ Begin to take in deeper breaths.
Sometimes it’s not when but WHAT you’ve eaten. Some foods may agree with you, others not so much. This is where you have to do a little experimenting.
If you are not breathing correctly during your workout, chances are you’re going to get cramps. Breathing during exercise is essential, because it supplies the muscles with energy-enriched oxygen and blood full of nutrients.
Go with a 3:2 strike ratio. Basically the first three steps you take, left, right, left – you breath in. Then the next two right – left, you exhale. Getting into a habit of this takes a little practice, but it’s not hard and can help you go a very long way.
Always exhale during exertion, inhale as you release. Or more simply, when you’re lifting the bar exhale. As you bring it back down to the starting position, inhale.
We hope this article can help you better understand why some (not all) cramps occur and ways you can prevent cramps from getting in the way of a good workout!