This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
We’ve seen muscle cramps strike athletes on the basketball court, football field, and during running events, and many of us have experienced them first-hand. This sharp, sudden pain can be so fierce that it is temporarily crippling. A cramp may also be physically manifested by a hard lump under the skin.
While muscle cramps generally resolve themselves and don’t cause any lingering damage, their onset can be extremely frustrating, not to mention painful, when they choose to strike in the middle of a crucial game or important workout in the corporate fitness center.
When mild cramps occur, the best treatment of the symptoms is to hydrate, rest, and stretch. But it's even better to stop them before they happen. Let’s look at the most common causes of exercise-related cramps and how to prevent them:
- Cause: Dehydration
- Remedy: Stay well hydrated during exercise (even during colder months) by drinking plenty of water. Consume a diet rich in fluids and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Cause: Electrolyte Imbalances
- Remedy: Consume foods containing potassium (avocados, nuts and seeds, beans, dried fruit, bananas, potatoes), calcium (dairy, dark leafy greens; fortified cereals, juices, or grains), and magnesium (bran, nuts or seeds, dairy, fish and seafood, spinach, beans, whole grains). A sports drink may be appropriate, especially for high-intensity exercise lasting longer than an hour.
- Cause: Environment
- Remedy: Limit workouts in extreme heat and humidity. Take frequent breaks to hydrate and seek shade.
- Cause: Fatigue
- Remedy: Deconditioned individuals should start an exercise program slowly. Consult a doctor, if necessary.