First, let's define what a muscle cramp is: Muscle cramps occur when a muscle tightens and shortens. Several causes include:
- Weak, inflexible muscles
- Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
- Poor circulation and/or oxygenation of the muscles
- Being in an environment of extreme temperature
Prevention & Treatment
- If you are not getting the recommended three days per week of strength training or the five days per week of cardiovascular training, then this is a good start. Also, the duration, modality, and intensity of your exercises may be partially responsible.
- Consider your total body water (TBW). Most of us require roughly 1/2 to 1 ounce of water, per pound of bodyweight, per day. This means that a 150-lb person should be consuming roughly 75 ounces to 150 ounces of water each day. Caffeine drinkers should aim even higher, as should those exercising very strenuously for very long periods of time. Without the right amount of water, your muscles cannot be as healthy as they need to be to prevent cramping and other problems.
- Another big concern is the flexibility of your muscles. It is not enough to just perform a few random stretches from time to time. Stretching should involve all major muscles for 20-60 seconds each, and should be performed nearly every day. Never stretch to the point of pain, but do stretch to the point of mild discomfort. Consult your Perfect Personal Trainer for more details and specificity regarding muscular flexibility.
- Consume less than 2,400 mg of sodium each day. Some health groups recommend even fewer than 1,600 mg, especially for those with high blood pressure. However, it is important to note that too little salt/sodium can also lead to muscle cramping. Perform an assessment of your usual sodium intake and compare to these values to determine if this may be a factor.
- Consume roughly 3,500 mg of Potassium daily. While a more specific recommendation will vary based on your gender and age, this is often a useful starting point, as low amounts of potassium are often contributors to muscle cramping. Seek the advice of a dietitian to more accurately determine your own needs.