Muscle Cramps: What Really Causes Them
Muscle cramps can be a great way to ruin a workout or even a great night of sleep. We often hear that cramps are caused by dehydration or electrolyte depletion during sweating. While these are important aspects of cramping, they only tell part of the story. Two studies have shown that muscular fatigue and temperature also influence cramping. Here are a few steps you can take to minimize your risk of cramping during exercise:
- Make sure your body is recovered from training sessions. Hard workouts require extra attention to recovery.
- Be sure to hydrate properly before, during and after exercise.
- If you are a heavy sweater, consider adding 1-2 salty snacks throughout the day to encourage drinking and fluid retention.
- If exercising in a hot environment, ditch the tights and long sleeve shirt. Sweat and evaporation are your body’s way of maintaining muscle/body temperature in consistent range.
Minetto, M. A., Holobar, A., Botter, A., & Farina, D. (2013). Origin and development of muscle cramps. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 41(1), 3-10.
Schwellnus, M. P. (2009). Cause of exercise associated muscle cramps (EAMC)—altered neuromuscular control, dehydration or electrolyte depletion?. British journal of sports medicine, 43(6), 401-408.