Tips to Prevent Post Workout Muscle Cramps
Many athletes have experienced them, and just as many wish they had not! We are talking about muscle cramps. These involuntary, intensely painful muscle contractions can put a damper on your workouts. Some seem to experience them often, and for some reason, are prone to getting them.
What Can You Do?
Cramps usually raise their ugly heads at the tail end of an intense workout session. They are a result of muscle fatigue and occur most often during endurance events. Novice athletes are more likely to experience them than seasoned exercisers. If you progress through your workouts in stages, you are less likely to experience cramping. Seasonal changes also cause cramping, particularly in the summer. As summer arrives, ease into your workouts as your body must reacclimate itself to the heat of summer.
Are You Drinking Enough?
The benefits of keeping hydrated during exercise go beyond muscle cramps. Maintaining an adequate intake of fluids helps improve overall performance as well.However, dehydration is a leading cause of workout muscle cramping, and being diligent with consuming fluids and electrolytes to avoid dehydration will help prevent or, at minimum, delay the onset of cramping.
You are probably wondering how dehydration causes muscle cramps. Fluids in your body are either inside cells or outside them. When you become dehydrated, the fluid levels outside the body’s cells drop. Reduction in these fluids causes nerve endings to press together and spontaneously discharge. That discharge is a muscle twitch, which will then lead to a muscle cramp. Being vigilant with proper hydration will prevent these dramatic swings in fluids that contribute to muscle issues.
The Need for Salt
Not only do fluids help maintain your body’s fluid balance, but electrolytes do as well. They help the passage of fluids in and out of cells. More specifically, the electrolyte of most concern is sodium. We also lose water at the same time. If we replace water, we will have another issue. Deficient levels of sodium can lead to dangerously low blood sodium levels. This condition is called hyponatremia.
To prevent hyponatremia, and the resulting muscle cramps, sodium should be consumed with fluids. The most common way to meet this need is via sports drinks.
Don’t Skip the Carbs
Low carbohydrates can also lead to muscle cramping. Carbs are the primary fuel used to power you through exercise. Our bodies store a certain amount of carbohydrates in the form of glycogen in muscles. Once glycogen levels are depleted, your body has a higher risk of cramping. Your body realizes glycogen depletion within 60 to 90 minutes of exercise. It’s a good idea to consume carbohydrates during activities that will last longer than this. You can meet your body’s needs by consuming a carb rich snack or meal prior to endurance or high-intensity workouts.
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