Muscle Cramping can be debilitating for some runners. They are unpredictable, painful and can last for several minutes. But what causes them and why do they affect some runners and not others?? We aim to answer these and many other questions. We....
- Outline the definition of muscle cramps and discuss their potential causes and symptoms.
- Highlight some nutrition and lifestyle strategies to help prevent and/or manage muscle cramps
- Discuss how to put these strategies into place so you can minimise the risk of muscle cramps occurring during your next run/race
Defining Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps (EAMC) and acknowledging its prevalence in athletes
Introducing the two currently acknowledges theories as potential CAUSES of exercise-associated muscle cramps:
- The hydration and electrolyte theory
- The Neuromuscular dysfunction theory
Concentrating on potential risk factors in the development of EAMC in some athletes including:
- High intensity, long duration and hilly terrain running
- Premature muscle fatigue
- Race/competition - due to running at a higher than usual intensity
- Age – older runners at greater risk
- Long history of running
- Men appear to be more prone to EAMC than women
Outlining some nutritional strategies to help prevent or manage EAMC including:
- Pickle juice and other vinegar-based fluids
- Spices including: chilli, ginger and cinnamon
- Electrolyte balance, especially: sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium
Highlighting the importance of NOT using quinine to prevent or manage EAMC.
Considering some lifestyle factors to help support or prevent EAMC including:
- Stop/pause running
- Rest until the pain/cramping has subsided
- Massage the area
- Magnesium salt bath and spray
- Strength training and plyometrics
- Suitable rest and recovery between training sessions
- Stretching before and after a run
- Regular Mg baths and spray
Giving ideas of how to put the nutritional and lifestyle factors into practice including:
- Drinking the vinegar-based fluids regularly
- Drinking the fluids at the same time as stretching to minimise time to recovery
- Introduce the therapeutic spices into the diet REGULARLY
- Test magnesium status so nutritional supplementation can be targeted
- Remember to prioritise REST and SLEEP
1) Remember there are many different potential causes of muscle cramping including medical conditions and medications, which would require consultation with a medical professional
2) Exercise-associated muscle cramping is thought to be a temporary but intense and painful condition that may last for seconds only up to several minutes and onset generally occurs during or shortly after exercise
3) To-date there are two potential causes of EAMC that have been extensively researched:
- Electrolyte imbalance or deficiency
- Neuromuscular dysfunction
however the true cause still remains elusive
4) There are many potential risk factors for the development of EAMC so it is recommended you try to determine YOURS and diminish them if within your control
5) There are several nutritional approaches to support EAMC including: electrolyte drinks, pickle juice and certain spices. Which approach to use will depend on the potential cause/triggers of YOUR EAMC.
6) Remember, it is not just about nutrition…there are lifestyle approaches that may help diminish/prevent EAMC including: regular stretching, strength training, adequate rest and recovery and regular Mg baths/sprays.
The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and
advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment.
If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact
your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.
Aileen Smith and Karen Campbell host RUNNERS HEALTH HUB. A place for like-minded female runners who are looking for simple ways to support running performance, energy, endurance, and general great health.
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