Muscle cramps can be painful and slow you down, whether you’re in the gym or on the track, but the good news is you can prevent and ease the onset of muscle cramps with proper hydration and electrolyte-rich drinks and foods.
What causes muscle cramps?
Muscle cramps are painful, involuntary contractions of the muscles, which are often associated with strenuous exercises like running. You may also be more prone to muscle cramps if you are pregnant, older or have other underlying medical issues like poor blood circulation or a compressed nerve.
So why do cramps happen in the first place?
Research suggests that exercise-induced muscle cramps can often be the result of one thing; imbalanced electrolytes. Electrolytes are a group of minerals, which include: calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. These minerals are critical in helping your muscles contract and extend, however, when your electrolyte levels are imbalanced, it can lead to involuntary muscle contractions — in other words, muscle cramps.
An electrolyte imbalance is more common when you are dehydrated, which can happen when you’re working out hard. As you sweat, you lose both water and electrolytes, so in order to prevent muscle cramps it's important to replace them both.
8 Foods to ease muscle cramps
Electrolyte-infused drinks are some of the best lines of defense against muscle cramping. Nirvana Super™ Waters, Seltzers, and Shots are formulated with both HMB and electrolytes, to protect your muscles and replenish lost minerals while you hydrate, making them the perfect workout partner.
In addition to drinks, there are also electrolyte-rich foods you can add to your diet to reduce your risk of cramping:
If you’re looking to add more potassium to your diet, you don’t have to look much further than bananas. One banana delivers a whopping 375 mg of potassium to help your muscles with regular contractions. Bananas are also good sources of dietary fiber, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and magnesium, to support your body during and after your workouts.
Citrus fruits (i.e. oranges, grapefruits) are excellent pre-workout snacks to reduce your risk of cramping. Not only are they a great source of potassium, but they are water-rich and full of antioxidants like Vitamin C, which can also help reduce inflammation and improve recovery.
Water-rich fruits, like watermelon, are a great complement to your workout routine to keep you hydrated. As the name suggests, about 92% of watermelon is made up of water, making it a perfect snack on workout days. Like citrus fruits, watermelon also contains powerful antioxidants like lycopene and Vitamin C to help you recover once your workout is done.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are some of the best dietary sources of minerals (i.e. magnesium, potassium) which your muscles need for proper movement, but they can also help you build muscle, as they are a great source of plant-based protein and healthy fats.
There’s a popular reason to always eat your greens! Not only are leafy greens an excellent source of magnesium, but they also contain powerful Vitamins A, C, and K.
To add a tropical twist to your routine, consider drinking coconut water. It’s both hydrating and naturally rich in electrolytes like magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Consider adding it to your smoothies for an extra recovery boost!
When your muscles cramp, your brain sends continuous signals to that muscle to contract. Research suggests that the neurological action behind cramping might be reduced by drinking small amounts of pickle juice! It’s suggested that pickle juice triggers nerves in the back of the throat, which can stop cramping in its tracks.
Tart fruit juice
Finally, there’s evidence that drinking tart fruit juice may help reduce the risks of muscle pain after a workout. Scientists believe it’s due to their high levels of antioxidants like anthocyanins, which can help reduce inflammation and subsequent pain.
Other tips for reducing muscle cramps
Make sure your footwear fits properly.
If you experience frequent muscle cramping in your legs after big workouts, check whether your shoes are supportive enough for the movements. Poor fitting shoes can cause excess strain and cramping during workouts.
Warm up before your workouts and cool down afterward.
Taking the time to warm up and cool down can reduce your risk of injury and strain. Try a mix of dynamic and static stretching and mobility exercises to properly prime your body to train hard.
Know your limits.
While pushing yourself in the gym is great for making progress, overexertion is also linked to muscle cramping. Know your personal limits and work more on consistency and progression.
Muscle cramps are frustrating, but can be avoided by adding electrolyte-rich beverages and foods to your diet. Nirvana Super™ Waters, Seltzers, and Shots have both HMB and electrolytes, to protect your muscles and replenish lost minerals, making them the perfect workout partner.