What’s Really Causing Those Leg Cramps ?
There I was, going beast mode during one of my workouts when from out of nowhere, I was stopped dead in my tracks. I had to stop my work out immediately, cringe my face and roll back and forth accompanied with a plethora of curse words while awaiting the pain to dissipate.
What, was it you may be thinking or asking?
Most muscle cramps develop in the leg muscles, particularly in the calf. Besides the sudden, sharp pain, you might also feel or see a hard lump of muscle tissue beneath your skin.
That sudden sharp pain accompanied by a hard lump of muscles in my hamstring, the left one to be exact.
If you’re thinking a “Charley Horse” you are in fact correct!
Whether it’s during a weight training session, a run or even in the middle of the night awakening us from our sleep, at some point most of us have experienced this pain (usually in the leg, either the calf or hamstring).
You may just wait for it to pass for you to return to your regularly scheduled day, however, have you ever stopped to wonder what’s the cause and how to prevent it in the future?
Well if you haven’t it’s a good thing you have yours truly to help you understand the possible cause and prevention.
• Dehydration- Our muscles are made up of 80% water which allow them to contract and relax. In our bodies, we have fluids both in and out of the cells. When we become dehydrated, the fluid found outside of our cells decreases which causes the endings of our nerves to squish together, overexcited which contributes to a Charley horse. To ensure we are hydrated, aim to drink at least 2 liters per day (more if you have caffeine beverages and/or in hot weather).
• Electrolyte Imbalance- Electrolytes help our bodies maintain the right balance of fluid in our cells. During our workouts we usually sweat which means we lose both water and salt, both of which needs to be replenished. If we replace water and not the sodium this can lead to an imbalance of electrolyte which may cause our leg muscles to cramp. To replenish the lost electrolytes, aim to consume salt with fluid. For example, have some natural coconut water or simply add Himalayan salt to your water. Please refrain from consuming sports drink as they are usually high in sugar.
• Muscle Fatigue-If our muscles are fatigued prior to our exercise routine, then oxygen is unable to flow which may lead to cramps. Another reason for muscle fatigue could be the intensity of our workouts. Of course, if we are pushing our muscles beyond what they’re capable of then, we could fatigue them which may in turn lead to leg cramps. To prevent muscle fatigue, slowly increase the intensity of your workout and avoid being excessively tired before and during your workout.
Now, if you notice that you’re experiencing Charley Horses while sleeping, aim to stretch before going to bed. I recently posted a video on my IG page with some stretches to perform before bed, which you can CLICK HERE for.
You may be wondering, “Trudie, you’re a trainer, how are you experiencing muscle cramps, aren’t you taking the advices you’re giving?”. The reality is some days it’s harder than others.
For example, there are days where I don’t drink enough water either because I’m travelling (getting to the washroom while on the road is a pain in the you know what) or the fact that I’ve had more coffee than water (no surprise there). One thing I know for sure is, after experiencing that darn Charley horse, I’ll make sure I’m getting enough water regardless of the reason.
The next time you experience that dreaded leg cramp, here’s what you should do, if you’re performing an activity that causes the cramp, immediately STOP then gently stretch and massage the muscle that’s cramping.
Do you have any “go to” to relieve your leg cramps? Please do share as I’m always up to learning.
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