We have all had those workouts when training a muscle with weights, when all of sudden a powerful and painful cramp emerges in a muscle group. A body part or muscle group will seize up completely and we are unable to move the area without causing extreme pain and discomfort. It hurts so much that it prevents us from moving on with whatever exercise we were performing, and instead we are forced to stop our workout and stretch the muscle and sometimes we even have to stop the workout entirely and finish it another day! Since everyone is able to get a muscle cramp, how do we go about preventing muscle cramps to the best of our abilities in the future?
Drink Enough Water
The first step is to drink plenty of water. Water intake is one of the largest contributing factors towards muscle cramps. When the body is dehydrated, it can make our muscles more susceptible to cramping, and most people usually do not drink close to enough water daily or during their workouts to help prevent cramping and allow for proper muscle functions. So drink more water as the first step to help prevent muscle cramping.
It is also very important to know if we are drinking too little water. When the body becomes dehydrated, cramping is bound to happen. If you are ever curious about the hydration levels of your body, do a simple, fast urine test – next time you urinate, look at the color of your urine! If you urine is a light yellow or even clear color, you are well hydrated – the clearer your urine color better hydrated the body is. However, if you urine is extremely dark, and has a gold or orange tint to it, your body is dehydrated and it is recommended that you drink water when you get the chance to help rehydrate the body.
The other method to detect your water levels is to monitor your weight. If you have had a large decrease in body weight over the course of a few days, it’s unlikely to be fat loss – you could be losing a lot of water in your body. Although some of the weight loss might be muscle and/or fat loss, a large proportion will be water. Next time your body weight drops significantly, remember it’s your water levels decreasing and to hydrate yourself back to normal levels.
Potassium and Calcium Levels
The next key component to preventing muscle cramps is your body’s potassium and calcium levels. Potassium is an electrolyte that our body will lose during exercise when we sweat heavily. Anytime you sweat, you will lose water and some potassium, so remember to eat foods high in potassium to help replenish what was lost and prevent cramps. Some examples of these foods are bananas, sweet potatoes, carrots, and sports drinks like Gatorade and PowerAde.
Calcium is often found in large amounts in foods such as milk and cheese. Consuming 3,000-5,000mg Vitamin C daily is recommended too – this will help keep your body hydrated and allow for proper fluid functions. You can get this by eating fruits such as oranges and bananas, or even in the more simpler and easier form of Vitamin C powders or tablets. Many stores sell tablets and pills that offer a range of 500-1000mg per tablet or pill, making it an easy and effective method of obtaining a proper amount of Vitamin C.
Stretch It Out
Stretching is also one of the most effective ways to help prevent muscle cramps. It is extremely important to stretch the muscles in the body regularly. Often our body may be extremely tense, and the best way to help relieve tension to prevent a muscle from cramping is to stretch the area with the use of different forms of stretches.
Try stretching a muscle group before and after working it, so if you are training your legs in the gym, before you begin your weighted workout and after warming up, try to perform a simple 5 minute stretching routine before you lift. After you get finished lifting, try doing another small stretching routine or simply ride the stationary bike for a few minutes. Just by stretching a body part or muscle group for a few minutes a day may be all it takes to help prevent your muscles from cramping during a workout or at anytime of the day. A lot of the time, stretching might sometimes be the best method to go about fixing your muscle cramps problem, and it could also be the only method at times.
Heat The Area
The last method for anyone suffering from extreme cramping in the gym, if cramps continue and last for long periods of time, apply heat to the area. Sometimes applying hot packs to a cramping muscle group or area, can relieve tension and allow the fibers to loosen up, which will prevent the muscles from tightening too much and turn into a painful cramp.
Be careful that it’s cramp, though, and not another inflammatory issue – adding a hot pack to an injury can cause more inflammation. Ice is best for this.
Hope this information helps solve any muscle cramping issues you may have. The next time your body has a painful cramp and it wont go away, try remembering back to one of these methods and see if that will help ease the pain or relieve the cramp completely.