A leg muscle cramp often comes upon you all of a sudden – a painful surprise that may cause you to stop whatever you are doing to catch your breath or stop you in your tracks.
No one likes to have muscle cramps get in the way of exercise or a good night’s sleep. An annoying charley horse that causes you to wake in pain or muscle cramping that stops your exercise routine can put a damper on things.
So what is the best supplement for muscle cramps?
Magnesium supplements are widely used to help assist in reducing cramping.
There are different forms of magnesium dietary supplements. It is available in many forms such as magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride and magnesium citrate which can be found in health food stores.
If you are going to buy a supplement, look for a quality product that contains potassium.
Why magnesium supplementation?
Muscle spasms are often considered symptoms of magnesium deficiency. If you have low levels of magnesium, muscles will contract or tighten up.
Magnesium is an essential mineral your body needs for many functions including nerve signals and muscle contractions.
Magnesium helps regulate muscle contractions and can be lost in your sweat while allowing the muscle to relax.
Other sources of magnesium
Even if you eat really well, it can be hard to get optimal amounts of magnesium. Eating magnesium-rich foods can ensure help you with your daily intake.
You can find magnesium in foods including:
- Green leafy vegetables (spinach)
- Nuts and seeds (almonds and cashews)
- Soy milk
- Whole grains (quinoa)
What causes muscle cramps?
There are a few reasons for muscle cramps. Certain activities and factors can play a part.
Causes of muscle cramps include:
- Straining or overusing a muscle.
- Cold water
- Some medications and medical conditions
- Low levels of electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium or calcium
- A lack of vitamins, such as Vitamin D
- Not enough blood getting to your muscles
Muscle spasms can feel like one of the most painful experiences as your muscle tissue reacts involuntarily.
The involuntary contraction is common in the calf muscle, back of the thigh and the quads. Some even experience them in their feet and abdomen.
They can happen in the middle of the night or strike during the day while sitting down or during a physical activity such as running. The painful spasms and cramp frequency is different from person to person.
How long do muscle cramps last?
Cramp duration can vary. A mild cramp can last for a few seconds, while a more severe cramp can last for minutes or hours.
Pregnancy and leg cramps
Nocturnal leg cramps usually begin during the second trimester of pregnancy. Pregnant women can experience painful spams that start in the calf muscles and work their way up the legs.
A significant body of research has found that increasing your magnesium intake can help with the frequency of night time leg cramps, especially for pregnant women
While leg cramps are not necessarily preventable, pregnant women can try stretching, stay hydrated, take a prenatal vitamin, put their feet up or try adding compression socks during the day to help reduce swelling in the ankles and circulation.
Intense exercise and leg cramps
Leg muscle cramps affect almost all people who exercise at some point. Some people experience them more often than others.
Cramps usually hit at the end of intense workouts or during endurance events because fatigued muscles are more likely to cramp. This is also more prone to happen when training in hot weather or humid conditions due to increased loss of electrolytes through sweat.
If you are out of balance or lacking an important mineral (potassium, calcium, sodium or magnesium in your body, cramps can result.
Increasing your electrolytes is a good idea and opportunity to bring your body back into alignment to help restore your levels and your exercise performance.
How to prevent leg cramps
If you experience a muscle spam while you are working out, take a short break from your activity. You also may need to:
- Hydrate: Replace water and electrolytes lost during exercise. Even if this isn’t an immediate help, your body is prone to cramping when it is dehydrated.
- Stretch or gently massage the muscle: If the cramp is cause by muscle fatigue, you will probably find relief through light stretching and massage.
- Apply heat: Heat helps with muscle relaxation. Try a warm compress on the affected muscle.
Does drinking pickle juice work?
While there is no scientific proof that it works, some runners and athletes swear by it after a workout.
I have been plagued by muscle cramps during competition prep and on competition day. I’ve tried pickle juice and mustard when it’s been on hand. But I keep liquid magnesium in my bag as my go-to choice for relief.
It’s been a great way to help me ease the painful cramps that happen in my feet.
Try one of these tips to stop leg muscle cramps.
If you decide to take something, the best supplement for muscle cramps might be something purchased in a health food store or it might be as simple as looking at your magnesium intake through the foods your eat. There is more than one way to help your body in reducing the number of cramps you may experience.