Earlier this yr I discovered myself mendacity face-down on the bottom, each of my quads locked up and utterly motionless. I used to be three occasions right into a CrossFit competitors, and I had completely damaged down.
Through the first occasion, I felt a foreboding twitch down the entrance of my legs and had been doing my finest to maintain muscle cramps at bay. Between rounds, I slammed coconut water, ate magnesium capsules, and chowed down on bananas. However midway into Occasion 3 (a mile-long run with a weighted vest), right here I used to be, writhing on the pavement and waving away gives of assist.
This wasn’t the primary time it had occurred, however I used to be decided to make it the final. So I reached out to one of many nation’s high researchers on exercise-induced cramping, Kevin C. Miller, PhD., Professor at Central Michigan College, to see simply what we will do to forestall and cease muscle cramps. Spoiler alert: You would possibly need to top off on pickle juice (however not for the explanation you’d suppose).
RELATED: 12 Issues I Want I Knew Earlier than I Began CrossFit
Muscle Cramps: Understanding the Causes
Seems, cramping is probably going brought on by modifications in nervous system exercise (e.g., elevated excitability), fairly than dehydration or electrolyte losses. What excites the nervous system? Choose your poison.
“My private perception is that everybody has their very own distinctive recipe for cramping,” Miller says. “I would want a sure stage of fatigue in my muscle, a previous quantity of muscle injury and a scarcity of sleep, and I’ll cramp. If I solely have two of these components, I don’t cramp. Your ‘recipe’ could also be utterly completely different than mine.”
To forestall cramping, Miller recommends preserving a cramp diary. “I inform those that every time they get a cramp, write down as many issues as you’ll be able to consider that will have elevated your danger of cramping. Then, search for tendencies in your diary to establish your particular person components. As soon as you understand your “recipe for cramping,” you’ll be able to goal these components with interventions.”
RELATED: No Ache, No Acquire? 5 Myths About Muscle Soreness
Listed below are some potential triggers to think about once you write in your cramping diary:
- A previous historical past of cramping
- Prior ligament or muscle injury
- Lack of sleep
- Train period and novelty of train
- Latest weight loss program together with fluid and sodium consumption
- Notable improve in train depth
Based on Miller, the next components aren’t potential triggers:
- Stretching historical past (or lack thereof) or flexibility
- Dehydration (Miller notes that it could contribute to fatigue, however in and of itself just isn’t truly a set off)
- Weight and gender
When you’ve recognized a couple of frequent triggers, work on eliminating them to see which of them scale back your situations of cramping.
RELATED: You’ll By no means Guess These 7 Dehydration Signs
Therapy Is Tough, Based on Analysis
Dangerous information is: As soon as a muscle cramp takes maintain, there aren’t a complete lot of remedies which can be truly backed by science. Right here’s a breakdown of the great, the unhealthy and the inconclusive.
Consuming bananas? Nope. You may need heard the additional potassium from meals like bananas will assist replenish the electrolytes your clenching muscle tissues crave. Downside is: “It takes not less than 30 minutes in your physique to digest the banana and improve your blood potassium,” Miller says. Sadly, simply sufficient time for that 5K race to cross you by.
Slathering on topical ointments? Nope. “It’s troublesome to get elements in topical ointments via the pores and skin to the cramping muscle. You’re possible simply tricking your pores and skin’s ache receptors.”
Getting a therapeutic massage? Perhaps. “It in all probability helps relieve cramping, for the reason that bodily manipulation will scale back ache, but it surely’s a brief repair. As quickly as you return to exercising, it’ll begin once more.”
Consuming pickle juice? This one would possibly truly work, however the cause will shock you. “We’ve discovered that pickle juice truly reduces the period of cramps by 40 p.c, however it’s not the electrolytes like sodium or potassium chargeable for the reduction,” Miller says. Based on Miller, the vinegar in pickle juice triggers one thing referred to as an oropharyngeal stimulation, which shocks the nervous system and cuts down on cramping. Science hasn’t found out why simply but — we simply know that it’s efficient. “We’re not likely positive how the method works but,” Miller says. “All we actually know is that it should be a neurological impact as a result of it occurs so quick.”
RELATED: 5 Scientifically Confirmed Methods to Scale back Muscle Soreness
In the event you can’t abdomen pickle juice, you may need different choices, too. Miller stresses that whereas there isn’t any revealed analysis but, there’s some perception amongst researchers that elements like cinnamon, ginger and capsaicin (the lively ingredient in chili peppers) could have related advantages. So it won’t damage to pack a couple of Atomic Fireballs in your race vest the subsequent time you go for a long term.