Written by Nathalie Niddam | Academy Of Lions Nutritionist | Toronto
What foods should we eat to prevent or reduce muscular cramps?
Muscle cramps can happen for a variety of reasons including bio-mechanical issues. But if they are nutrition based, the first things we need to consider are hydration and electrolyte status. Many people are dehydrated and have no idea, one easy way to check (aside from making sure that the last time you drank something that was not alcoholic, caffeinated or full of sugar) is to look at the colour of your pee, is it:
- Dark yellow? Then you need more water.
- Clear? You may need a bit less.
- Light yellow - straw colour? boom! You’re in the game.
But water alone is not the answer. Ask most veteran exercisers what lurks in their water bottle and you will hear a range of replies - electrolyte powders (excellent), BCAA’s plus electrolytes (awesome), lemon juice with a pinch of sea salt (grey or pink) very creative and very good. Gatorade or Powerade? Not so great - they have artificial colours, sweeteners, sugar and other nasty ingredients make these the least attractive options.
As always stick to the cleanest solutions for best results. Coconut water is also a decent option but it has a bit too much sugar for many people and needs a little extra salt to make it a balanced option. Plain water is ok too, but has none of the big 4:
All of which are needed for proper balance.
As far as foods go, some people like bananas which can be helpful if you are deficient in potassium (they also are a decent source of magnesium) however they come with a hefty dose of sugar and starch so depending on your food plan they may or may not be the best option for you. In general having a diet rich in a variety of vegetables, with some nuts and seeds is great for providing the big 4. I also like recommending a good greens drink in the morning to cover your bases (something like Amazing Grasses or Athletic Greens are great). Some seeds like pumpkin and sesame are also great sources of magnesium and calcium (respectively), sardines are great for calcium and the list goes on.
So the simplest answer is make sure that you are well hydrated and that you are paying attention to electrolyte balance. Eat a wide variety of vegetables, some fish, some nuts and seeds, and if necessary, fill in the gaps with a great greens powder and/or electrolyte mix into your water. I won’t go into too much detail on the supplement side now but some that may be helpful include: magnesium, vitamin D3/K2, and calcium - all of these work synergistically and may be necessary to get you to optimal performance.