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Stay hydrated and nourished to avoid cramps

Wednesday, 2 April 2014 - 4:30pm IST | Agency: DNA

Unpredictable muscle cramps are somewhat mysterious and therefore cause fear as well as pain. They are most likely related to overexertion, but fluid loss, in adequate conditioning of the muscles, electrolyte imbalance and nutrient deficiencies may be other predisposing factors. Relief often can be found with massage, stretching. The following nutritional tips along with exercises and muscle conditioning will help to resolve the muscle cramp mystery.

Lack of water
Cramps often occur when we have not had enough fluids or there is much loss due to heat and humid weather. The solution is simple: drink more than enough fluids especially before, during and after exercise. Always drink enough fluids daily so that the urine is clear coloured and copious--two indications the body is in water balance. During hard exercise, you should drink as much as fluids with electrolytes possible. A liter of water with some 2-3 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and lemon juice is an excellent home made electrolyte fluid. Avoid sweetened beverages, soft drinks and alcohol as they tend to have a dehydrating effect.

Lack of Calcium and Magnesium
Calcium and magnesium play an essential role in muscle contractions. Low blood levels of either calcium or magnesium directly increase the excitability of both the nerve endings and the muscles they stimulate. This may be a predisposing factor for the spontaneous true cramps experienced by many older adults and athletes. Milk, curds, paneer, leafy vegetables make good calcium sources whereas whole grains, pulses, leafy vegetables, sea food are excellent magnesium sources.

Lack of Potassium
Electrolyte imbalance, such as lack of potassium, may play a role in muscle cramps and muscle weakness. This can be ruled out by eating potassium-rich foods daily, focusing on fruits and vegetables. A daily potassium-rich diet is a health-protective choice. Some potassium-rich foods include potatoes, tomatoes, leafy vegetable, oranges, lemon, coconut water, lemon, bananas and raisins.

Lack of Sodium
Many health-conscious people restrict their salt intake, to avoid high blood pressure. However, if they are losing significant sodium through sweat, they may be putting themselves at risk at a sodium imbalance that could contribute to cramps. Do not have a self-imposed, sodium-restricted diet. Common complains about fatigue and lethargy in addition to cramps, may be because of too little salt into our daily diet

Cold or hot massage
You may also undo a cramp with ice. Ice is both a pain reliever and an anti-inflammatory. Try massaging the area with ice for no more than 10 minutes or until the area is bright red, which indicates that blood cells have returned to heat the cramped muscle. If ice is too uncomfortable, try heat. Heat improves superficial blood circulation and makes muscles more flexible, so some people find that heat is more soothing for muscle cramps than ice. Try a heating pad for not more than 10 minutes at a time or even a warm shower or bath. Make sure to lightly massage the muscle with your hands following ice or heat.

Stretching
Stretching of the major muscles of the lower limbs for at least 5 to 10 minutes during warm-up and cool-down periods can help prevent cramps. Other recommendations include minimizing running hills and stairs, undergoing a biomechanical evaluation of your exercise technique.




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