Muscle cramps are an unfortunate phenomenon that occurs in all athletes, whether amateur or professional. A painful muscle cramp occurs when a muscle becomes fatigued and contracts; this contraction is often times involuntary. Though most muscle cramps are caused by the fatigue of a muscle, or muscle group, muscle cramps can also be caused as a side effect of certain medications. The exact cause of muscle cramps is unknown, but there are many things that an athlete can do to minimize and alleviate these painful contractions.
Muscle cramps are mainly caused by fatigue. Though muscle cramps can occur to people who are sitting, laying down, or relaxing, they are less likely to occur to well-rested muscles. By maintaining your pace through a workout, or taking routine intervals to rest, you will allow your muscles to rest and replenish. Slowly training your muscles to rely on less rest will also prevent cramping.
Heat can increase the chances of muscle cramps occurring. This is due to multiple reasons. First, heat increases the stress on a body, allowing for the body to fatigue quicker. Second, heat promotes sweating and in turn increases dehydration. Through sweating, your body will lose many important nutrients to the atmosphere.
The loss of fluids within your body will allow for your nerves to become pushed closer together, which then causes them to fire quicker and more randomly. This random firing will then promote a muscle cramp. As you drink more fluids, and maintain the fluids within your body,you will create a less stressful environment for the muscles and nerves in your body.
Maintain Your Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates provide energy to your body. Energy is needed for both the contraction and resting of a muscle. As you exercise, your body gets more excited, and muscle contractions are far easier for your body than resting. Maintaining your carbohydrate levels will ensure that your muscles have energy for both processes.
Once you experience a muscle cramp, stretching is one of the only things that you can do to alleviate the pain. Due to the fact that a muscle cramp is a muscle contraction, you will want to gently stretch the muscle out so that it can lengthen. Have someone, like a trainer, help you stretch if you cannot stretch the muscle yourself.
Although you will never completely eliminate muscle cramps, there are many steps that you can take to minimize them. These are a few of those steps; others including monitoring your sodium and potassium levels.