Muscle cramp is characterised by a painful contraction of a muscle or in any part of the muscle. This involuntary contraction leads to tightness and may last from a few seconds to minutes. Muscle cramps are often experienced by athletes and people with intense exercise schedules. Excessive sweat loss and dehydration causes an imbalance in the electrolytic balance of the body which increases the risk of developing a cramp, explained Aman Puri, founder, Steadfast Nutrition.
Some major causes of muscle cramps are:
*Intense exercise or over-use of muscles
*Loss of minerals or electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, potassium and phosphate
*Gastro-intestinal disorders like ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, leaky gut, etc
*Dietary inadequacy of micronutrient deficiencies
*Use of medications like diuretics and steroids
*Medical disorders like thyroid and renal diseases
Water intake is crucial to combat muscle cramps. It is the key to prevent dehydration in the body and maintain fluid balance. Apart from maintaining adequate fluid intake and eating nutritious food, athletes often adopt some home remedies to relieve muscle cramps like stretching and massaging the muscle, applying an ice pack, an Epsom salt bath, or even taking medication.
Here are some foods which work in providing relief from muscle cramps.
This fruit is not only delicious but also one of the best to get relief from muscle cramps. It is rich in water and minerals like potassium and magnesium which are needed to maintain the fluid-electrolyte balance of the body. In addition, watermelon is naturally rich in citrulline, an amino acid beneficial for improving blood flow. This fact was supported by a Spanish study conducted in 2013 where 500 ml of watermelon juice showed better recovery and reduced muscle soreness among athletes.
Avocados are packed with good fats along with electrolytes like potassium and magnesium which assist in reducing muscle cramps and improve muscle contraction.
Coconut water is a rich source of potassium and also contains calcium, sodium, magnesium, and phosphorus. This natural drink is delicious and helps in preventing cramps. Due to the presence of amino acids like alanine, arginine, cysteine; coconut water reduces stress and supports muscle recovery. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2012 found coconut water to be effective in maintaining hydration and exercise performance when given to trained athletes.
Bananas are consumed by fitness enthusiasts for muscle cramps. It is often consumed before a workout due to its energy-giving property and minerals rich profile containing calcium, potassium, and magnesium to maintain electrolyte balance. Minerals present in bananas aid in maintaining electrolytic balance, hence preventing cramps.
Sweet potatoes are energy-dense and rich in vitamin A, C, dietary fibre, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. This root vegetable has many properties like anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial, wound healing, and is also an immunity-booster. High potassium content and other benefiting compounds make sweet potatoes perfect for alleviating muscle cramps.
Bone broth is one of the most healthiest and nutritious beverages. It contains all essential minerals, amino acids and collagen which strengthen our joints, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. Not only it helps maintain hydration of the body but also provides nutrients required to prevent and treat cramps.
Fatty fish like salmon, sardine and tuna provide omega 3 fats in the form of EPA and DHA. Studies have shown that EPA and DHA present in fish oil exert an anti-inflammatory effect providing relief from muscle soreness and joint pain. In addition, some fatty fish contain vitamin D which aids in relieving muscle spasms. In addition, fatty fish are also rich in minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, selenium and magnesium.
Milk and yogurt
Milk and milk products like yogurt are rich in calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium which makes them beneficial for alleviating muscle-related health complications like cramps. Due to the presence of whey and casein protein, dairy products are considered as good quality and complete protein sources. They provide all the nine essential amino acids, needed for the growth and repair of muscles.
Pickle juice has been shown effective for muscle cramps by several studies. A study conducted by Miller KC et al in 2010 gave pickle juice to hypo hydrated subjects. It was found that pickle juice was effective in relieving muscle cramps within a few minutes after ingestion.
Papaya, being rich in potassium and magnesium, is considered good for easing muscle cramps. Dietary fibre content of papaya keeps our gut health strong, alleviates indigestion issues, strengthens the immune system due to high vitamin A content and promotes overall digestive health.
However, consult a medical expert when the pain doesn’t subside for a long on a frequent basis.