Cramps are involuntary but intensely painful contractions in the muscles of the body that almost every athlete has probably experienced at least once. Although they are not long-term sports injuries, they cause excruciating discomfort. While they may only last a few minutes, cramps can definitely have a negative impact on an athlete’s in-game performance.
There are a few possible causes for cramps and they include:
- Muscle fatigue
- Heavy exercise
- Dietary mineral deficiencies
To prevent cramping, here are some tips:
Consume an adequate amount of fluids for your body to prevent dehydration.
Dehydration causes nerve endings to discharge, and this spontaneous discharge results in a muscle twitch which may lead to a muscle cramp.
Before competition, consume non-caffeinated, non-carbonated and sugar-free drinks throughout the day to keep yourself dehydrated. The average person excretes roughly 1.5 liters of urine per day, meaning you should be replacing those lost fluids with about 1.5 liters of water a day.
Consume fluids two to three hours prior to your game and again to minutes before. Never arrive at your game thirsty and never allow yourself to get thirsty during the game. It is ideal for you to consume fluids every 15 minutes and sports drinks are great for replenishing lost electrolytes.
Opt for Salty Foods
Choose salty foods or sodium rich sports products before, during and after exercise. Electrolytes regulate the shift of fluids in and out of cells. The electrolyte that should be most controlled during physical activity is sodium.
Both water and sodium are lost in sweat, and we lose more sodium just by sweating more than the other electrolytes. Replacement of water without sodium can result in severely low blood sodium levels which can thrust the body into hyponatremia.
When the concentration of sodium in the blood decreases, muscle cramps are likely to occur.
Prevent Carbohydrate Depletion
Muscle require carbohydrates to contract and energy to relax. Carbohydrates fuel us during exercise and carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in our muscles. Our glycogen stores are typically depleted between 60 to 90 minutes of exercise.
Prevent cramping by consuming carbohydrates before your workout and during your workout if it is longer than 60-90 minutes. Once that store of glycogen has been depleted, we are at high risk for muscle cramps.