A muscle cramp is characterised by painful contraction of the muscle. It causes tightness and may last from a few seconds to minutes.
Muscle cramps are often experienced by athletes and active people following intense exercise schedules. The excessive sweat loss and dehydration can cause an imbalance in the electrolytic balance of the body that increases the risk of developing cramps.
Some of the major causes of muscle cramps are:
1. Intense exercise or overuse of muscles.
2. Loss of minerals or electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, potassium and phosphate.
4. Dietary inadequacy of micronutrient leading to deficiencies.
5. Use of medications like diuretics and steroids.
6. Some medical conditions — thyroid and renal diseases.
Water intake is the key to combat muscle cramps. It is the key to prevent dehydration in the body and maintain fluid balance. Some of the home remedies practised relieving muscle cramps are stretching and massaging the muscle, applying an ice pack, an epsom salt bath or taking medication.
In this article, we will discuss some of the foods which may aid in providing relief from muscle cramps.
1. Watermelon - This delicious watery food is excellent for providing relief from muscle cramps. It provides water and minerals like potassium and magnesium, which are needed to maintain the fluid-electrolyte balance of the body. In addition, watermelon contains citrulline amino acid that aids in improving blood flow and provides relief. 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.
2. Avocados - Avocados are packed with good fats along with electrolytes like potassium and magnesium, which assists in reducing muscle cramps and improving muscle contraction.
3. Coconut water - It is one of the rich sources of potassium. Apart from this, it contains calcium, sodium, magnesium and phosphorus. This natural healthy drink is delicious and works amazingly in preventing cramps. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2012 found coconut water effective for maintaining hydration and exercise performance when given to trained athletes.
4. Banana - It is most popularly consumed by fitness enthusiasts for muscle cramps. It is often consumed before a workout due to its energy-giving property and mineral-rich profile containing calcium, potassium and magnesium to maintain electrolyte balance.
5. Sweet Potato - Sweet potatoes are energy-dense and rich in vitamin A, C, dietary fibre, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. This root vegetable has many medicinal properties like anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial, wound healing and immunity-boosting. High potassium content and other benefiting traits make sweet potatoes perfect for alleviating muscle cramps.
6. Bone Broth - It is one of the healthiest and nutritious beverages that contains all essential minerals, amino acids and collagen which strengthen our joints, ligaments, tendons and cartilage. Not only does it help maintain hydration of the body but also provide nutrients required to prevent and treat cramps.
7. Fatty Fish - Fatty fishes like salmon, sardine and cod provide omega-3 fats in the form of EPA and DHA. These exert an anti-inflammatory effect providing relief from muscle soreness and joint pain. In addition, fatty fishes contain vitamin D, which aids in relieving muscle spasms. Fishes also come with the benefits of minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, selenium and magnesium.
8. Milk and Yoghurt - Milk and milk products like yoghurt are rich in calcium, phosphorus, sodium and potassium, which makes them beneficial for alleviating muscle-related health complications like cramps. Post an intense exercise session, dairy foods also provide essential amino for the growth and repair of muscles.
9. Pickle Juice - Pickle juice has been shown effective for muscle cramps under several studies. A study conducted by Miller KC et al in 2010 gave pickle juice to hypo hydrated subjects. It has been found that pickle juice is effective in relieving muscle cramps within a few minutes after ingestion
10. Papaya - It is rich in potassium and magnesium, therefore, considered good for easing muscle cramps. They are rich in dietary fibre hence keep our gut health strong, provide immunity due to high vitamin A content and improve overall digestive health.
To sum up, muscle cramps are commonly experienced by many people. But the good news is that they can be managed with some foods and beverages. Advice from a medical expert is needed when the pain doesn’t subside for a long duration frequently.
- The Effects of High Dose Fish Oil Supplementation on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and Inflammatory Markers(2010).https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00805870
- Miller, K. C., Stone, M. S., Huxel, K. C., & Edwards, J. E. (2010). Exercise-associated muscle cramps: causes, treatment, and prevention. Sports health, 2(4), 279–283. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738109357299
- Kevin C, Miller.The Evolution of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramp Research. 22 (4). 6-8
- Tarazona-Díaz, M. P., Alacid, F., Carrasco, M., Martínez, I., & Aguayo, E. (2013). Watermelon juice: potential functional drink for sore muscle relief in athletes. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 61(31), 7522–7528. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf400964r
- Kalman, D. S., Feldman, S., Krieger, D. R., & Bloomer, R. J. (2012). Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-9-1
- Milind.Parle and Monika (2015).SWEET POTATO AS A SUPER-FOOD.Int. J. Res. Ayurveda Pharm. 6(4)
- Miller, K. C., Mack, G. W., Knight, K. L., Hopkins, J. T., Draper, D. O., Fields, P. J., & Hunter, I. (2010). Reflex inhibition of electrically induced muscle cramps in hypohydrated humans. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 42(5), 953–961. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c0647e