Preventing Muscle Cramps

Most older textbooks explain that muscle cramps are caused by lack of water (dehydration) and lack of salt. However, studies on endurance athletes show that athletes who cramp do not have less body water or sodium than those who do not cramp (British Journal of Sports Medicine, June 2009). So the current explanation for muscle cramps in conditioned athletes is that prolonged, intense exercise damages muscles, which can cause sustained contractions or cramps.

Cramps may occur as a side effect of drugs used to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. Oral contraceptives, various other drugs or alcohol can also cause muscle cramps. If you suffer from recurrent muscle cramps that cannot be explained, check with your doctor. Possible causes include pinched nerves, Parkinson's disease, hypothyroidism, diabetes, narrowed arteries, low blood mineral levels, or metabolic diseases that cause muscle damage. However, these diseases are rarely the cause of cramps in athletes.

Cramps can often be prevented by slowing down when a muscle starts to feel tight. However, athletes usually are not willing to do this during competition or hard training, so they will continue to suffer from occasional cramps and work them out as they occur. You can help to prevent cramps with a training program that includes both hard days and recovery days. We do this by cycling at 18-20 mph pace on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and 10-12 mph pace on the other four days.


Post a Comment