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Muscle Cramps

A few weekends ago after a long run, Mario and I were headed out on a date. As he was putting on his shoes, I heard “Owww, owwwwwww, OW!”. His foot was cramping. Clearly, I felt badly for him and I tried really hard not to laugh. (Muscle cramps in of themselves are no laughing matter, but his reaction really cracked me up.)

I found this article about the top ten sports nutrition myths. One of the myths is cramping comes from dehydration. According to the article:

The idea that exercise-related muscle cramps are caused by dehydration and/or electrolyte depletion originated from a single flawed study conducted almost a century ago. More recent science has clearly shown that there is no correlation between dehydration levels and risk of cramping.

Instead, muscle cramping appears to be a symptom of a type of neuromuscular fatigue that is caused by unaccustomed exertion (this is why muscle cramping occurs almost exclusively in races) and occurs in athletes who have some sort of innate susceptibility to cramping. Drinking more fluid and consuming more electrolytes have not been shown to reduce cramping risk in susceptible athletes in races, with the exception of one study showing that sodium-loading before prolonged exercise delayed the onset of cramping.

Mario doesn’t typically run during the week and then will come run 15+ miles with me on a Saturday. I think that might explain his cramping.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Running Update: Not much to say other than my left hip/leg are feeling better every day and I’m still on the verge of losing my mind. I want to be outside so badly!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve also heard that cramping in a race comes from not adequately training for the distance. Your body is not ready for the extra exertion for that amount of time and distance, and this can lead to a neural misfiring that leads to the fatigue and cramping.
    I always thought it was electrolytes as well, but found out during a race that overloading on electrolytes didn’t make any difference.

    February 3, 2013
  2. Bruce Read #

    Anecdotal evidence from studies at Stanford on how heat impacts your performance has shown that muscle cramping is one of the last layers of defense your body has to protect itself from serious injury. It is not due to lack of fluids but the build up of heat in that particular muscle. I also believe that is why barefoot running will allow for better performace as one of your body’s natural radiators is your feet.

    February 4, 2013

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