As a person on the sidelines of many games particularly basketball, I have seen many players have to come to a halt because of the muscle cramp they are experiencing. Have you ever experienced one of these cramps in the middle of the night? They can be extremely painful. Muscle cramps are unpredictable and the cause is not totally understood. They are often associated with dehydration, and when muscles are fatigued. Cramps may be related to overexertion and other factors, including fluid loss, inadequate conditioning and electrolyte imbalance. Sometimes during cramping, stretching and massaging will help, but nutrition can help put them at bay too.

 Some leading causes of muscle cramping

 Lack of water– prevent dehydration by drinking enough water before, during and after you exercise. Your urine should be clear pale yellow in color. If it is a deep color yellow then you should be drinking more fluids.

 Lack of calcium- because calcium plays a part in muscle contraction boosting calcium intake may be necessary. Rule out calcium being the culprit by increasing calcium sources such as orange juice with calcium, soymilk, and other dairy products at least twice a day. If the cramps are decreased or even disappear then you know that caused them.

 Lack of potassium– although a potassium deficiency is unlikely because of sweat losses, you can rule this out by eating potassium rich foods daily. Sweet potatoes are packed with potassium one cup serves up 694 mg per cup. Other great sources of potassium are green beans, white beans, low fat yogurts, lentils and tomatoes.

 Lack of sodium– contributes to cramping. Athletes who exercise for four hours or more in the heat and restrict sodium will be more likely to experience cramping.

Endurance sports drinks (low in added sugars) such as recharge, contain sodium and other electrolytes need for active people.

 Lack of magnesium– magnesium helps muscles relax, so it only makes sense that magnesium helps reduce cramps, particularly if you are a “nighttime cramper”. Most people don’t meet the recommended daily allowance of magnesium of 320mg per day for women and 420mg for men. You can increase your intake of magnesium by consuming green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans and other legumes.

Spinach for example contains 155mg of magnesium, which is more then half the daily value for women.

 Bottom line – you want to avoid these cramps at any time. Drinking fluids and eating properly will help keep you balanced. Remember there is may be different reasons for muscle cramps and they need to be looked at on an individual bases.

 Try my sweet potato and apple mash to boost your potassium.