What Causes Cramps?
Cramps can be the bane of many an athletes’ day if they’re not prepared for it. Weightlifters may especially struggle with muscle cramps due to repetitions of the same movements combined with the strain of added weights. Ever worked to muscle failure when exercising your biceps? It can be quite painful getting undressed in the changing room if your inner arms cramp up.
What Are Muscle Cramps?
Muscle cramps are involuntary muscle contractions that can occur day or night to absolutely anyone subject to a few different causes. They get worse with age, but children are equally affected The forcibly contracted muscle also won’t voluntarily relax, which is when things get seriously uncomfortable.
When a muscle spasms, contracting involuntarily and then won’t relax, it’s then known as a cramp, which can often be visible as well as felt. They can last seconds and sometimes minutes and are unfortunately not a bodily function that necessarily passes following one bout (it’s possible to experience several in a row). Though it may feel like one part of you is cramping, it’s not always just one muscle that is affected. In incidents such as these when several muscles cramp in the same area at the same time, it usually involves the contraction of muscles that work in opposite directions.
What Causes Muscle Cramps?
The most common causes of muscle cramps include dehydration, overuse, mineral depletion, inadequate blood supply and nerve compression.
There are other factors, though, that can affect even Olympic athletes. Nutrition is the fuel that powers your muscles. Without adequate water and the minerals that your body needs you can expect muscle cramps along with headaches, nausea, and exhaustion. It is recommended that you drink 20 ounces of water 2 hours before exercising and then 10-20 further ounces during your warm-up, and continue thereafter depending on what you’re doing. Water lubricates your joints and maintains your body temperature, and also transports the nutrients to give your body the energy it needs.
How Can You Stop Muscle Cramps?
As an athlete, it’s perfectly normal to experience all of the above. Especially when lifting weights or cycling, for example, you will be repeating the same muscle contractions over and over so that it’s no wonder they spasm. This can depend on your recovery and endurance capabilities. If you’ve not done a particular exercise before and then perform high reps without warming up, you can expect muscle spasms, but by developing the muscle’s endurance over time you will find you can do more before the cramps come.
The first obvious solution is to stop the activity that is concerning you. Rest is as important as work ethic when exercising. It can be a good way to perform a sort of personal MOT and check that your body is working as it should be. If you feel a cramp coming along, it’s better to find out before you are bearing weight on your shoulders in the squat rack. You should stop, drink water and stretch the affected muscle.
Cramps often occur once you’ve finished exercising. This is because your body continues to burn calories after you’re done and it’s your job to replenish your energy stores. For serious weightlifters this can mean consuming the right fuel to replenish your stores 24 hours later. This is another good reason to carry a large why protein after workout shake, to ensure you’ve done all you can to replenish the vitamins and minerals you’ve used.
Cramps can also be the result of your muscles cooling down and inactivity, so massaging the affected muscle and applying a heat pad or soaking it in hot water can be a quick fix solution, along with water so that you don’t lose more water from sweating again. Last but not least, after you’ve tried the above, it’s no-one’s favourite, but you need to keep moving. It may feel like the last thing you want to do, but getting the affected area working again as it should can see the muscles relax in order to focus on what they should be doing.