It always happens the same way.
You’ll be deep into a workout or out for a run, past the point of no return, and it hits:
The pain of cramp is uncompareable.
The sharp, stabbing pain of a muscle seizing up…workout ruined.
An old saying goes that, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
I’ve found no truer statement than this when it comes to learning how to avoid muscle cramps.
You might curse your luck when you start cramping up…
But it’s not really luck, is it?
When it comes to muscle cramps, learning how to be smart about your athletic endeavors is essential to making the most of your daily and weekly workouts.
Without further ado, let’s look at the best ways to avoid muscle cramps.
Can Diet Prevent Muscle Cramps?
Proper nutrition is critical.
Being well-fuelled ensures that all systems are go when it comes to your workout.
Getting plenty of potassium and magnesium into your system is key, so a pre-workout snack of a banana, some dried figs, or a slice of avocado toast can help a lot.
Whilst your meals should be around two hours before your workout, a light pre-workout snack should be taken around half an hour before.
Calcium deficiency can also contribute to problems with muscle cramps, so make sure that you’re in an abundant variety of calcium-rich food such as kale, broccoli, almonds, oranges and cheese.
Can Hydration Prevent Muscle Cramps?
Proper hydration is essential to any workout.
There’s a number of ways to make sure you hydrate well, but knowing how you end up dehydrated can offer you a clue into the best ways to work around it.
You should drink a minimum of eight glasses of water a day, which equates to two litres or half a gallon.
This may seem a massive amount, but it’s what is recommended by numerous health authorities.
This quantity is something that only a very small percentage of people hit. It’s your opportunity to get one up on the competition in a way that requires almost no additional effort.
You can make use of apps or alarms to ensure you’re reminded to take in fluids, as we know how easy it can be to forget — we all live busy lives these days!
Whilst your body will give you clear reminders that you need to drink whilst you’re mid-workout, it’s the water that you’re taking in throughout the day that will help to hydrate your body and prevent cramping whilst you’re working your muscles.
Does Stretching Prevent Cramp?
Stretching is an effective way to avoid muscle cramps, too.
In fact, being more flexible in general can help to alleviate cramping.
Ensure you have always stretched before each workout, but try to add flexibility work to your weekly routines.
One of the best things you can purchase to improve your flexibility at home is a foam roller (available here).
A lot of people have a rocky relationship with foam rollers to start with, but following a few simple guides on YouTube can help overcome this.
Rolling out your muscles a few times a week will give you a way to work on your flexibility and help avoid muscle cramps down the road.
Not a fan of foam rolling?
There are number of apps to help guide you through gentle yoga stretching to work on your flexibility.
Men in particular tend to often avoid this, but if you want to maximise your gains then stretching and flexibility is seriously underrated.
Does Warming Up Help Prevent Muscle Cramps?
Making sure you’re effectively warmed up can seriously help to prevent injuries, and combined with diet, hydration and stretching, it can be the key to reducing the risk of cramp.
This is probably the easiest advice to disregard, but it’s also the easiest thing to consistently do — so do it.
You don’t need to spend hours warming up…
A few minutes will do.
From there, you can do some dynamic stretching to make sure that you’re loose and limber before you start working out harder.
A walk on the treadmill that gradually gets into a light jog, some shadow boxing, or even a bit of Zumba to get you going (hey, who am I to judge?).
The trick is to get your heart rate up a bit, getting your blood flowing to different muscles and this will also make your brain more alert, helping to stave off a painful interruption to your workout.
Can You Continue Working Out After Cramp?
You should never push through the pain of a muscle cramp.
You can do more harm than good by doing so.
Pause during your workout to stretch your muscles out if you feel a cramp coming on.
Most importantly, listen to your body — some days, you will have to take yourself out of the game to treat the problem and not risk further injury.
Can Medical Conditions Give You Cramp?
Muscle cramps can be a side effect of certain medications or different medical conditions.
If you find that this is a constant problem for you, even after applying all of the advice in this post, make an appointment with your doctor or physician to discuss the problem.
Whether you’re breaking tape at a marathon or looking to build your muscle mass, muscle cramps are a nuisance that can sideline your efforts to be active and stay healthy.
Learning to be proactive, however, can help you avoid muscle cramps and keep on making those fitness improvements.