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Beating cramps; why you get them & how to avoid them

Have you ever experienced the sudden, painful seizing of a leg cramp? Ranging anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, the onset is typically rapid, and can occur during exercise, sleep or at rest. While cramps can come and go, they are normally pointing to a larger imbalance occurring within your body. 


Magnesium deficiency

The first, and perhaps biggest reason cramps can occur is due to a magnesium deficiency. Within muscle cells, calcium works to contract muscle fibres, and magnesium triggers them to relax. If your body does not have enough magnesium, your muscles are able to contract but struggle after this to relax. This prolonged contraction then manifests as the stabbing and intense experience known as a muscle cramp. The primary reason this deficiency arises is dietary intake. Incredibly, up to 30% of Australians aren’t consuming enough magnesium on a daily basis.

Up to 30% of Aussies aren't consuming magnesium on a daily basis

This is due to the average Australian diet being low in magnesium rich foods wholefoods, as it is often high in refined and processed foods. Instead, magnesium is best sourced from green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Magnesium supplementation is also recommended as it has been shown to improve muscle relaxation.

 

There are also a number of factors in your lifestyle and environment that that can also cause a deficiency, or increase your body’s demand for magnesium.

 

Exercise

Whilst there are countless benefits to regular exercise, muscle cramps are one of the most common side effects experienced from being active. This is primarily due to the sweating that occurs, which not only depletes water levels within the body, but also levels of electrolytes.

 

Electrolytes are a collection of minerals made up of sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphate, and magnesium. These minerals dissolve into the water in your body, where they ensure your nerves, heart and muscles work properly, and oversee the passage of fluids in out of your cells. As they’re found within water in the body, profuse sweating not only leads to water loss, but electrolyte loss as well.

 

This means, beyond the need to rehydrate, a big workout can deplete you of the minerals, such as magnesium and sodium, which your nerves and muscles need to contract and relax properly.  

 

 

Prolonged sitting or standing

Your body is designed to move, rest and recover, then move again. When you spend all day seated at a desk or standing for hours on end, leg cramps can occur due to lack of movement. To prevent this, simply stretch your muscles regularly, go for a walk, or break out some star jumps – do whatever you feel like, just get those legs moving!

 

Don’t let cramps cramp your style!

You can reduce your chances of experiencing leg cramps by consuming magnesium-rich foods, replenishing your electrolytes after exercise, and ensuring frequent and varied movement throughout your exercise and daily routine. A magnesium supplement can also be a great way to quickly replenish your levels of this nutrient if deficient..

Some sources of magnesium;
almonds, barley, brewers yeast, cashews, cocoa, cod, eggs, figs, kelp, leafy greens, legumes, lima beans, mineral water, molasses, parsnips, seeds, soy beans, wholegrain cereals

If you are experiencing severe or prolonged leg cramps, book an appointment and we can address the underlying triggers for you.

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