Muscle cramps are involuntary, intensely painful muscle contractions that nearly every player has experienced at some point. Some people experience them often and simply seem to be prone to them.
Cramps usually hit at the end of intense workouts or during long lasting games because fatigued muscles are more likely to cramp. If you carefully progress your workouts, you will avoid unnecessary cramps. Heat, and not being used to the heat, increases the frequency of cramps. When the season changes and summer arrives, ease into workouts in the heat. Additionally, carefully plan your fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrate intake to help avoid or delay muscle cramps.
Fluids in the body are either inside the cell or outside of the cell. When we become dehydrated, the fluid outside of the cells decreases. Reductions in fluids cause nerve endings to be squished together, overexcited, and spontaneously discharge. That spontaneous discharge is a muscle twitch, which can lead to a muscle cramp. By maintaining proper hydration, you can prevent dramatic shifts in fluids that contribute to abnormal muscle contractions.
Both water and sodium are lost in sweat. Muscle cramps may occur when the concentration of sodium in the blood decreases. High sodium sports drinks can delay muscle cramps in those who cramp often.
Also, carbohydrate depletion could lead to muscle cramps. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel used during games. There is a finite amount of carbohydrate stored as glycogen in our muscles to provide the energy to exercise. Once that store of glycogen has been exhausted, we are at high risk for muscle cramps. The muscle requires energy to contract; it also needs energy to relax. When there isn’t adequate fuel circulating and we continue exercising and contracting our muscles, muscle relaxation is impaired, and cramps occur.
Be sure to eat a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack prior games. Plus, you will need to consume carbohydrates through food or sports products during longer duration exercise. Consuming carbohydrates appropriately is well-worth it to prevent a muscle cramp.
These are five tips to prevent muscle cramps:
1- Follow an appropriate training plan.
2- Acclimate yourself to the environment.
3- Consume the right amount of fluids to prevent dehydration.
4- Choose salty foods or sodium rich sports products before, during and after games.
5- Prevent carbohydrate depletion by consuming carbohydrates before and during games.
Prof. Martin Perez