Exercise-induced muscle cramps are a common occurrence amongst athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. Cramping tends to arise when a muscle suddenly tightens up or contracts and generally manifests as a sharp, stabbing pain. Exercise can cause cramping in virtually any of the muscles in the body, but the muscles of the abdomen and legs are especially susceptible. Interestingly enough, consuming certain foods prior to and during exercise may delay or even prevent onset of muscle cramps. Here are five that are among the most beneficial.
Bananas are one of the healthiest, most versatile fruits around and also the best for preventing muscle cramps before they start. What makes bananas especially beneficial is their high potassium content, as this essential mineral plays a critical role in muscle contraction during exercise. Large quantities of potassium are lost in sweat, which increases the likelihood of muscle cramping and other discomforts. This can be avoided by eating a small banana at least 1-2 hours before exercising ("Potassium-Rich Foods for People Who Don't Eat Bananas").
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of potassium as well as calcium, which helps to regulate both the contraction and relaxation of muscle. Deficiencies and imbalances in calcium are linked to the onset of exercise-induced muscle cramps. In addition to potassium and calcium, Greek yogurt is remarkably rich in protein making it particularly beneficial for speeding muscle recovery. To alleviate muscle cramping and enhance recovery, you can consume a single serving before, during, and even after working out ("Why You Should Go Greek with Yogurt").
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of magnesium, a key electrolyte mineral that works with calcium in controlling muscle contraction and relaxation. Magnesium specifically enables the delivery of oxygen to contracting muscles. Like other electrolyte minerals, magnesium is naturally lost in sweat during exercise, which increases the likelihood of associated muscle cramping mainly due to an inadequate oxygen supply. For maximum protection against cramping, pop a handful of pumpkin seeds as a pre-workout snack ("Magnesium: The Forgotten Mineral That's Essential for Good Health").
Muscle cramping can occur as a result of dehydration caused by inadequate consumption of fluids. In addition to supporting sustained hydration, coconut water houses a healthy balance of electrolyte minerals (potassium, magnesium, and sodium) that greatly aid in the prevention of exercise-induced muscle cramps. Coconut water also contains a good amount of l-arginine, an amino acid that enhances oxygen delivery to exercising muscles helping to further minimize the occurrence of cramping ("The Nutritional Benefits of Coconut Water After Exercise").
Egg yolks are a good natural food source of vitamin D, which is essential for proper absorption of calcium and magnesium. Low levels of vitamin D can lead to muscle cramps and general muscle fatigue during exercise. While the amount of vitamin D in yolks is relatively small, eggs are extremely versatile and easy to include in your diet. In addition to minimizing cramping and fatigue, eating egg yolks helps to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage while also enhancing post-exercise muscle repair and recovery ("The Incredible Edible Egg Yolk: Nutritional Benefits of Eating Whole Eggs").
If you're one who regularly experiences exercise-induced muscle cramps, consuming these foods can definitely help. In addition to eating the right kinds of foods, it's also important to maintain adequate flexibility through daily stretching, as this is especially beneficial for easing the muscle tightness and tension associated with cramping.