Muscle cramps are thought to result from various conditions, including salt/electrolytes/sugar depletion, dehydration, high temperatures, or even lack of muscle flexibility. But few studies provide good evidence for any of them. For instance, in a 2004 study of runners, it has been shown than neither electrolytes (K, Ca, Mg) nor hydration (except when sever) levels affected cramps.
The most recent hypothesis proposes the effect of “muscle fatigue”. Fatigue is supposed cause an abnormal neuromascular response to an intense exercise resulting in an imbalance between excitation (too much) and inhibition (not enough) of the muscle. Without that balance a muscle keeps firing up (contracting) eventually leading to a muscle spasm or a cramp. Another evidence supporting this hypothesis comes from the fact that stretching (that stimulates inhibition) seems the best way to alleviate the spasm.
So what to do to stay cramp free? Try to avoid too intense workouts too soon. Try to avoid too intense workouts on fatigued muscles. Give yourself ample time to gradually get your muscles stronger, gradually intensify your workouts. In cases of races, train for the specific conditions they offer.
By Dorota Porazinska
Picture By Tommickle