Although studies have failed to prove the exact cause of Muscle cramps owing to their unpredictability, they have always been the enemies of athletes: enemies that can be avoided if precautions are taken. Otherwise, they are just uninvited guests. Sometimes, the pain caused by the contraction of Muscle Cramps is so severe that you may end up dancing in pain and singing quite an unmelodious tune. It might also make you swear and at times, give up when you don’t want to, or leave you lying down in awkward positions.
Some common causes of Muscle Cramps are exposed to high temperatures, dehydration, inadequate oxygen supply, low blood electrolyte levels, pregnancy, and other diseases such as diabetes. These Muscle cramps may last for a few seconds, minutes, or even longer.
Cycling is a vigorous activity during which one may lose a large amount of water through perspiration, resulting in electrolyte disturbance: this imbalance leads to Muscle cramps. Tightening of muscles fibres can also lead to muscle cramps. So, don’t forget to stretch those big muscles before and after cycling.
Types of Muscle cramps
Cramps have been classified into several types depending on the type of muscle involved.
- Abdominal & hand cramps
- Muscle cramps: They can occur without any warning. The cramps occurring during or after a workout are painful but not dangerous.
- Menstrual cramps: The uterus contracts and sheds the inner lining of vascular tissues that have been accumulated over time. This contraction is triggered by prostaglandin (it regulates the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscles).
Prevention & Treatment Muscle cramps
- Firstly, be prepared mentally, make stretching an integral part of your schedule before and after your workout, and keep yourself well hydrated.
- Get your breathing under control and take deep breaths. By doing this, you supply oxygen to the deepest arteries.
- Gently stretch your muscles, depending on where you feel the pain, to relieve the cramps.
- Energy drinks like Gatorade and other electrolyte-containing solutions will help restore the electrolyte balance.
- A healthy diet rich in vitamins and other essential minerals(calcium, magnesium and potassium) can reduce the occurrence of cramps.
- Switch to Electoral and drink gallons of water. Drink water before you begin and during the ride.
- The shift to lower ratios and keep spinning those pedals. If you wait, you allow lactic acid to accumulate, which causes more cramping. Lactic acid accumulation causes fatigue, which results in cramps. Lactic acid accumulation can be prevented by oxygen supply: so breathe.
- Consume a high carbohydrate diet (low carb levels can cause cramps).
- Regular massage can also be of great help. For better results massage the affected area with lavender oil, rosemary oil or eucalyptus oil.
- Daily intake of honey(2tbs) can also help prevent cramps.
- Rest and recover well!
- Food rich in potassium: potatoes, orange and bananas
- Calcium: Milk, cheese, Yoghurt and leafy vegetables
- Magnesium: Nuts- Almond, cashew, peanuts, spinach, dates, raisins, bananas and chocolates. ( the order of the food item is arranged from larger to smaller amounts of nutrients.)
NOTE: If these Muscle cramps are caused frequently and do not improve on taking a break or if they are associated with swelling or any other irregularities, don’t ignore nature’s warnings: please visit a doctor.
Editor: Rebecca Ambrose