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Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

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Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Ben Z on Tue Jul 09, 2013 5:10 pm

Very good article about why some of us get muscle cramps when we run.

http://www.irunfar.com/2013/07/cramping-my-style.html

From the article:

Muscle Cramping & The Central Governor


Let’s review what we know (or think we know, or know what we don’t know) so far:



  • Muscle cramping is a neurological, “electrical” phenomenon, likely centered in the central nervous system, where reflexes become unbalanced, affecting the muscle.


  • The muscle is most susceptible to cramping with prolonged fatigue and (according to Noakes), when we “run faster than we should.”


  • Sodium or electrolyte balance – in the blood stream or muscle cell – has zero effect on cramping.


  • Sodium (and possibly water, sugar, and fat) tasting in the mouth (and possibly upper GI tract) does have a positive effect: dampening cramping and improving performance. But the rapidity of this effect suggests that it is the brain alone that creates this effect.


  • Muscles most affected by cramping are those repetitively used and confined to a small arc of motion.


  • The only known treatments to cramping are to slow down, stop, and stretch the muscle to a maximally lengthened state.


What do you think? Do you agree it's all controlled by the brain?
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Admin on Tue Jul 09, 2013 5:35 pm

In large part, yes.  There are also studies that show a 'preservation effect' on glycogen stores, where those exercising begin to feel the fatigue of glycogen depletion long before they're actually approaching depletion, which is believed to also be a brain effect.  Also, just swishing a sugar solution in the mouth can cause a reduction in the feelings of fatigue without even ingesting the carbs... which, like the salt example, is thought to be a signal to the brain.

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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Nick Morris on Tue Jul 09, 2013 5:47 pm

Yes, I believe that the brain has an affect.  It's our brain's way of telling us that we are about to go on overload or be/do something that we shouldn't.  Like Matt said, our brain tells us that we are short on glycogen before we actually are (aka "the wall" or around the 18-20 mile point of a marathon).  It is the brain's way of telling us that we are getting close to no man's land.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:23 pm

However, I do believe that having adequate zinc,, magnesium, and calcium in one's system (long term) helps to ward off cramping better than sodium or potassium (short term).
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Nick Morris on Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:54 pm

Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:However, I do believe that having adequate zinc,, magnesium, and calcium in one's system (long term) helps to ward off cramping better than sodium or potassium (short term).

True, if your body is not low on these essential vitamins and minerals, then your brain won't tell you to cramp.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  ounce on Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:37 pm

I've read where Slo-Mag taken for two weeks will take care of cramps.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  nkrichards on Tue Jul 09, 2013 8:08 pm

Nick Morris wrote:
Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:However, I do believe that having adequate zinc,, magnesium, and calcium in one's system (long term) helps to ward off cramping better than sodium or potassium (short term).

True, if your body is not low on these essential vitamins and minerals, then your brain won't tell you to cramp.

 I've been waking up to leg cramps at night.  I recently started taking S-caps and Endurolytes before and after runs.  Those along with my normal multi-vitamin and a pretty healthy diet should provide adequate amounts of the essential vitamins and minerals.  The cramping has diminished but not gone away entirely.  Is my brain working overtime or does my body just need a bit more time to adjust?
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:34 am

Nancy - I would try a zinc, calcium, and magnesium supplement or eat a handful of mixed nuts for snack every afternoon.  I eat a very healthy diet and I was still suffering from leg cramps, night cramps, etc. until I started this practice.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Nick Morris on Wed Jul 10, 2013 6:38 am

To add to Michele's comments, it may take a little while to get the supplements into your system.  So be patient...
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Jerry on Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:45 am

Think less or none, you run faster.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Jerry on Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:47 am

Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:Nancy - I would try a zinc, calcium, and magnesium supplement or eat a handful of mixed nuts for snack every afternoon.  I eat a very healthy diet and I was still suffering from leg cramps, night cramps, etc. until I started this practice.

 Mixed nuts have zinc, magnesium, and calcium?
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Dave-O on Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:59 am

I'll have to read the article in full, but I do not agree with the bullet points from Noakes. I don't have any scientific studies to back it up, but I can tell you that since I've starting consuming Nuun tablets, I have not suffered from any cramps.  And I used to cramp all the time. 

Also, if cramping was due solely to muscular fatigue, then why would one cramp hours after a run is complete? I used to routinely cramp about 1-2 hours after a run while laying on the couch. My triceps and ab muscles would cramp, and they obviously weren't fatigued from running. Same with people that wake in the middle of the night with cramps.  Sorry, it just doesn't add up. 

Frankly - and again without any science to support this - I think there are two different types of cramps. There are the type of midrace, fatigue cramps, that have nothing to do with sodium or electrolytes. I've had those, and they are severe and debilitating.  And I think there are nutritional based cramps that occur because of sodium and electrolyte imbalances. 

Again, just my personal opinions. Cool
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:28 am

Jerry wrote:
Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:Nancy - I would try a zinc, calcium, and magnesium supplement or eat a handful of mixed nuts for snack every afternoon.  I eat a very healthy diet and I was still suffering from leg cramps, night cramps, etc. until I started this practice.

 Mixed nuts have zinc, magnesium, and calcium?

 Yup - read the label.  I'm not kidding, but a nutritionist at Georgia Tech (who is a runner and their food guru for the sports teams) turned me onto that fact.

I also agree with Dave-O is stating that some cramps are from pushing the limit and muscle fatigue.  I think those are the type you get (and I have) from going out too fast in a race or perhaps pushing the pace to the limit even in a short race.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  JohnP on Wed Jul 10, 2013 11:11 am

I can't ever remember cramping up during the winter time but definitely in the warmer weather. So it's anecdotal but I just can't buy that it's 100% not related to heat, or electrolyte loss. But there are several types of cramps. I have severely cramped up while swimming where I can watch the muscle contract and be very painful. That pain can last several days whereas cramps related to heat don't last nearly as long.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  nkrichards on Wed Jul 10, 2013 11:22 am

Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:
Jerry wrote:
Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:Nancy - I would try a zinc, calcium, and magnesium supplement or eat a handful of mixed nuts for snack every afternoon.  I eat a very healthy diet and I was still suffering from leg cramps, night cramps, etc. until I started this practice.

 Mixed nuts have zinc, magnesium, and calcium?

 Yup - read the label.  I'm not kidding, but a nutritionist at Georgia Tech (who is a runner and their food guru for the sports teams) turned me onto that fact.


 Thanks Michele - I'll definitely give that a try.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Jerry on Wed Jul 10, 2013 11:45 am

Ok , Jerry will try mixed nuts and nuun. Thanks Michele and Dave.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Julie on Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:08 pm

Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:Nancy - I would try a zinc, calcium, and magnesium supplement or eat a handful of mixed nuts for snack every afternoon.  I eat a very healthy diet and I was still suffering from leg cramps, night cramps, etc. until I started this practice.

 
I also take cal-mag-zinc supplement twice daily. I'm allergic to nuts so I can't do the handful of nuts but I feel like every time I turn around I'm taking a pill (probably because I am).

I had calf cramps during my 50K but that is the only time during a run I've suffered them. A couple of mos ago I woke up in such pain from calf cramping, seriously one of the most intense pains ever.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Jim Lentz on Thu Jul 11, 2013 11:04 am

Julie wrote:
Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:Nancy - I would try a zinc, calcium, and magnesium supplement or eat a handful of mixed nuts for snack every afternoon.  I eat a very healthy diet and I was still suffering from leg cramps, night cramps, etc. until I started this practice.

 
I also take cal-mag-zinc supplement twice daily. I'm allergic to nuts so I can't do the handful of nuts but I feel like every time I turn around I'm taking a pill (probably because I am).

I had calf cramps during my 50K but that is the only time during a run I've suffered them. A couple of mos ago I woke up in such pain from calf cramping, seriously one of the most intense pains ever.
I can't remember if I have ever had major cramping in a race. I am another of those that has horrible night-time calf cramps. I can usually tell the nights I am more susceptible to them, as my muscle of my legs are doing this mini-spasm thing. For me drinking plenty of fluids after a tough, sweaty runs does wonders. Ususally if I don't notice until I am having the mini-spasms I am going to get nighttime cramps in one or both calves. I can't explain the level of pain, but it wakes me up right away. A few times I have woken up right before the "bang" of pain and if I immediately pull my toes up it prevents major cramping.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Jerry on Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:52 pm

Jim Lentz wrote:
Julie wrote:
Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:Nancy - I would try a zinc, calcium, and magnesium supplement or eat a handful of mixed nuts for snack every afternoon.  I eat a very healthy diet and I was still suffering from leg cramps, night cramps, etc. until I started this practice.

 
I also take cal-mag-zinc supplement twice daily. I'm allergic to nuts so I can't do the handful of nuts but I feel like every time I turn around I'm taking a pill (probably because I am).

I had calf cramps during my 50K but that is the only time during a run I've suffered them. A couple of mos ago I woke up in such pain from calf cramping, seriously one of the most intense pains ever.
I can't remember if I have ever had major cramping in a race. I am another of those that has horrible night-time calf cramps. I can usually tell the nights I am more susceptible to them, as my muscle of my legs are doing this mini-spasm thing. For me drinking plenty of fluids after a tough, sweaty runs does wonders. Ususally if I don't notice until I am having the mini-spasms I am going to get nighttime cramps in one or both calves. I can't explain the level of pain, but it wakes me up right away. A few times I have woken up right before the "bang" of pain and if I immediately pull my toes up it prevents major cramping.
Jim,

Read the last sentence of the paragraph I copied over from the linked article below. It helps me. I am working on my supplemental too. 

Be proud you have the same issue as Jerry.

 http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/nocturnal-leg-cramps-nighttime-calf-muscle-pain.html

Treatment for leg cramps is straightforward and easy to follow. Avoid tight bed covers, which can lead to pointing of the toes and subsequent cramps. Stretch your calf muscles for about five minutes nightly before getting into bed. If you have a cramp, pull your toes back (don't point them), and, if necessary, put your foot on the floor and lean forward.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  healdgator on Thu Jul 11, 2013 2:20 pm

Jim Lentz wrote:
Julie wrote:
Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:Nancy - I would try a zinc, calcium, and magnesium supplement or eat a handful of mixed nuts for snack every afternoon.  I eat a very healthy diet and I was still suffering from leg cramps, night cramps, etc. until I started this practice.

 
I also take cal-mag-zinc supplement twice daily. I'm allergic to nuts so I can't do the handful of nuts but I feel like every time I turn around I'm taking a pill (probably because I am).

I had calf cramps during my 50K but that is the only time during a run I've suffered them. A couple of mos ago I woke up in such pain from calf cramping, seriously one of the most intense pains ever.
I can't remember if I have ever had major cramping in a race. I am another of those that has horrible night-time calf cramps. I can usually tell the nights I am more susceptible to them, as my muscle of my legs are doing this mini-spasm thing. For me drinking plenty of fluids after a tough, sweaty runs does wonders. Ususally if I don't notice until I am having the mini-spasms I am going to get nighttime cramps in one or both calves. I can't explain the level of pain, but it wakes me up right away. A few times I have woken up right before the "bang" of pain and if I immediately pull my toes up it prevents major cramping.

 I get these too, occasionally and I have found it to be from a lack of hydration as well.  The pain is indescribable.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  ounce on Fri Jul 12, 2013 12:28 am

I didn't much care for the taste of the nuun, so I got some S!Caps.  They're capsules that are easy to take and I have a small bag to tuck in my shorts' pocket.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Ben Z on Fri Jul 12, 2013 12:23 pm

Dave - I think the author is only talking about exercise-induced cramps (i.e., the first type of cramp you believe in).
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Jerry on Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:48 am

Running Finally I bought Nuun, took one during dinner, and my restless leg syndrome was gone, then the following night.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Nick Morris on Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:21 pm

Jerry wrote:Running Finally I bought Nuun, took one during dinner, and my restless leg syndrome was gone, then the following night.

Since I started taking vitamin D last year my calf twitching has really subsided.  It still happens sometimes, but is less prominent than before.  I wonder if popping a Nuun tablet after a hard workout would help, too.
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Re: Muscle Cramping - Salt Doesn't Help (or Does It?)

Post  Jerry on Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:34 pm

Nick Morris wrote:
Jerry wrote:Running Finally I bought Nuun, took one during dinner, and my restless leg syndrome was gone, then the following night.
Since I started taking vitamin D last year my calf twitching has really subsided.  It still happens sometimes, but is less prominent than before.  I wonder if popping a Nuun tablet after a hard workout would help, too.
Buy one on your way home today, get a cold 20 oz plastic bottle of diet coke at dinner table preferably with your hot date, open the cap, and pop one tablet in . . .

Let me know how it went tomorrow.
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