So, you are in the gym. Music is pumping through your headphones, got a good sweat going on, energy is high, just feeling great! You are about halfway through your workout and suddenly you feel a twitch in your bicep. Then the twitch turns into a spasm. You feel like you can get through another set and bang! Your bicep locks up and will not move.
Those dang cramps.
If you are an athlete of any sort of exercised for any certain length of time, surely you have experienced a cramp of two (or many more). Cramps seem to come with the territory of fitness. If you are newer to the game of fitness, chances are you will cramp a little easier because your body is not conditioned as well as someone who is a veteran to fitness. Regardless, cramps suck.
There are numerous things that one can do to help prevent cramps. The answer though in how to do so is found in the cause of cramps. Two important things lack in the body when a cramp occurs- sodium and water.
Sodium is an electrolyte in the body. Electrolytes control the shift of fluids inside and outside the cells in our body. If you have ever had the luxury of tasting sweat (yum) you would have noticed it was salty. That is the sodium you are tasting. Your body pushes a lot of electrolytes/sodium out while you are working out (sweating). What else is being pushed out? You guessed it, water. Water is the carrier of the sodium from the body, which is why sweat is a liquid.
So, when you sweat you are losing water and sodium. This is what can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is believed to be the leading cause of cramps. When we become dehydrated, the fluid outside of the muscle cell decreases. This lack of fluid causes the nerve endings to become bunched up, causing overexcited, and spontaneously discharge. This is what causes muscle spasms which can lead to a cramp.
Think of jumper cables. When they are hooked up to the car battery and you take the other ends and touch them, they spark! This is how our nerve endings act when dehydrated.
So, the solution is obvious. Keeping yourself hydrated is important, but not just with water (even though that is better than nothing). Drinking sodium filled sports drinks is a good thing to have before you work out or during. Be careful though, many people assume that since they have a purpose in fitness and training that drinking them whenever is good. Sports drinks should be consumed around training only. And if drinking water is all you want to drink, then get in something salty before you work out like some pretzels or a food with some sodium in it. This will help in keeping sodium and water levels in a good spot, help prevent dehydration, which in return can keep cramps at bay.
One final thing to hit on. DO NOT SHY AWAY FROM CARBS. Carbs keep the glycogen levels in your muscles up. If those levels are depleted, it shows to lead to cramps as well.