Surprise-Eat to Beat Muscle Cramps
When a muscle cramp hits, you can try stretching and rubbing the area to work it out. But surprisingly, you have some food choices that can help as well. Try these simple ways to stop muscle cramps and recover from muscle soreness after a workout.
Eat your fruits and veggies.
Staying hydrated and keeping your electrolytes in balance may help prevent cramps. Sports drinks can help during a workout, but you can boost their power by eating fruits and vegetables throughout the day. A German study found that kids who ate the most fruits and vegetables were better hydrated.
That’s because foods like strawberries, iceberg lettuce, baby carrots, and grapefruit are all more than 90 percent water. And many water-rich foods are also good sources of electrolytes like magnesium, potassium, calcium, chloride, and even sodium. Try eating broccoli, celery, cucumber, spinach, cantaloupe, bell peppers, and tomatoes to give your body extra water and electrolytes.
Savor sour pickles.
Drinking pickle juice to relieve cramps isn’t just an old wives tale. A study at North Dakota State University found that drinking 2 1/2 ounces of pickle juice ended cramps 45 percent sooner than drinking nothing. So it’s no wonder this remedy is popular among athletes. Some even recommend drinking 2 ounces of pickle juice before a workout to prevent cramps.
Pop some melon balls.
Watermelon is the biggest, cheapest fruit you’re probably not eating but should be. It’s low in calories and high in nutrients, and it might help you recover from muscle soreness. A two-cup serving of watermelon only contains about 90 calories but is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, lycopene, and water.
It also delivers an antioxidant amino acid called citrulline. A recent Spanish study found that drinking citrulline-rich watermelon juice helped reduce muscle soreness better than a placebo. More research is needed to see if eating watermelon provides the same benefits. But remember that watermelon is more than 90 percent water, so enjoying it regularly may help you stay hydrated and prevent cramps.
Try a coconut treat.
The American diet is typically low in potassium, so eating more of this mineral may help keep cramps at bay. Bananas and orange juice are good high-potassium choices. But if you’re in the mood for a tropical treat, try potassium-rich coconut water, the clear liquid found in coconuts when they’re still green. You can buy it at your supermarket, but talk to your doctor first if you take prescription medication to avoid interactions.
Coconut water may have up to five times more potassium than a sports drink for about the same cost, but it has less sodium. If you sweat heavily when you work out, you’ll lose a lot of sodium, in which case you’re better off rehydrating with a sports drink.
Drink cherry juice.
Runners who drank cherry juice daily while training for a 200-mile relay race had less pain after the race, an Oregon study found. Experts think the anthocyanins that give cherries their bright red color also act as anti-inflammatories to fight the inflammation exercise may cause.
If you’d like to try it, look for 100-percent juice made from tart Montmorency cherries at your supermarket or health food store. You can mix it with apple juice if you’d like it sweeter. Drink about two-and-a-half cups of cherry juice each day a week before a strenuous workout as well as the day of the workout itself.
- FC&A Staff Writer