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How to Prevent & Relieve Muscle Cramps
Magnesium helps stop cramping before it starts.
Cramping sucks, and most of the “solutions” provided by sports nutrition are just treating cramps after they occur rather than addressing root causes. In this blog installment, Dr. Bucci explains how EFS, EFS-PRO, and Liquid Shot use the latest clinical research on cramping to replete deficiencies and rebalance levels of all five electrolytes in your body, actually preventing the causes of cramps instead of just treating their symptoms.
Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramping (EAMC) is sudden, painful muscle cramps during or right after exercise, and it can range from minor and annoying to extremely painful and debilitating. We’ve been taught to stretch, hydrate, and consume salt to prevent it.
Despite those common assumptions about how to prevent it, cramping during exercise still happens regularly: 30-67% for American football, cycling, marathons, rugby, triathlons, and just about every other long-term work and exercise (Troyer 2020).
Despite (or maybe because of) its commonality, cramping is often treated as a symptom to treat once it occurs. By parsing scientific research and reviewing clinical studies related to both to EAMC and to various types of cramps and muscle spasms unrelated to exercise, I identified a correlation between a specific electrolyte and actual prevention, not just treatment, of cramping and muscle spasms.
Looking Beyond Exercise
To better understand the situation, it’s useful to consider non-exercise cramp causes in other areas of the body to get beyond the common assumptions about EAMC. These include cramps (or spasms) in blood vessel muscles, which can cause fatal constrictions in arteries. Contractions or spasms in uterine muscles prematurely before labor is another well-studied nerve-muscle cramping event.
Interestingly, intravenous magnesium therapies have been used to treat both conditions with some – but not complete – success. Most of these persons exhibited low magnesium levels or poor magnesium intakes, so the level of success shows that a missing link between nerve-muscle connections leading to cramps may often be magnesium.
I’ve had success applying this theory in practice. During my Certified Clinical Nutritionist days, I saw ranked tennis players and race car drivers suffer from debilitating cramps even though they were getting enough water, salt, and food. After seeing case studies of magnesium preventing cramps in scientific literature, I recommended magnesium supplements, and after a few days to weeks, the athletes did not have EAMC.
At the time I thought it must have been their individualities that were corrected to restore adequate magnesium status; it turns out it’s not so individual – more like a common, widespread magnesium intake deficiency that impedes normal nerve and muscle functions and increases cramping, even when other electrolytes like sodium and potassium are at healthy levels.
Like anything else in the body, giving too much of anything – even something inherently beneficial like magnesium – can imbalance internal systems, resulting in abnormal functions that manifest as a null effect or even toxicity.
That takes a LOT of magnesium, though – far more than products like hydration mixes provide. Plus, including all five electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) means First Endurance formulas further reduce the chance of any potential imbalance.
It’s All About Balance
First Endurance has been using significant amounts of magnesium in EFS, EFS-PRO, and Liquid Shots from the beginning, and has received much feedback about reduced EAMC in endurance athletes.
While magnesium is the focus here, it’s important to note that the unifying theme in cramp-prevention literature is often correcting imbalances – and that includes imbalances between individual electrolytes – so EFS, EFS-PRO, and Liquid Shot are all formulated with all five electrolytes: sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and – yes – magnesium. Magnesium just happens to be one of the most common culprits for deficiency.
Cramp prevention is all about balance, and First Endurance helps replete deficiencies and restore balance at the critical connections between nerves and muscles.