By: Trudie German
There I was, in the pool with my swimming instructor, feeling proud of myself and the ridiculous amount of laps I had just accomplished, when suddenly, I gasped and screamed, “AH! I got a Charley Horse!” The bugger only lasted about 30 seconds but trust me, they were 30 excruciatingly painful seconds. Et voila! Inspiration for my latest blog post!
First things first, I want to start with why exactly we get hit with these leg cramps (sometimes even waking us up from our sleep!)…
From a biological standpoint, you need to remember that your body is made up of approximately 60% water. So when you hit that second set of reps at the gym and your body temperature starts to climb, you will start sweating (even in the pool!) as a defense mechanism—to keep your organs cool and protect your skin.
Next, as you’ve probably already noticed, your sweat is predominantly made up of water and salt. When your body loses more water than it takes in, not only do you start feeling dehydrated, but your muscles also get hit with dehydration. And since there isn’t enough fluid reaching your muscles’ cells, this sometimes leads to your legs cramping up.
To keep those charley horses at bay, make sure you’re consuming more water than you’re losing through sweat. Of course, the more active you are, the more water you’ll need to consume.
Here’s a quick guide on just how much you’ll need:
– A half-litre before you hit the gym or head out on that killer run
– A half-litre during whatever activity has your heart rate up
– Another half-litre post-workout
And remember to keep hydrating with water throughout the rest of the day!
Whatever you do, DO NOT wait until you feel thirsty–that’s a telltale sign that your body is already way too dehydrated. Another tip I always try to remind my BE-clients: muscle cramps can also be caused by inadequate levels of sodium in our diet. While some of us (and by some of us I mean me) might love to snack on anything salty within our reach (Is that a bag of Ruffles chips?) others may shy away from salt as we worry it will hinder our weight loss efforts.
Salt is actually SUPER important in the proper functioning of our muscles, nerves and other body tissues (along with the distribution of water in the body). Because of this, sodium plays an essential part in the prevention of muscle cramps. Not having enough of it in our system creates an imbalance in the distribution of water to our cells.
*Here’s a healthy way to ensure we’re getting adequate sodium level in our daily diet: try having a pickle (or 2) per day or adding a pinch of salt to your water.
So, the next time you experience a Charley Horse, ask yourself: Am I staying hydrated and keeping my sodium levels in check?
Trudie is both a Certified Personal Trainer and owner of Body Envy, offering boot camp classes, mobile, and local personal training services around the Greater Toronto area. Trudie certifications include those from Reebok Spinning, TWIST BOSU and Resistance, as well as the National Academy of Sports Medicine and courses through RTS. Above and beyond her work with her clients, Trudie also placed 2nd in her very first Figure Competition through the Ontario Physique Association (OPA) in May 2011. You are invited to visit her website www.bodyenvy.ca.