No matter which martial arts you practice, you may have experienced horrible pain in your muscles known as a muscle cramp. Muscle cramps can range from short lasting, annoying tickles all the way to blinding pain and muscle spasms for multiple minutes. With the tips below we hope that you can achieve cramp-less martial arts training going forward!
1. Drink More Water
Dehydration affects the entire body! Many athletes don’t drink enough water because they forget that eight glasses of water on the day of a workout is not enough to replenish the water lost in sweat. Many athletes need up to 12 glasses of water in order to be well hydrated on tough workout days. Your muscles need the proper amount of water to function correctly, so drink up!
2. Maintain your Electrolyte Levels
Electrolytes control the movement of fluids in and out of cells. The loss of the electrolyte, sodium, through sweat during a workout could be the cause of cramps. Try not to let the concentration of sodium in the blood decrease too much. As you replenish yourself with water also be sure to ingest sodium with salty foods like pretzels or sports drinks with high sodium percentages.
3. Take Time to Stretch
Taking the time to stretch before and after your workouts is crucial. If you don’t properly warm up and cool down you could shock your muscles and over exert yourself. Stretching before and after workouts will keep your muscles limber and allow them to acclimate before getting into your main workout routine.
4. Ingest Nutrients and Vitamins
Having a balanced diet isn’t just so that your body looks good, it is important to make sure your body is functioning well on the inside too! Potassium is an important nutrient for athletes. Foods like sweet potatoes (their skin in particular), bananas, carrots, beets and squash are all high in potassium and can help curb the potential for cramps. Magnesium is similar in its function to reduce the risk of cramps. Try eating foods like pumpkin, nuts, quinoa, buckwheat and beans to reduce cramped muscles.
Another crucial nutrient is calcium. Calcium plays a direct role in muscular contraction. It is common among female athletes to lack the proper amount of calcium. Try adding fortified dairy products, tofu, spinach, turnips and kale into your diet for more calcium rich meals! Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for athletes. Vitamin D is responsible for aiding the body’s absorption of both calcium and magnesium. Sunlight, fortified dairy products, salmon, beans, tofu and almonds are all great sources of Vitamin D!
Allow your body to rest! Constantly working out without proper breaks can cause more harm than good to your muscles! As you become tired your muscles also become fatigued. Fatigued muscles lose reflex control. This dysfunction is what causes the muscle spasms you may feel before or during a cramp. If you have a cramp or if you feel one beginning to start take a moment to rest; reach for your water, stretch yourself out and have a snack. When you continue with your workout later you will feel your body responding better to your training!
Unfortunately cramping is inevitable for most athletes. However, if you keep these precautions in mind, you will find yourself feeling more prepared during future training!