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Muscle cramping is a common occurrence in the sporting population and can be caused by various factors.

The most common causes of muscle cramps are:

1. Dehydration

This occurs when an individual loses more fluid than they take in, leading to a decrease in blood volume and electrolyte concentration.

2. Electrolyte imbalances

Electrolytes such as sodium (Na), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), and calcium (Ca) are important for proper muscle and nerve function, and inadequate intake can lead to muscle cramps, as well as increased general fatigue.

3. Muscle Fatigue

Muscles are overworked and become exhausted, leading to a decrease in blood flow and oxygen delivery. This relates to not only overall fitness levels but also general fatigue and tiredness. Stretching and warm-up exercises are essential part of preventing cramping. 

Ways to tackle Cramping:

For athletes and individuals engaging in prolonged or intense physical activity, the water needs may increase to compensate for fluid loss due to sweating. As a general guideline, athletes should aim to drink 500-600ml of water 2-3 hours before exercise and continue to drink 200-300ml of water every 10-20 minutes during exercise. It is essential to note that individual fluid requirements can vary depending on factors such as environmental conditions (heat, humidity), the intensity of physical activity, and sweat rate. Therefore, it is recommended that individuals monitor their fluid intake and thirst levels and adjust their fluid intake accordingly.
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Electrolyte drinks can be used, in conjunction with water, to help replace fluids and electrolytes lost during exercise. Electrolytes such as sodium (Na), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), and calcium (Ca) are important for proper muscle and nerve function and sports drinks that contain electrolytes are designed to help replenish the electrolytes lost during exercise. These drinks typically contain a balance of carbohydrates, electrolytes, and fluids, and are designed to be easily absorbed and digested during exercise. Products such as KODA and Hydralyte are both excellent options to consider.

However, it is important to choose sports drinks wisely, as some drinks may contain excessive amounts of sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other ingredients that can be harmful to health. Athletes should look for sports drinks that contain a balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes, with no more than 6-8% carbohydrates, and avoid drinks with added sugars or artificial ingredients.

Electrolyte drinks do not replace water, and are additional to the general hydration routine.


Several studies have found that magnesium supplementation may be beneficial in reducing the frequency and severity of muscle cramps in athletes. The recommended daily magnesium intake for adults is 320-420 mg, and athletes may have slightly higher magnesium requirements due to increased sweat and urine losses. However, the precise amount of magnesium an athlete should take depends on various factors such as body size, exercise intensity and duration, and dietary intake.

As a general guideline, athletes may need to consume 50-100 mg of magnesium per hour of exercise to compensate for magnesium loss due to sweating. Athletes with a history of muscle cramps or who are prone to muscle cramps may benefit from magnesium supplementation.  Bioceuticals and Hydrocal are both great options with Hydrocal coming in dissolvable powder form making it very easy to ingest.

It is essential to note that excessive magnesium intake can lead to adverse effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping. Therefore, athletes should consult with a sports medicine or a dietitian before starting magnesium supplementation to determine their individual magnesium needs and ensure safe and effective use. 

There are a number of topical Magnesium creams in the MgBody range that can also be used and definitely worth trying, especially if you suffer from restless legs and night cramping.

Other Supplements

There are several supplements that have been suggested to help prevent muscle cramping in athletes, although the evidence for their effectiveness is limited and anecdotal. Some of these supplements include:

  1. B vitamins: Some studies suggest that B vitamins, particularly B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), and B12 (cobalamin), may help reduce the frequency and severity of muscle cramps in athletes. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.
  2. Vitamin E: Some athletes take vitamin E supplements to help reduce muscle damage and inflammation, which can contribute to muscle cramps. However, the evidence for the effectiveness of vitamin E in preventing muscle cramps is limited.
  3. Taurine: Taurine is an amino acid that is found in high concentrations in muscle tissue. Some studies suggest that taurine supplementation may help reduce muscle cramps and improve exercise performance in athletes. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.
  4. Sodium bicarbonate: Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, is sometimes used by athletes to buffer the acidity in muscle tissue, which can contribute to muscle fatigue and cramping. However, the use of sodium bicarbonate can also lead to adverse effects such as gastrointestinal upset, and its effectiveness in preventing muscle cramps is not well-established.
  5. Pickle juice: has been suggested as a potential remedy for muscle cramps in athletes, and there is some limited evidence to support its use. Pickle juice is high in sodium, which can help stimulate the thirst response and promote rehydration. It also contains acetic acid, which may help reduce muscle cramps by triggering a reflex that inhibits muscle contractions.

A small study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that drinking pickle juice helped alleviate muscle cramps in athletes more quickly than drinking water or sports drinks. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings and determine the optimal dose and timing of pickle juice consumption for preventing muscle cramps.

While pickle juice is generally safe for consumption, it is high in sodium and may not be suitable for individuals on a low-sodium diet or with a history of high blood pressure. It is essential to note that pickle juice should not be used as a replacement for proper hydration practices, and athletes should continue to drink water and sports drinks to maintain adequate hydration levels during exercise.

Take Home Message

The best way to prevent muscle cramping is to maintain adequate hydration levels by drinking fluids before, during, and after exercise. It is also essential to maintain electrolyte balance by consuming foods rich in sodium, potassium, and magnesium and using electrolyte replacement drinks during and after exercise.

Ensuring that athletes are well rested, not tired and run through proper warm-up and stretching routines are important, not only to help prevent cramping, but for general injury prevention purposes.

There are supplements that can be used but these should be trialed with some supervision and not to the exclusion of the essentials already mentioned. It could be safe to assume that taking a regular multi-vitamin and a specific Magnesium supplement during periods of peak output could be useful to help reduce muscle cramping and increase overall performance.

The above is a guide to follow generally and does not take into account specific athlete’s needs. Athletes are encouraged to seek specific evaluation and advice from sports medicine practitioners to get the right advice for their needs.


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