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Muscle cramps - How they occur and what you can do about them

Muskelkrämpfe im Sport vermeiden

In this blog, you’ll learn how a muscle cramp develops and, most importantly, what you can do to prevent it.

How to prevent muscle cramps


And suddenly there it is, that stabbing pain in the calf: the unpleasant muscle cramp. It can always come as a surprise – during training, before, after, or even at night.

Many athletes then like to reach directly for the electrolyte Magnesium, after all, you often hear and read that it should help against muscle cramps. However, there is no scientifically reliable evidence for this.

In our body, magnesium plays an important role in muscle relaxation. Therefore, in the past, a deficiency of magnesium in the cell was always assumed to be the main factor responsible for muscle cramps.

But what can you do about cramps? In this blog, you’ll learn the best way to deal with muscle cramps and what you can do to prevent them.

How does muscle spasm happen in the first place?

A muscle spasm is a spontaneous, painful muscle contraction that is usually short-lived. Both, a single muscle and a whole muscle group can tense.

This happens involuntarily, that is, without you having to consciously target or move a muscle. You’ll notice how the muscle hardens for several seconds, or even minutes, so that you can’t move at all.

The cause of muscle cramps remains uncertain. It is currently believed that specific nerve impulses play a role in causing muscles to spasm during vigorous exercise or at rest.

There is a signal misrouting. The nerves send uncontrolled signals that the muscle does not understand. The muscle cannot do anything with the information and contracts to protect itself – in evolutionary terms, this is how it is best protected. Why these false signals occur, can have various reasons.

Possible reasons for muscle cramps

  • Muscle overload: When your muscle can’t meet the demands of keeping up with a heavy load or high intensity. In sports, this is usually the case when, for example, you go too fast in a race and the muscle is not used to this intensity. Further, explosive loads, to which the muscle has not been slowly introduced through exercise, are a possibility for cramping muscles.
  • Unfamiliar movement: Cramps often occur during movements that our body is not familiar with.
  • Muscle fatigue: Cramps can also occur during exercise when nutrient reserves (such as carbohydrates and electrolytes) are depleted and the muscle becomes tired. That’s why it’s so important that you eat well during training and competition, e.g. with special sports nutrition.
  • Loss of salts and minerals due to insufficient fluid: If you sweat heavily, drink alcohol or take dehydrating medication, you lose a lot of fluid. Thus, it can happen that there is a deficiency primarily of sodium, but also magnesium, potassium or calcium, which the body needs so that the nerves and muscles can communicate with each other. In this case our HEAT products can help pyou by supplying you with the appropriate minerals.
  • Cold: When the outside temperature is very cold, the muscles harden and are more prone to muscle spasm.

Muscle cramp and now?

Surely you have already experienced it: You suddenly get a cramp – stupidly often exactly when you don’t need it.

What did you do then? Stretched? If so, then you have automatically done everything right in the first moment:

Static stretching of the affected muscle is the safest and most effective treatment for acute cramp.

Try to hold the stretch for 20-60 seconds and then gently release. Further, a functional massage can be helpful: Use your hand to apply light pressure to the tensed muscle and at the same time bring it into stretching motion.

If you also want to do something good for your body, you can eat foods that contain acetic acid or capsaicin. These substances have an inhibitory effect on the nerve function of the muscle.

Acetic acid is mainly found as a preservative in canned fruit and vegetables. A typical example here is pickles, but mustard also contains acetic acid. The spices paprika and Tabasco sauce contain capsaicin, as well as the chili varieties jalapeños, habaneros and cayenne pepper.

However, be careful with the amount and frequency of taking acetic acid and capsaicin. During sports they are also not really practical…

Prevention of muscle cramps

You now know what to do in the acute situation of a muscle cramp. But how can you avoid getting into the situation in the first place? Do you always get the cramps during intense sessions?

TIP ONE: Use your full range of motion and stretch

Stretching can prevent muscle spasms. Why? We always prefer the same movements – especially as endurance athletes, we pay a lot of attention and time to our favorite sport and tend to overlook the tiresome warm-up and stretching exercises. But active stretching trains the entire range of motion and the muscles are not only trained on one side. Incorporate stretching exercises regularly especially after workouts.

TIP TWO: Increase your training intensity slowly

Going full throttle from the start is commendable, however, pay attention to your body and the right training workload. This means: train in line with you abbilities and do not overload your muscles. To prevent muscle cramps, which are caused by overstraining the muscles, you can question your athletic training according to the following points:

  • Have I practiced the intensity that is required in the competition regularly in training? For triathletes, it is also important here to consider the combination of sports as well as practicing the changes (especially at my race pace)
  • Have I already completed the total time (or even a little more) of a planned competition in training once with a high intensity for testing?

Ideally, you should also stick to the 80:20 rule – 80% of your sessions should be in the basic endurance range and be rather “easy”, 20% of your training you can also train more intensively. For example, do not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%.

It is helpful to “re-educate” the muscle neuromuscularly and get it used to the intensity step by step. You achieve this through intense, competition-specific training sessions, as well as strength training. But don’t forget the rest periods!

TIP THREE: Eat a balanced diet

For endurance athletes, the electrolytes sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium are important because they control communication between the brain and muscles. That is why it is helpful to include the following foods, rich in electrolytes, in your diet:

  • Magnesium: oatmeal, nuts, banana, peas, beans, millet
  • Sodium: iodized salt, mineral water rich in sodium (>400mg per liter)
  • Calcium: vegetables, potatoes, fruit, dairy products, fish, meat, egg
  • Potassium: apricots, tomatoes, kohlrabi, corn, potatoes

Make sure you eat a balanced diet that meets your individual needs for fluids, carbohydrates and electrolytes.

It is also important that you eat well and sufficiently during your training sessions. For this purpose we have created the right products for different applications.

TIP FOUR: Drink enough

Since we lose the mentioned electrolytes through sweat and electrolyte deficiency should be avodied, it’s important to drink enough! Especially if you sweat a lot or/and it’s very hot. How much fluid you need depends on your individual needs. It is influenced by several factors, including how much you sweat and how warm it is.

However, try to drink 6-8ml per kg of body weight two hours before training. Drink 120-180 ml of fluid every 15 minutes during training. Also, keep an eye out for about 400-700mg/l of sodium in the drink.

Taking products such as SLOW CARB HEAT, FAST CARB HEAT or POWER CARB HEAT will help you during training or competition. This way you kill three birds with one stone: you take in liquid with carbohydrates and electrolytes.

TIP FIVE: Pay attention to your body

If cramps occur again and again, it is best to observe yourself first: In which training or competition does it occur? Did you eat enough beforehand? Did you go from a stressful day at work straight into a workout without having anything to eat beforehand? Make brief notes in your training plan to be able to identify your own risk factors in the medium term and then avoid them. If the cramps occur more often, even away from heavy physical exertion, a visit to the doctor with a complete blood count may reveal if there is a nutrient deficiency.

Know-How: 3 tips to prevent muscle cramps and for acute cramps.

The good news is: In most cases, muscle cramps are harmless. Nevertheless, they are unpleasant and annoying, the following tips should help you to prevent muscle cramps preventively:

  • Eat a balanced diet, i.e. nourish your body with sufficient fruits and vegetables and make sure to consume enough carbohydrates.
  • Make sure to stay adequately hydrated and ensure that your drink contains 400-700mg/l of sodium.
  • Stretch, ideally every day in the evening.

If the cramp is already there, proceed as follows:

  • Loosen or shake the affected muscle area and massage it.
  • Try to gently stretch the cramping muscle.
  • Eat pickles. You can also drink this cucumber water.


Ebell M, Siwek J, Weiss B, et al. (2004): Strength of Recommendation Taxonomy (SORT): a patient-centered approach to grading evidence in the medical literature. Am Fam Physic 2004; 69(3): 548–56.

Miller K, McDermott B, Yeargin S, et al. (2022): An evidence-based review of the pathophysiology, treatment, and prevention of exercise-associated muscle cramps. J Athl Train; 57: 5–15.

Verbraucherzentrale NRW (2022): Magnesium beim Sport – Krampf lass nach?

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