I am a novice runner and I got woken at 3:00 a.m. with muscle cramps in my calves. How can I avoid these in the future?
While some people think muscle cramps are due to low potassium and recommend eating potassium-rich bananas as the solution, I question if that is the only answer. Certainly, eating bananas is always a good idea. But I doubt if the muscle cramp is due to low potassium. That would require an incredible amount of sweat loss. Novice runners usually cannot exercise long enough to deplete themselves of potassium.
Here's how a few popular sports foods compare in potassium content:
Potential potassium loss in a two hour workout: 300 to 800 mg
Potassium in 8 ounces of Gatorade: 30 mg
Potassium in one medium banana: 450 mg
Potassium in 8 ounces of orange juice: 475 mg.
Potassium in 8 ounces yogurt: 520 mg.
You might want to try:
-- stretching more after you exercise.
-- drinking enough fluids so you are urinating every two to four hours of the daytime (a sign you are well hydrated). \
-- consuming at least two to three cups of milk or yogurt a day. (That's the amount you need to get adequate calcium for your bones, to say nothing of for your muscles.)
Some people anecdotally report calcium helps resolve muscle cramps.
Hope this helps,
Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Certified Specialist in Sports Dietietics
Author, Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook.