Growing up, I had frequent, painful leg cramps. They’d wake me up in the middle of the night. They’d have me sobbing. I’d have to call for my mother and have her massage my painful, cramped muscles as I cried until they finally relaxed.
And then she’d force me to eat a banana, which I’ve never been a huge fan of.
Even as a second grader, I understood her reasoning: bananas will help prevent those awful muscle cramps.
As I got older, I learned more about what caused them, what could prevent them, and found techniques to massage out the cramps myself so I didn’t wake my entire family when I was awoken in the night.
What causes muscle cramps?
Typically, a muscle cramp is caused by a deficiency of some sort. The most common cramp-causing deficiencies are of the following: water, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium. (If you read much about fitness and health, you’ll notice that these are also things that you lose a lot of when you sweat. See a connection?)
These deficiencies are why my mother made me eat bananas. And they’re why the bananas helped. Bananas are high in potassium. If I wasn’t getting enough in my diet, bananas fixed that right away.
What other foods will prevent my muscle cramps?
- Water: often, a muscle cramp is simply because your body is dehydrated. Drink more water throughout the day to see if that relieves the cramping.
- Potassium-rich foods: bananas, strawberries, raisins, kiwis, spinach, beets, turkey, fish
- Magnesium-rich foods: pumpkin, nuts, quinoa, kale, spinach
- Calcium-rich foods: milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, almonds, apricots, tofu
- Sodium-rich foods: yeah, don’t do that. Too much sodium is terrible for your health. Just make sure you get enough; don’t cut all sodium out of your diet in an attempt to be “healthy.”