Does magnesium work against muscle cramps that occur during physical activity?

Does magnesium work against muscle cramps that occur during physical activity?


OfGianfranco Beltrami

Several clinical studies have documented little effect of magnesium supplementation on cramps, unless deficiency is found in a blood test.

I am an amateur runner and for some time I have been suffering from annoying leg cramps, which occur during physical activity and sometimes even at night. I started taking magnesium, as recommended, but so far I don’t see any results. What can I do?

He replies Gianfranco Beltramisports doctor and physiatrist, vice-president of the Italian Sports Medicine Federation (GO TO THE FORUM)

Muscle cramps are caused by hyperexcitability of the nerves which stimulate the muscles and may be due to fatigue after heavy physical activityto dehydration caused by excessive sweating with loss of electrolytes and mineral salts, a a deficiency of calcium, magnesium and potassium (which favors hyperexcitability of the nerves), but also to trauma or specific pathological situations, including diabetes and some thyroid and liver diseases. The parts of the body most affected are above all the calf and feet and sometimes the cramps leave behind a pain and soreness in the muscle that can last for several days.

Poor effects

In athletes, the causes may be linked not only to poor hydration and insufficient intake of minerals in the diet, but also to a warm-up carried out too hastily, an inappropriate technical gesture or an inadequate posture while running. Although magnesium a fundamental mineral for improving the stabilization of the nervous signal and maintaining the hydro-electrolyte balance, several clinical studies have documented poor effects of magnesium supplementation on crampsunless a deficiency is found with a blood test.

What to drink and eat

Measures to prevent cramps include a gentle stretching of the muscles before exercise, at the end of exercise and before going to bed, and drinking lots of fluids (in particular well-mineralized waters rich in electrolytes) after physical exercise; it’s important too avoid stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, and smoking. Stretching the calf muscles (runner’s stretch) is often the most useful measure: the stretch should be maintained for at least thirty seconds on both sides and repeated 4-5 times. Also fundamental correct nutrition, with foods rich in minerals (at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day) and whole grains.

Ice is useful

Good hydration and possible electrolyte intake (sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium) is also useful during physical activity, especially if the exercise lasts more than an hour. People who experience cramps should also try to avoid excessive efforts, especially at high temperatures. If a cramp occurs, stretching the affected muscles often relieves the pain, as well as can be helpful massage the affected muscle with ice.

March 18, 2024



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