Muscle cramps are painful and annoying, and they can be hard to avoid. While cramps can happen to almost anyone, they’re especially prevalent among athletes and fitness enthusiasts after an intense workout, start a new routine, or after an extended break from working out.
Don’t let muscle cramps keep you from doing what you love . Here’s what we know so far about different kinds of muscle cramps, and how you can address the pain with supplements.
What causes muscle cramps?
Muscle cramps are an involuntary contraction of your skeletal muscles. While there are several different kinds of muscle cramps, we’ll specifically be talking about exercise-associated muscle cramps (EAMC) and nighttime leg cramping here.
Exercise-associated muscle cramps (EAMC) have historically been attributed to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes like magnesium, sodium, calcium, and potassium are nonorganic materials that conduct small bouts of electricity, and these electric charges are necessary for triggering muscle movement and contraction and are important for overall muscle performance.
During heavy exercise, you lose both water and key electrolytes, hence the popular theory that dehydration can trigger muscle cramps during heavy physical activity. However, more recent science now indicates that neither dehydration nor electrolyte imbalance actual trigger muscle cramps.
For example, one study that sought to understand the link between hydration levels and muscle cramping found that seriously dehydrating its subjects did not alter their susceptibility to muscle cramping at all!
Instead, many scientists now believe that muscle cramping is likely caused by a misfiring of your motor neurons, which are the brain cells that dictate the contraction and subsequent movement of your skeletal muscles. Under intense periods of exercise, your muscles can become fatigued.
When this happens, the motor neurons that are responsible for movement can begin to “fire” excessively and uncontrollably into that tired muscle, which then leads to uncontrollable and painful muscle cramping. Take long-distance running, for example. Even the most well-trained athletes can experience cramps in their legs while participating in a marathon or other endurance sport if their tired muscles are worked enough.
Muscle cramping can also happen outside of exercise. Some people experience nocturnal leg cramping or Charley horses. This type of cramping is also not well understood, but it also seems to be a delayed reaction to hyperactive motor neurons during muscle fatigue earlier on in the day.
Muscle cramping has also been linked to deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals. While these deficiency-driven cramps can lead to similar uncontrollable muscle cramping, they aren’t the same as exercise-induced muscle cramping.
4 Supplements To Stop Muscle Cramps
The following are supplements that have shown to be effective at reducing muscle cramps. However, it’s important to note that HOTSHOT is the only supplement on the list that has been proven to be effective specifically for exercise-associated muscle cramping. Other supplements on this list have been found to help relieve muscle cramping, but only if a deficiency of that nutrient was a cause of cramping in the first place.
HOTSHOT For Muscle Cramps
If you’re prone to exercise-associated muscle cramping, HOTSHOT For Muscle Cramps can help. HOTSHOT was specifically formulated to target the neurological cause behind cramping. When you drink this sports shot before your training or competition, it triggers sensory nerves in your mouth and esophagus, which then send a calming signal down your spinal cord. This signal then inhibits the hyperactive firing of your motor neurons that continuously pound into a fatigued muscle and cause uncontrollable muscle cramping and next-day soreness.
While drinking HOTSHOT can help prevent cramps during your workout, you can also use it mid-workout if you feel a cramp coming on or after your workout to avoid delayed cramping. It can even help prevent nocturnal leg cramps in the middle of the night!
Ultimately, HOTSHOT is the first and only scientifically-proven sports short that can prevent and treat muscle cramps, making it a powerful supplement to keep on hand if you’re prone to cramping during a workout or even during the middle of the night..
Magnesium is one of those electrolytes important for dictating muscle movement because it helps your muscles relax. Because of this, people with clinically low magnesium levels can develop muscle spasms/cramps from an imbalance of electrolytes.
However, this comes with a caveat: studies have only found that magnesium is effective for reducing nocturnal leg cramps in pregnant women, and there is no convincing evidence that it can help with exercise-induced muscle cramping. So taking magnesium might help reduce nighttime leg cramping if you are pregnant and/or already experiencing a magnesium deficiency, but it’s not likely going to improve muscle cramping that stems from exercise if you are otherwise healthy.
Vitamin B complex
Two different B vitamins have also been implicated in muscle cramping:
- Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, plays a variety of roles in your body including managing the flow of electrolytes in and out of muscle and nerve cells. Thiamine deficiencies have been linked to muscle seizures and nerve damage.
- Vitamin B12 is another important B vitamin, and neurological symptoms of a B12 deficiency include issues like muscle cramping.
Because of this, increasing your B vitamin intake with a Vitamin B complex (a supplement that includes all the different B vitamins) can help reduce unusual muscle cramps, but this is only helpful if you have a Vitamin B1 or B12 deficiency and isn’t suitable for exercise-induced cramping. To determine whether a B1 or B12 deficiency is causing muscle cramping that can’t otherwise be explained, check in with your doctor and get a lab test.
Potassium is another electrolyte that can be affected by your hydration levels. Low potassium levels, a condition also known as hypokalemia, can lead to muscle cramping. Again, you’ll want to check in with your doctor before taking potassium supplements for muscle cramps, since it’s only been shown to be a problem with a medical deficiency, and you may not see any improvements in cramping by increasing your intake of this mineral.
Other ways to stop exercise-associated muscle cramping
- Stretch - Stretching a cramping muscle can help relieve the painful contraction. It’s also helpful to stretch before bed if you’re prone to nighttime leg cramps.
- Optimize your training - Since fatigue and exercise intensity both play roles in muscle cramping, it’s important to have a good training program to condition your body and minimize your risk of EAMC.
While a variety of supplements are marketed to help reduce muscle cramping, HOTSHOT is the only sports shot that can both prevent and treat exercise-associated muscle cramping by targeting the hyperactive nerves that drive into fatigued muscles. Other supplements are designed to make sure you meet your daily nutritional needs, but you should check in with a doctor to help determine the root cause of cramping if it doesn’t seem linked to your physical activity.