We’ve all been there: you’ve just done a vigorous workout, or you’re halfway through one, then you get a shooting pain in your side. No one likes the feeling of cramps, whether it be induced by exercise, dehydration, or a menstrual cycle. When cramps come during or after a workout, it’s likely because you overworked the muscle. Maybe you went for a run or hit the weight room and forgot to stretch, and now you have an ache in your calves. During soccer practice in the heat of summer, you may experience side cramps, which could alert you that you haven’t had enough water to drink. Or if you get a monthly period, you may feel cramps in your lower abdomen right before, or throughout, the week of your period.
No matter what the reason for your painful cramps, there are methods you can take to avoid this pain in the future, as well as dealing with the pain in the moment.
First of all, always make sure to stretch before you exercise. Doing so will help your muscles deal with the stress they are about to undergo, which can help prevent the cramping you may experience during or after a workout (1).
Also, make sure you’re hydrating properly every day while taking special care to do some during the warmer summer months. Staying hydrated helps your muscles contract and relax properly, which can help put an end to those summertime cramps. Plus, drinking enough water helps prevent a bunch of other pains too, such as headaches and insomnia (2).
How about when you’re in the moment of a terrible cramp? What can you do to soothe the pain?
That’s right, there are plenty of foods out there that will help soothe cramps. Whether you just worked out, or you’re on your period, you’re likely in need of a snack, anyway. Not only is food necessary, but it will help ease your pain. If you’re wondering what to eat when you have a bad case of cramps, read on.
When you’re eating to soothe cramps, the main nutrients you’re trying to intake are magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium (3).
With these nutrients in mind, here’s what you should eat when you need to soothe your cramps:
Potatoes are chock-full of calcium, and they have a lot of water in them, too, which will help you hydrate. In addition, they have magnesium and potassium.
The king of potassium, bananas, of course, made the list. Bananas are commonly known to help cramps, but it's the high amount of potassium, as well as magnesium and calcium, which help ease the pain.
This melon is a great food to eat after a workout when you are cramping. Cantaloupe is filled with water and has a bit of sodium, which will help your body replace the sweat it lost, too.
Know some gym fanatics that have a protein shake after every workout? Well, if milk is the base of it, then they’re also helping any potential cramping. Milk has plenty of calcium, and the protein helps repair muscle, which is why gym frequenters love it.
5. Dark, Leafy Greens
Greens like kale and spinach are filled with calcium and magnesium, so they are great options to add to your plate after a workout. Plus, studies show that foods high in calcium help fight menstrual cramps, too.