What to Do About Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps can stop you in your tracks and hinder your workout routine. Here's what you can do to prevent and lessen them.

Ben Greenfield
2-minute read

Q. “Do you have any tips for avoiding cramps and what to do if you do get one during a workout?”

A. If you’re just working for 20-30 minutes, you probably don’t have to worry about cramps or muscle spasms. But if you’re exercising for closer to an hour, and especially if you’re exercising in hot or humid conditions, you may have noticed that your muscles spasm, lock up, become very tight, or suddenly feel out of control. Any of these would qualify as a muscle cramp.

Although cramping can be related to nutritional deficiencies and imbalances, low thyroid, or other medical factors, they’re usually a simple case of dehydration or inadequate salt intake.

So follow these 4 Quick and Dirty Tips to avoid cramping during a workout:

  1. Drink water before your workout. To learn exactly how much water you should be drinking during the day, check out Nutrition Diva's article How Much Water Should I Drink?

  2. Drink water during your workout. The average person should drink the equivalent of approximately one bike bottle of water during a workout (that’s 20-25 ounces). If you find it uncomfortable to tow water to your workout, aim for taking a few sips from the water fountain every 5-10 minutes.

  3. Consume adequate electrolytes. The average American eats more than enough sodium to fuel the average workout. But if you’re a heavy multi-hour exerciser, marathoner or triathlete, you may need to consume salt pills during a workout, at the approximate rate of 300-600mg of sodium per hour. You may also need additional electrolytes. For example, many people are deficient in electrolytes such as magnesium – and may need to include this as an oral or topical supplement.

  4. Stretch and massage. Tight muscles are more likely to cramp. Use a daily stretching routine, a yoga class, a foam roller, or a massage therapist to keep your muscles loose. Click here to see the stretch routine that I perform every morning.


Image courtesy of Shutterstock

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.