The Myth of Muscle Cramping
The information emanating from thousands of websites and magazines explaining what causes cramps and how to prevent them are unfortunately based on false non-existing scientific “facts” to urban legends.
So what are these false theories purported by the Sports Nutrition industry.
- Bananas for potassium6
- Lots of salt7 (Sodium Chloride)
None of the above has any basis in science, in fact all research indicates the exact opposite.
The urban myths however seem to have more credibility yet show a better outcome post-race, with muscle recovery rather than muscle cramps. The consumption of mustard and pickle juice has gathered quite an anecdotal base over the years. One can assume that only a desperate man would want to guzzle down half a litre of pickle juice three times a day and no quantity of mustard has yet been determined to prove a significant efficacy level.
But these two ingredients did point scientists in the right direction. In 2003 Dr Roderick MacKinnon won the Nobel Prize for structural and mechanistic studies of ion channels which opened the path to understanding of how TRP ion channels work, the foundation of Heatwave.
Muscle cramps do not start in the muscle but in the Nerve.
- Schwellnus, Martin P., Nichola Drew, and Malcolm Collins. “Increased running speed and previous cramps rather than dehydration or serum sodium changes predict exercise-associated muscle cramping: a prospective cohort study in 210 Ironman triathletes.” British journal of sports medicine 45.8 (2011): 650-656.
- Schwellnus MP. Cause of exercise associated muscle cramps (EAMC)–altered neuromuscular control, dehydration or electrolyte depletion? Br J Sports Med. 2009;43(6):401–408. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2008.050401.
- Schwellnus MP. Muscle cramping in the marathon : aetiology and risk factors. Sports Med. 2007;37(4-5):364–367.
- Schwellnus MP, Derman EW, Noakes TD. Aetiology of skeletal muscle “cramps” during exercise: a novel hypothesis. J Sports Sci. 1997;15(3):277–285. doi:10.1080/026404197367281.
- Braulick, Kyle W., et al. “Significant and serious dehydration does not affect skeletal muscle cramp threshold frequency.” British journal of sports medicine 47.11 (2013): 710-714.
- Miller K. Plasma potassium concentration and content changes following banana ingestion in exercised males. J Athl Tr. 2012;47:648-654.
- Miller K, Mack G, Knight K. Electrolyte and plasma changes following ingestion of pickle juice, water, and a common carbohydrate-electrolyte solution. J Athl Tr. 2009;44:454-461.
- Garrison et al - Magnesium for skeletal muscle cramps - Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD009402