Avoiding Cramps & Muscle Aches—Magnesium for Muscle Health
Magnesium is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the human body making it a very important mineral to keep us healthy and active. While it has a number of functions, It’s best known use it support muscle health and recovery. We asked holistic health expert, Ali Cavill from Fit Fantastic, on why magnesium is such a magic mineral for our muscles.
Our muscles and bones make up the body’s main locomotive system. Consisting of more than 600 muscles and 200 bones this is known as the musculoskeletal system.
Healthy muscles are designed to support your posture, to keep your body strong and allow you to move around freely. Muscles also support your joints and its movements. If muscles are not looked after, they get smaller and weaker. Consequently, your body (i.e. posture, bones and joints) is less supported and you become more vulnerable to injury.
For this reason, we need to ensure we look after our muscles and one of the most effective ways to do this is by ensuring your body is receiving a sufficient supply of magnesium, whether through your diet or through supplementation.
How can magnesium help?
Magnesium is involved directly with the release of chemicals at the neuromuscular junction. Messages are sent from our nervous system to the muscular junction which causes our muscles to fire or relax. Acetylcholine, a chemical found in this junction is released to make muscles contract or shorten but magnesium inhibits this chemical allowing the muscles to relax. So, if your body has a magnesium deficiency throughout the body tissues, your muscles will contract and fire but will not easily relax. As a result, they will become tight over time and will develop the tendency to feel achy and easily aggravated.
In addition, proper muscle relaxation and function results in good or better biomechanical function and flexibility.
How to avoid cramps and muscle aches
Our muscles require various nutrients for them to function properly, in particular magnesium and calcium. Deficiency of these nutrients can result in mineral and electrolyte imbalances, which is a risk factor for cramping (a muscle disorder). Therefore, it is important that you obtain adequate levels of nutrients that support healthy muscles.
No one is immune to muscle cramps. Your calf muscles, hamstrings, quads, arms, and abs are most likely to be affected. There are plenty of possible culprits too, including being dehydrated, having poor blood circulation, not stretching enough, or just fatiguing your muscles. Cramps can occur up to six hours after exercise but luckily there are a number of things we can do to avoid them.
1) Stay hydrated
Dehydration is a one of the leading cause of muscle spasms so staying well-hydrated before you feel any muscle spasms is critical. Drink plenty of water throughout your day to maintain your hydration levels.
2) Warm up and cool down
A proper warm-up and cool-down, including plenty of stretching, can keep cramps at bay. Set aside some time before and after your workout to stretch get the blood flowing to your muscles. They will thank you for it later on!
3) Supplement your diet
The addition of magnesium, zinc, and vitamins B, D, and E to your daily diet can limit the likelihood of getting a muscle cramp, or at least ease the pain.
4) Move your body
When small nerves in our muscles get fatigued, cramping can occur. Luckily, jumping drills like plyometrics can keep these nerves from tiring. Do cardio workouts incorporating jumps and quick movement a few times a week as well as plyometric moves after working out to help prevent spasms.
5) Use electrolytes
Low levels of sodium and potassium can often cause muscle cramps and stitches, so find a good source of electrolytes such as a banana or try a magnesium powder containing potassium and sodium.
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