It’s game day – you’re feeling mentally ready, you’ve worked on your strategy and you’re ready to roll. And then, when you hit the track for warm-up, you start to cramp up. Sound familiar? What you eat on game day can have a direct impact on your performance, especially when it comes to cramping. Here are some key tips to keep those pesky cramps away!
What causes cramping?
There are lots of things that can cause your muscles to cramp – overuse, holding a position too long, strain and so on, but often when we’re talking about the sudden onset of a muscle cramp, we’re talking about dehydration.
Most muscle cramps are harmless, though sometimes they can be related to medical issues such as:
- Inadequate blood supply. Narrowing of the arteries in your legs can produce pain in your legs and feet while you’re exercising. These normally go away soon after exertion.
- Mineral depletion. Not enough potassium, calcium and/or magnesium can contribute to leg cramping
So, if you’re experiencing cramps that go on after exertion and aren’t helped by hydration, it might be time to see your doctor.
If you think the pain is just run-of-the-mill muscle cramping, here are some great ways to deal with the issue before it’s a problem.
Keep An Eye on Your Sweat
Did you know that sweat loss rates range anywhere from 1-4 lbs per hour? If you track your sweat, it’ll help you to learn how much to drink before, during and after exertion. To get your own sweat rate, weigh yourself immediately before a workout or practice and then again right after. Also, note how much water you drank. For each pound lost in sweat, drink 2 cups of water.
Keep An Eye on Your Pee
Checking out your output is a great way to detect dehydration (which is s key contributor to muscle cramping. Your urine should be pale – think lemonade coloured – when you’re properly hydrated. Use this urine color chart and try to stay in the top, paler range.
Elect for Some Electrolytes
When you sweat, you are not only losing water, you’re losing electrolytes, like sodium and potassium. This increases your risk of cramping when you start to play. To combat this oncoming loss, you can add sodium and potassium-rich foods into your pre-game and during game snacks. you can get potassium from potatoes, bananas, coconut water, apricots, and yogurt, and you can get sodium from anything salty – pickle juice (or pickles) for example.
Hydrate Before You Need To
Drinking water once you get to the bout isn’t enough. Make sure that you drink 2-3 cups 2-3 hours before action, and then another cup or two 10-20 minutes before the game starts. Keep hydrating throughout the game – a good rule is about 1 cup/15 minutes activity.
Eat to Perform
Carbs can really help to cut down on muscle fatigue when it’s time to perform, so make sure that you have carbohydrates included in your pre-game meal (1-4 hrs prior to bout), as well as your pre-game snack (30 minutes prior). Some good ideas for these meals and snacks can include potatoes (or sweet potatoes) and protein (like chicken) granola (bars or trail mix), or bananas and/or toast with nut butter.
Don’t forget that stretching and a proper warm-up can also do a world of good for sore muscles. Go out and crush those cramps!
Do you get any muscle pain before games? How do you deal with it? We’d love to hear from you!