why do you get stomach cramps when you run
Despite modern science, the true cause of
is not known. ItÁs the racerÁs worst nightmare: youÁre running along and suddenly your calf seizes up or youÁre crippled with a. ItÁs the most mystifying of running problems. The truth is that we still donÁt know much about these debilitating muscle issues. ÁNobody knows what causes cramps,Á said Dr. Gabe Mirkin. There are, though, a number of theories. For years, people believed that cramps were caused by salt and mineral deficiencies, dehydration, or heat. An increasingly large number of studies, though, have found there to be almost no connection between hydration or mineral intake and exercise-induced cramps. Studies have shown no difference in hydration or sodium make-up in muscle samples between runners who had cramps and those who didnÁt. ÁAlthough the idea that mineral deficiencies and dehydration can cause cramps has been very popular, we have done many, many studies that do not prove these as causes for cramps during exercise,Á said Martin Schwellnus of the Department of Human Biology at the University of Cape Town, who conducted a number of these studies. While salt loss and dehydration can certainly cause problems and generalized cramping throughout the body, it hasnÁt been shown to cause specialized exercise-induced cramping, such as one would experience in a calf. Often problems with hydration or salt loss correlated to higher rates of cramping for other reasons, but correlation ÁdoesnÁt equal causation,Á said Chris Harnish, an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at Virginia Commonwealth University.
ÁIt was a red herring. Á RELATED: With the growing research on cramps, the current theory on what causes them is muscle fatigue and failures in the neural communication pathways. Basically, you train a muscle to contract and the muscle fatigues. It, then, miscommunicates and stays contracted when it shouldnÁt, causing a cramp. ÁThe mechanism for muscle fatigue and muscle damage causing cramping is best explained through an imbalance that develops in the nervous system control of muscle. Muscles tend to become very twitchy when they become fatigued or are injured,Á said Schwellnus. YouÁre more likely to get cramps, then, when your muscles are working harder and are fatiguing, such when youÁre out of shape or racing hard. This means that to stop cramps you just need to get fitter. That, however, is not particularly helpful when a cramp strikes in the middle of a race. Once a cramp strikes, you really only can do one thing: ÁTake a deep breath, stop, and stretch,Á said Harnish. Static stretching has been shown to stop cramps, because it inhibits muscle contraction. Then, start slow and build your speed up. ÁIf you back off early enough, you can usually prevent it,Á said Mirkin. Once a cramp comes on, it can be debilitating and impossible to continue, then Áthe only choice is to back off.
Á WouldnÁt it be better to back off and stop the cramp early? After the race, itÁs time to get to work. The more training you do at the speeds you plan to race at, then the better prepared youÁll be Á though thatÁs true for more than just preventing cramps. ÁThe better shape youÁre in, the less likely to get cramps,Á said Mirkin. ItÁs important to do training at the pace you plan to race, including progression runs and fast finish runs, said Harnish. You may get some cramps, but youÁll also get fitter and be more prepared to deal with those issues in a race. ÁIÁd much rather cramp in training,Á said Harnish. The other thing you can do is to make sure you know what youÁre really suffering from. Plenty of people who say theyÁre struggling with cramps actually have side stitches or stomach problems. Stomach cramps can simply be gastrointestinal issues, said Harnish, not really cramps. RELATED: And, side stitches have Ánothing to doÁ with cramps, said Mirkin. They may have similar roots, though. YouÁre more likely to get side stitches when youÁre out of shape and overstretch your breathing and diaphragm muscles. They can be solved relatively simply, said Mirkin, by pushing on the stitch with your fingers and blowing out through pursed lips. Actual exercise-induced muscle cramps, though, remain harder to understand. Despite what you might have been told as a kid, eating a banana probably wonÁt help.
The only thing that will help is stretching, slowing down and training. ÁWhen you are out of shape, and then engage in high intensity, prolonged exercise you would put yourself at risk for developing cramping,Á said Schwellnus. About The Author: Kelly Dunleavy OÁMara is a journalist/reporter and former professional triathlete. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes for a number of magazines, newspapers, and websites. You can read more about her at. One of the most often asked questions is whether drinking water can cause cramps when running. The answer isn t a simple yes or no. First, you have to consider the type of cramps, legs or stomach and next consider all the circumstances surrounding the cramps. You need to be well hydrated, particularly if you re running on a hot day. Dehydration is the runner s enemy. You don t have to be a runner, or any type of athlete for that to be true. When you drink water makes a difference. You need to hydrate well before you start running. While some places recommend you don t drink the water right before running, but do it two hours before, it s a myth. It won t cause side stitches if you re warm-up properly. In fact, not drinking adequate amounts of water is far more dangerous and can lead to dehydration or heat stroke. You also need to drink fluids while running and after running. Don t guzzle. One of the biggest causes of stomach cramps for runners is gulping large amounts of water while they run.
Sipping frequently is the best choice. Because you ll be running in a variety of different temperatures, speeds and humidity levels, obeying your thirst is important. The faster you run, the more fluid you need. The amount varies between six to eight ounces every twenty minutes and four to six ounces every 20 minutes. Mouth dryness and thirst should alert you to sip water. Drinking too much at once will cause stomach cramps. Dehydration, rather than drinking too much water could be the culprit of those leg cramps. You re running hard and worry about cramping up because of too much water when you run, so you wait until you can t take it any longer and take a few sips of water. Suddenly you feel leg cramps. The water must be the culprit, right? That s not true. You may have waited too long to hydrate and are suffering the consequences, over worked your muscles or lack calcium or other minerals. Lack of water, not drinking water causes cramps. If you re working out over 90 minutes, a sports drink with electrolytes helps. Be prepared for a run by having water easily accessible. You can carry it in your hand if necessary, but there are inexpensive fluid carriers too. If you re drinking a sports drink, keep the carbohydrate percentage lower than 10 percent. Any higher and it can promote stomach cramps. Make sure you consider your environment. If your weather is hot, it just makes more sense that you ll need to hydrate more frequently than you would in cold weather.
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