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Supplements for Muscle Cramps & Spasms

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About Supplements for Muscle Cramps & Spasms

It certainly can be quite painful when a muscle locks-up involuntarily, right when you are smack-bang in the middle of a set in the gym—though it can happen any time of the day. Quite often, people experience this whilst trying to get to sleep. While waiting for the muscle to relax and the pain to subside, you might feel that it's a little undeserved, especially if you've been training hard and ticking all of the macronutrient boxes. There are many reasons why a muscle cramps, spasms or twitches, the most common of which is magnesium insufficiency or deficiency—the former being a mild (yet certainly relevant) type of deficiency.



To compare this in terms of finance, a deficiency is when you do not have enough money to pay the bills. Your expenses are greater than your income. An insufficiency can be compared to financially just getting by, yet there is little room to move. There is enough money to cover the basics of food and rent etc, yet not enough to buy a coffee or see a film at the cinemas. That's insufficient. To be more literal, a deficiency in any nutrient means that sickness is around the corner. While with an insufficiency, optimal health is not attainable. Magnesium levels are hard to assess, and to really understand if you are low in this important mineral requires checking the level inside the cell—not in the serum as is commonly measured. 


One of the most common symptoms of low magnesium levels are cramps, spasms or twitches, which can range from a little twitch in the eyelid to a large muscle like one of the the quadriceps (front thigh) locking up. Dietary magnesium levels are lower than they need to be for optimal health, primarily due to a high intake of refined grains and the consumption of less green leafy vegetables. Research published in Nutrition Research in 1991 indicated that 39% of women and 50% of men, living in Australia, consume less than the RDI for this nutrient, setting the stage for deficiency.  


Some of the most valuable dietary sources of this mineral are nuts, cocoa, black beans and pumpkin seeds. In fact, a small palm-full of pumpkin seeds each day can work wonders! Magnesium helps to relax musculature and is therefore helpful for the prevention of cramping—when taken consistently over time—in order to restore your magnesium status. Furthermore, this nutrient supports calming pathways in the brain, and is known as a GABA agonist and NMDA antagonist and supports the natural sleep molecule Melatonin, as reported in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 2012.  


Magnesium is generally the best nutrient to try first for muscular cramps, spasms and twitches, though other nutrients, such as potassium, sodium, chloride and adequate clean water can also be crucial. Adequate stretching is also helpful to keep the muscle relaxed. Interestingly, a frank calcium deficiency, which is rare in developed nations (as we tend to like our cheese), can also cause muscle cramps. Taking electrolyte formulations during exercise or labour-intensive work can be a great way to stay hydrated and to keep the cramps away.