Dehydration cramps

How to stop cramping from dehydration

If dehydration leg cramps are cramping your exercise routine, the cure might be as close as your water bottle. Cramps from dehydration are usually harmless but painful. Here is the lowdown on what causes leg cramps, how to stop leg cramps and more.

What causes leg cramps?

Leg cramps are common for many people and usually occur in the calf muscle (the back of the leg between the knee and ankle). These cramps are sometimes called a “charley horse.”  There are many causes of leg cramps, including vigorous exercise, activity in high temperatures and muscle strain.

Dehydration is when your body loses more fluids and electrolytes (essential minerals for health, such as potassium) than it takes in. Depending on how much water you’ve lost, symptoms range from mild to severe. When you are dehydrated, the body uses what fluids and electrolytes it has for the vital organs (heart, lungs, etc.), which means water is pulled from the less important muscles (like the lower legs).

How do you stop leg cramps?

Calf cramps can be ease with stretching. Here are a few stretches to try:

  • Stand with the toes and balls of the feet on a step, letting the heels hang over the edge. Slowly lower yourself down, holding there and breathing until the muscle relaxes.
  • Stand a few feet from a wall. Press your palms against the wall, about shoulder height. Slowly bend your elbows, keeping the heels on the floor, until you feel the stretch in the backs of the legs.
  • Using the back of a sturdy chair for balance, stand about 2 feet from the chair. Stretch one leg behind you. Keep the toes planted and the heel up as you push toward the wall behind you with the back foot. Repeat on the other side.

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How do you prevent leg cramps?

Be sure to drink enough water throughout the day on a regular basis. How much water is “enough”? That can be complicated, but here are some guidelines:

  • The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women.
  • Fluid intake is not limited to just drinking water. Fluids come from sources such as food and other beverages.
  • Fluid recommendations vary by age, sex, pregnancy and breastfeeding status.
  • Caffeine intake affects fluid intake. This substance found in coffee and soda is a diuretic, which means it causes your body to release more water.

In general, drink water when you are thirsty and drink extra if you are very active, especially in hot weather.

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