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Muscle Spasms? These 5 Nutrients Can Help

Last updated on January 28, 2020

We have all had them — those painful, involuntary contractions of one or more muscles that can occur whether you’re active or sleeping. Muscle cramps can be mild or excruciating, and usually happen in the calf and feet. They can also occur in other parts of the body, like the arm or hand.

Muscle cramps are caused by overexertion and lack of stretching, poor circulation, dehydration and lack of certain nutrients. Even some medications can cause them.

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Your best bet is to pay attention to exercise safety and ergonomics. Most of all, stay hydrated and eat properly.

The following are five nutrients you should always include in your diet:

1. Water

When you’re dehydrated the electrolyte-water balance is disturbed, and that stimulates nerves. The average person loses three to four cups per day just through perspiration and urine; it just takes a loss of two percent of your body’s water to become dehydrated.

2. Sodium

This substance helps maintain normal body-fluid balance, nerve impulse generation and muscle contraction. It’s not unusual for an athlete to crave salt after a workout; when the electrolyte balance is disturbed, the body will start pulling nutrients from other sources, such as salt. You can get it naturally by eating certain foods, like celery.

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3. Calcium

This mineral controls the nerve signals that allow a muscle to contract. When there’s little calcium, there are no controlled nerve signals, and you get a spasm. Calcium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, canned fish (with bones and in oil), and dairy.

4. Magnesium

Regulates adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a big energy source for muscle contraction, to make muscles relax. Magnesium-rich foods include spinach, halibut, nuts and seeds, avocados, lentils, soy beans, whole grains, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit and dark chocolate.

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5. Potassium

This mineral plays an important role in muscle formation and nerve cells and also regulates the electrolyte balance in your body. Potassium-rich foods include dark, leafy greens, white beans, avocados, dried apricots, bananas, baked acorn squash, yogurt, salmon, white mushrooms and baked potatoes (with skin).

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Irene Ross
Irene Ross

Irene Ross is a wellness coach and writer/editor, with a B.A. from Marist College. She takes a food-first functional approach to wellness coaching, and has been educating and guiding clients for more than 10 years. After graduating from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she then furthered her studies and is currently working toward a certificate as a functional medicine practitioner. In addition, she owns her own communications firm where she specializes in wellness, skin care and several other industries. To learn more, please visit her website.