I’ve been cramping a lot recently during exercise and would like to know if Mike’s Mix Recovery Drink would help prevent muscle cramps? Does stretching before a workout prevent this cramping or hasten recovery after cramping?
I wish I could sell you a product that would remedy your muscle cramps, but alas I’m afraid such a potion does not exist. Although the exact causes of exercise induced muscle cramping are still unknown, there are several popular theories:
-Altered neuromuscular control
Through successful marketing campaigns, the manufacturers of sports and energy drinks, have popularized the dehydration and electrolyte depletion theories. However, research has failed to demonstrate that these mechanisms cause muscle cramping: http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/legpainandinjuries/a/muscle_spasms.htm
Instead, it appears that altered neuromuscular control, which is related to muscle fatigue and results in a disruption of muscle coordination and control, is the most likely culprit for exercise related cramping. However, from personal experience and observation, it seems much more likely to develop these types of cramps in extreme heat. Consequently, via intuition I would still encourage you to increase your daily water intake even if there is currently no research to support this.
Before Mike’s Mix became my full-time job, I was a personal trainer and coach and dealt with muscle cramping routinely. Most often the cause of this cramping was the introduction of a new, demanding exercise. With the calves, quadriceps and hamstring muscles being most susceptible. Lunges and squatting were the most common culprits for quadriceps cramping. I suspect that you are in fantastic shape, but the introduction of a new routine has stressed your muscles in a novel way. Here is how I recommend remedying your situation:
-Identify the likely exercises that caused your cramping. Cut the volume of these exercises in your routine by 50%. In the next couple weeks bring that volume back slowly until you are successfully acclimated to the exercises.
-Warm up properly. Don’t stretch for your warm-up, this is doing you more harm than good (will cover this more in a bit). Start with at least 5 minutes of light cardiovascular activity and follow this with some gentle range of motion exercises. Here is a great research backed recommendation for warm-ups: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/sports/playmagazine/112pewarm.html?_r=1
-Don’t sit down immediately after exercise. I’m afraid I don’t have any research to support this, in fact I don’t believe there is any evidence to suggest that a cool-down is helpful: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/15/health/nutrition/15best.html
But the worst cramping injuries I have sustained are the times I have gone from intense exercise to immobile and sitting, such as a long drive in a car. Stay standing or go for a short walk after exercise.
-Approach new exercises, especially leg exercises , with some prudence.
-Gentle massage and light walking seem to hasten the healing process. Again, I can only speak from experience and have no studies to back this.
Back to stretching.
Static stretching, which is different than active stretching like yoga, is one of the most controversial topics in athletics and physical therapy today. Although it is commonly believed that static stretching reduces the rate of injury and is commonly used for therapy, there is no research evidence to support either. In fact, the rate of injury coupled with a substantial temporary reduction in muscle strength has now been thoroughly documented:
When I began training and coaching I recommended static stretching. However, over time I noticed that a good deal of injury occurred as a result of stretching before exercise. I also noticed that static stretching often exasperated existing injury. Consequently, I now recommend no form of static stretching, but do encourage forms of whole body exercise that build strength and flexibility such as yoga and rock climbing. This anti-stretching movement is gaining appeal to many health-professionals as research accumulates that indicate this practice does more harm than good. If you would like to read more here is a well-thought out argument from a well informed doctor entitled “Stop Stretching”: http://www.drgangemi.com/2011/04/stop-stretching/
Having said all that, Mike’s Mix will probably indirectly reduce your chances of muscle cramping. Mike’s Mix helps you come back energized for your next workout, provides amino acids and increase insulin sensitivity to promote muscle repair, and helps control appetite by providing quick calories immediately after your workout when blood sugar is low. If your body is properly recovered and your muscles better ready for strain, which is what Mike’s Mix is for, it is a reasonable assumption that you are less likely to incur muscle cramping. The stronger and healthier you are the less negative reactions to exercise that will occur.