February 03, 2015

Posted on Feb

Whether you like to run marathons, hike in the backcountry or work out in the gym, nothing can stop a good workout like a bad cramp. Let’s face it: cramps can be a pain in the butt…literally… or a pain in the side, calf or abs. They are painful, debilitating, and annoying. The biggest problem with cramps is no one really knows exactly what causes them but according to Mark Paulsen from Wilderness Athlete, everyone’s goal should be to pay attention to their body. “Cramps are somewhat a mystery but if a person who gets them regularly pays attention to their body, they may be able to figure out what causes them. For instance, some believe dehydration causes cramps. Lack of certain minerals or vitamins or poor mechanical patterns in the way a person runs or walks can contribute to cramps. Working out hard without replacing the nutrients you need is what many believe cause cramps. For instance, when I get them the most is when I have been hunting hard all day and climb into my sleeping bag without drinking or eating enough. I often wake up in the night with a real bad cramp,” Paulsen explained.

Some people get cramps all the time while many of us only get them occasionally. Regardless of which group you fall into, Paulsen suggests everyone pay close attention to their body and try to narrow down when they get them. Then they should try to do a few different things to avoid getting them. “Many people who suffer from cramps are getting them in the middle or after exercising,” Paulsen said. “Staying hydrated is the first thing I suggest for everyone. Our Hydrate and Recover drink can really help a person stay hydrated and it a great thing to take during or after exercise.”

  “Another thing everyone should do is warm up and cool down properly before and after a workout,” Paulsen said. “Most of us don’t want to take the time to stretch before a workout or before we head into the backcountry but we all should. After a long day of hunting, I like to stretch out right before I crawl into my tent.”

Cramping is often due to overdoing it physically. This is why training properly, and taking a break when cramping is so important. Many of us respond to cramping by toughing it out and pushing harder. When the muscle is trying to tell us to slow down. If you get a bad cramp, take a break and let the muscle relax.

Because Paulsen is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, he has seen it all. “Over the years, I have seen many fads come and go,” Paulsen said with a laugh. “Some say pickle juice can help prevent cramping. Others say the potassium in a banana can help. Others say taking in electrolytes is key. At the end of the day, any of these things might help some people. People should experiment and find the things that work well for them. Heck, my son had cramps once and his coach gave him a packet of ketchup. A variety of things may help. Regular exercise, watching what and when you eat, taking quality vitamins and staying hydrated will likely help. At the end of the day, paying attention to your body and finding what works for you will likely be what prevents you from having cramps or at least keep them at a minimum. There is no silver bullet when it comes to preventing cramps.


Many believe eating a banana can prevent or reduce cramps. According to, bananas have all kinds of benefits. Below are just a few of them.

~ Bananas help overcome depression due high levels of tryptophan which is converted into serotonin — the happy-mood brain neurotransmitter.

~ Eat two bananas before a strenuous workout to pack an energy punch and sustain your blood sugar.

~ Protect against muscle cramps during workouts and night time leg cramps by eating a banana.

~ Counteract calcium loss during urination and build strong bones by supplementing with a banana.


Mark Paulsen says give it a stretch!! “stretch while your taking a break and prior to bed. simply focus on those muscle groups which, due to overuse and fatigue , tend to cramp. In my experience the vast majority of cramps are in the hamstrings and calf area. that being the case, take literally 30 seconds to stretch these two muscle groups and stop the nuerological firing of those muscles. If you don’t they will continue to fire for hours and thats when the screaming in the middle of the night occurs.”

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