What are cramps and how to avoid them?

The first thing we must clarify is that cramps (tetanization) are those involuntary, uninterrupted, and painful contractions that last from seconds to minutes. Being very different from the tingling sensation (paresthesia) that occurs due to the compression of a nerve or the lack of blood flow to it that usually occurs when we maintain inadequate postures for a prolonged period.<br><br>Although scientific evidence has not yet been able to clearly determine what are the causes of cramps, there are several theories, and it is most likely that the combination of them is the cause. The appearance of this physiological phenomenon is due to the sum of different variables that leads the muscle to a stress situation for which it is not prepared and ends up tetanizing.<br><br>Possible causes to suffer a cramp:

Dehydration (hydroelectrolytic imbalance)

Excessive Fatigue

Imbalance of the autonomic nervous system

Genetic predisposition

Biomechanical factors

Knowing some of the main theories of the origin of cramps, let’s proceed to try to give a very rough solution to each of them.<br><br><strong>Dehydration (hydroelectrolytic imbalance)</strong><br>If we seek to avoid the appearance of this phenomenon, we must consume 600ml of liquid with electrolytes in “normal” environmental conditions, if there are high intensities, you must add carbohydrates (<strong>Chos</strong>), thus we will maintain an adequate balance of minerals in the body, we will maintain the osmotic pressure and we will allow an adequate functioning of the sodium potassium ATPase pump in the muscle cells. The contribution of Chos when high intensities appear will help us to delay fatigue since we will maintain an adequate bioavailability of energy substrates related to this intensity. To finish with this section, it is important that under circumstances of high temperatures or high humidity it will be essential to increase fluid and electrolyte intake.<br><br><strong>Excessive Fatigue</strong><br>We will be able to “control” this variable with an adequate periodization and control of the training loads. Both from the control of the internal load with blood tests and measurements of the variability of the heart rate, as well as with the control of the external load through graphs. Such as the PMC, where we can detail the state of training, fatigue, and freshness of our athlete. It will be important to undulate the loads in an appropriate way accompanying the sessions and load blocks of sessions and recovery blocks.<br>In addition to all the control over the training, the choosing of the competitions or events in which to participate will also be important. We must ensure that the objectives and participations are in accordance with the adaptations achieved during the training.<br><br><strong>Imbalance of the autonomic nervous system</strong><br>This imbalance can be multifactorial and come from deficiencies in the athlete’s rest (lack of sleep or excess load), lack of recovery sessions or rest (active or passive) to the consumption of ergogenic stimulating supplements in large doses such as caffeine or even in normal doses for those who may be hypersensitive to it. With this we do not seek to stigmatize caffeine at all, which is one of the best and most recommended ergogenic aids. It will simply be important to denote that there must be control over the dose, the moment of consuming and possible hypersensitivity or intolerance to it.<br><br><strong>Biomechanical factors</strong><br>A muscle extended outside its zone of apposition, rotated or too shortened will be more likely to suffer from tetanization, either due to difficulties in adequate blood perfusion (supply of substrates and oxygen), due to an overload on a specific muscle while other synergists they are inhibited or due to a greater mechanical stress on the tissue that leads to premature fatigue and subsequent tetanization.<br><br><strong>Genetic predisposition</strong><br>This could only be confirmed by isolating some gene from those who more easily suffer from this type of inconvenience in their daily life, but we all know that friend who always gets cramped no matter how well he workout, eat or hydrate. This does not mean that these people are not suitable to participate in this kind of sports or simply must give up in their search for performance, they must take extreme care in each of the above-mentioned aspects in order to reduce the risk of suffering tetanization as much as possible.<br>As you can see, there are many factors that we should monitor and control as much as possible to reduce the risk of suffering a cramp.<br> <br>By Pablo Pulido<br>Methodological director of threshold experst sas.<br>

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