cramping may occur after one to two hours of exercise. Cramping
may be induced in as little as 10 minutes after high intensity
exercise targeting a specific muscle group.
The most commonly proposed causes of exercise associated muscle
- Decreases in body mass, blood and plasma volume
- Abnormal serum electrolyte concentrations
- Decrease concentrations of sodium, potassium, magnesium,
chloride, and/or calcium
- As a result of sweating or over consumption of water during
- Environmental stress
- Exercising in heat which may result in electrolyte imbalances
Dehydration and electrolyte loss are not the
sole causes of EAMC because many individuals can experience cramping
when they are hydrated and supplemented with electrolytes.
A more recent theory suggests that EAMC is related to sustained
neural activity that results in fatigue. This idea is supported
by athletes who are more likely to experience cramps toward the
end of an event. A distinction has been made between EAMC that
result from fatigue and that resulting from heat (in which electrolyte
and fluid losses result in a contraction of extracellular fluid
In one study, participants who experienced cramps had a higher
average sweat rate than those that did not experience cramps.
Subjects who experienced EAMC who consumed a carbohydrate - electrolyte
beverage were able to exercise 150% longer before the onset of
Other common treatments include:
- Salt tablets
- Pickle juice and mustard (anecdotal remedies)
- Saline solution use reported as early as 1898
Jung AP, Bishop PA, Al-Nawwas A, Dale RB (2005). Influence
of Hydration and Electrolyte Supplementation on Incidence and
Time to Onset of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps. Journal of
Athletic Training. 40(2): 71-75.