You may think muscle cramps are a product of exercise and movement. As it turns out, your diet also has an effect on your muscles — and eating the right things can make those pesky cramps go away. With help from WebMD, we take a look at 15 foods that help beat muscle cramps. (The miracle food on page 10 will surprise you.)
Of all the foods on this list, you’ve probably heard bananas mentioned the most when it comes to muscles cramps. That’s because this this fruit is packed with potassium, magnesium, and calcium — essentials for giving you cramp relief.
You already know avocados contain omega-3 fatty acids that are a good addition to your diet. But they also contain a ton of potassium — even more than bananas! — so slicing one up for your sandwich or adding it to your salad is always a good choice.
3. Sweet potato
According to WebMD, sweet potatoes actually contain three times the amount of potassium, magnesium, and calcium that bananas do. Plus, potatoes in general are packed with water, and hydration aids muscles cramps along. (More on that a little later.)
WebMD likes this fruit not just for the nutrients it’s packed with. Melons are full of water and a little bit of sodium, which your body becomes depleted of when you work out — and are prone to muscle cramps. The recommend eating cantaloupe after a workout to replenish your body.
While watermelon doesn’t have the same nutrient punch that cantaloupe does, it’s full of water to help keep our body hydrated. LongevityLive.com tells us watermelon also contains an amino acid called L-Citrulline which can “help minimize your post-workout pain .”
Lentils are already great for your diet because they contain fiber to help keep you full, but that same nutrient is also great for relieving cramps. Plus, just one cup of cooked lentils is packed with 71 milligrams of cramp-fighting magnesium, WebMD tells us. Yes, lentils can even help with menstrual cramps.
You may not think of grabbing a glass of milk after a workout, but your muscles will thank you for it. In addition to containing calcium and potassium, milk has protein to repair muscles after exercise. Yogurt and cheese are also good bets to help your muscles,Livestrong.com says.
8. Orange juice
Drinking a glass of orange juice doesn’t just give you a ton of calcium, WebMD also calls it “a potassium star with nearly 500 milligrams per cup.” If your muscles are particularly sore in the morning, drinking a cup of this stuff is good addition to your morning routine.
9. Dark, leafy greens
WebMD is a big fan of loading up on dark, leafy greens because “adding kale, spinach, or broccoli to your plate may help prevent muscle cramps. These foods are particularly good for menstrual cramps, so loading up on salads is a good bet to ease period pain.
10. Pickle juice
Pickle juice has become a popular go-to for runners and other athletes over the years. However it isn’t entirely clear what it is about pickle juice that makes it so effective. In fact, its muscle-healing abilities are believed by many to be a placebo effect.
Like with lentils, these legumes are packed with cramp-blasting nutrients like potassium and magnesium. Nuts are also a good meal to eat on the go, so carrying a little pack of peanuts or almonds with you can help you combat muscle cramps any time of the day. Just try not to choose one that’s too heavily salted.
WebMD explains: “Sometimes muscle cramps are the result of poor blood flow. Eating oily fish like salmon can help improve it.” It doesn’t hurt that three ounces of cooked salmon contains about 326 milligrams of potassium. They say trout and sardines are also a good bet.
13. Tomato juice
Tomato juice is a popular pick across the board for easing muscle cramps in the legs. Reader’s Digest adds that a daily glass of tomato juice — and a couple other foods on our list, for that matter — “can help banish leg cramps and prevent their recurrence.”
Skip the fat-loaded refried beans and stick with a cup of cooked black beans, which contains 120 milligrams of cramp-busting magnesium. They can be added to salads or as a side in just about any meal.
If you only take one thing away from our list, it’s that staying hydrated is one of the best ways to fight muscle cramps. “Fluid comes into play here because fluid helps muscles contract and relax and also keep muscle cells hydrated,” APEC Water tells us. “If there is an inadequate water supply, muscles will not work as good as they should, causing strain– and then the cramps.” So drink up! Your muscles will thank you later.