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Foods to Help Running Cramps

By Amy Pellegrini ; Updated April 18, 2017

Regular or long-distance runners can experience a range of problems because this type of activity is especially hard on your joints and body. Getting cramps during a run can quickly turn an enjoyable period of exercise into an uncomfortable one, so it may be helpful to increase certain types of vitamins and minerals -- many found in common foods -- to decrease or eliminate the onset of running cramps.


Runners experience several types of cramps, including muscle or side-stitch cramps. These are caused by various factors, including a lack of stretching or loosening of the muscles, dehydration or an electrolyte deficiency, which occurs when runners start to develop heat exhaustion from insufficient fluids. Finally, eating too much or not enough before a run may cause uncomfortable cramps.


Since cramps are caused by a variety of factors, you may have to try different remedies to relieve them. One of the ways to reduce or eliminate cramps is by eating certain foods the night before a long run. Most marathon organizations host a high-carbohydrate meal on the night before, and high-carbohydrate foods such as pasta are easily converted into fuel by the body, as opposed to proteins and fats, which take much more time and effort by the digestive system.


Foods high in magnesium can be beneficial for cramp relief. According to, you are most likely to run out of magnesium before any other electrolyte. Snack on foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, figs, and pumpkin seeds -- these foods are particularly rich in the mineral. The body’s cells need magnesium to allow potassium and calcium to move in and out when it is needed for the muscles. Low levels of magnesium cause the muscles to become irritable and inhibit that ability.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is also a valuable nutrient runners need to avoid getting cramps. Vitamin E helps to improve circulation, repair tissue, promote healing, and improve athletic performance, which are all necessary for avoiding cramps. The best sources of vitamin E include nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals. A significant level of vitamin E is also found in wheat germ oil, dry roasted almonds and sunflower seeds, peanut butter, broccoli, kiwi, mango and tomatoes.

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