Volume 11, Issue 59 | July 23, 2014
How to reduce the number of cramps
you get after intense activity
You're probably well aware of the feeling. You're working in the yard or around the house, and your muscles begin to cramp. This is a clear sign that you've overdone it. Wouldn't it be great if you could avoid that horrible feeling? Well, there is something that can help.

When your muscles cramp up, it's because lactic acid has built up in your tissues. This happens when you're exerting yourself faster than your body can burn the acids with oxygen. There's actually a test (lactic dehydrogenase, or LDH) that can measure this build up. The test results show that your lactic acid goes up when you are physically overstressed.

So how can you help prevent this problem? A small study suggests that you can blunt this effect by taking a supplement of branched chain amino acids. These are more complex protein building blocks that are essential to your body.

In this study, the researchers provided athletes with a drink containing branched chain amino acids at a 0.4% solution in 4% carbohydrate (sugar) solution. When they took the drink, the branched chain amino acids reduced the rise in LDH by about 16%. The authors concluded that you can spare muscle damage by taking these specific amino acids when doing intense exercise.

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I also like the thought that you might be able to improve your performance as well. These athletes were younger runners. As we age, it doesn't take as much to cause this problem. You don't have to run miles to get the same reaction in your body. Intense exercise for you might be mowing the lawn with a push mower or something similar.

Whatever your intense exercise is, I would recommend a branched chain amino acid supplement. Take one to two tablets daily of standard preparations while you are into the activity. They are easy to find online and in health food stores.

J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 2007; 47(3): 316-322.

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