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Health & Support
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Charlie horses

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I keep getting these severe muscle contractions (charlie horses) in my feet, toes, and now my calf. I know that this can somehow be a symptom of low potassium but I am so confused. I don't really eat bananas but I DO eat a ton of veggies (broccoli, spinach, etc.) that I know have at least a decent amount of potassium in them. Does anyone have any other ideas of something I might be lacking?

**Edit: Just to clarify, I drink a TON of water too, so I really don't think it is a dehydration issue either.

Edited Oct 09 2008 14:33 by nycgirl
Reason: Moved from Weight Loss to Health & Support forum, thanks. 9/30/08 stickied for a week. Unstickied 10/9/08.
12 Replies (last)

I don't have an answer for you but I've been getting cramps during the night ever since I started working out so much. I have found that for me doing some yoga before bed so I'm super stretched out helps but maybe it's all in my head.

I get them really bad when I over do the cardio on the treadmill or elliptical. If you point your toe our and stretch it will take them away. They wake me up at night. Have you tried taking a multivitamin? Also a calcium/magnesium/zinc supplement. Fish oil is also very good.

I used to get charley horses too and so I went to see my doctor. He said that it was due to low sodium levels. Which makes sense because people trying to losing weight tend to avoid sodium. Anyways, I did what he said and I hardly ever get them now. So, maybe you should try upping your intake of sodium (don't go crazy with the salt shaker though!), it worked for me.

Your shoes can also be part of the culprit.  If I wear a kitten heel or higher I get feet cramping at night after I go to bed, much more often than on the days that I don't wear any heels.  Certain gym shoes also cause me some cramping issues.

EAT BANANAS! Yes, that's right. Potassium has been proven to be a relief of cramps in general. One banana contains 450 to 470 mg of potassium. If you eat a banana a day, the cramps go away! Corny but true.

Hope that helps!

I feel ya on this one...

I eat a banana a day, tons of veggies, and get plenty of water. As well all know not too many people are in a sodium deficit (unless you eat super-clean)either since it's loaded everywhere, I know I'm not and I tend to avoid salty foods altogether.

Anyways, diet tonic water! It works for me most of the time..I drink diet because no cals and little to no sodium(brand depending)...My aunt told me about it because it contains Quinine which she used to have severe muscle cramping and the doctor wanted to prescribe her some which she asked for a source in food/drink and that's what he suggested. I've noticed a difference...I usually get a liter keep it in the fridge take a few swigs when I get home from the gym (so I don't forget)

hope this helpsSmile

Also, until they subside, I would avoid alcohol.  When I drink, I ALWAYS wake up in the middle of the night with charlie horses in my calves.  This only ever happens when I drink - it may be the dehydration, but also, the booze isnt exactly good for the bod :)

I have been pretty athletic most of my life and always had trouble with calf and foot cramps. Mine hit when I point my toes, or in bed when my ankle natural relaxes its "flex." I have to flex my toes up to get rid of them.

I tend to have more trouble if I let up on exercise, and have had significantly less trouble since taking up soccer and working my ankles and feet more than just running on them.

I see lots of ideas here and will possibly try a few, but since it isn't as much of a problem, I don't know if I'll be able to tell. BUT I sure can relate to the problem!

I can remember having them even as a kid, 8 or 9 years old, when, during the summer, I would not be taking dance lessons. And then after basketball season ended in high school. Those were the night time ones. I'd get really bad calf cramps playing bball in the Virginia heat, too, but I'm guessing that was dehydration. I know for sure I wasn't drinking enough water when I was young!

It could be a calcium imbalance. A dose of tums has about 60% of your daily calcuim intake.  Watermelon has 5x more potassium than a banana. Potatoes are high in potassium too.

I have heard all of these ideas as being helpful, so it probably wouldn't hurt to try most of them.

Shoes, in the absence of other triggers, was my first thought. Not just heels, but any new shoe or shoe that maybe doesn't fit quite right or changes the way you walk/where your feet and shoes work together.

I had a pair of athletic shoes that were supposedly made for support of some kind, but I had cramps all the time when I wore them. Also, if your shoes require you to "grip" them with your toes/feet (if they're too big and you're trying to "hold on" to them; flip-flops; clogs or open-back shoes) ... those can also lead to cramps.

I get these horribly bad... I believe mine is triggered by food.  Anytime I have something really processed I seem to get terrible foot cramps.  Only at night when I am trying to sleep so I never know immediately, but sure know it when I wake up screaming!

The main thing I have been able to identify is MSG.  Not that I mean to eat food with MSG but sometimes I'll eat something and have forgotten to check the label and I suffer all night!!!!

Unfortunately, I am well acquainted with this issue, too. Here are my tricks:

1) Guzzling water during the time of the cramp - plus lots during the day

2) Potassium: I already ate a banana per day- try dried apricots instead, they are LOADED with potassium and very light on the sodium, good for your blood pressure, too

3) Shoes, sneakers, etc: new ones or 'worn in' ones can do it, anything with the heel higher than the toes

4) Your chair/couch/bed - I was having severe issues with calf and foot cramps, then we replaced the hard couch and the too firm mattress and the cramps really let up - the point is if you sit on a hard chair at work/school all day and/or have too hard furniture, these could very well be a cause

5) Birth control - ahh, another side effect to deal with; when I switched to a lower dose, I could feel a difference in the severity of the calf cramps

6) Stretching - stretch those feet and the outside of the calves, it helps

7) Stress control - always good for what ails ya'


Hope that can help at least one person besides me. Laughing



12 Replies