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How to Stop Runners' Cramps

How to treat -and avoid cramps that strike when you run or jog.

What to Eat and Drink

To help prevent stomach cramps, consider what you eat before running, and see if there might be a connection, Galloway says. It might just be about digestion. Give yourself more time between eating and running.

"If you have a problem [with cramps after] eating 2 hours before, eat 3 hours before," Galloway says.

Also pay attention to what you eat and its effects on your running. "A simple carb by itself [such as a piece of fruit] and water usually is fine," Galloway says.

It's a matter of finding what works for you. For instance, Galloway says many people tell him they have gut problems after eating bananas, but not apples, before a run.

To prevent muscle cramps, McCall also tells runners to get enough fluid before exercising. His advice:

  • Drink 16 to 20 ounces 45 minutes before training.
  • Drink 2 to 4 ounces every 15 minutes during a training session.
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are naturally rich in water.

How to Treat Cramps While Running

If you get a side or stomach cramp while running, Galloway recommends slowing down to a walk. "Do the lower lung breathing while walking, maybe [for 2-4] minutes. That can bring it around," he says. For stomach cramps, "often a burp or passing of gas will get rid of the cramp."

When a muscle cramp strikes, McCall tells runners to stop exercising, rest, and hydrate -- preferably with a sports drink that can restore their electrolyte balance.

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Reviewed on August 22, 2013

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