Why Is A Potassium Deficiency Associated With Muscle Cramps?

Electrolyte imbalances negatively affect sports performance. These can also lead to cramps. In this article we explain the role of potassium.
Why is a potassium deficiency associated with muscle cramps?

A potassium deficiency can generate some inefficiencies in the body. One of these is the onset of muscle cramps. We will explain why this problem occurs and how to prevent it, as it causes the interruption of sports practice.

Keep in mind that potassium is a mineral that we get from our diet. It cannot be produced endogenously – that is, within the body itself – and is eliminated through urine and sweat, thanks to its ability to dissolve in water. This nutrient is found naturally in many foods and also in sports drinks.

Muscle Cramp Physiology

There are still many unknowns surrounding the appearance of muscle cramps. Their pathophysiology and causes are unclear. However, several hypotheses are considered.

Cramps can be related to a lack of tissue adaptation to exercise, but also to a lack of certain nutrients in the body. What is clear is that they require therapeutic attention when they appear and that they represent a limiting factor for the practice of physical exercise, according to scientific evidence.

As for nutritional factors, it is thought that alterations in the electrolyte balance may increase the risk of cramps. Many minerals, such as potassium, are essential in the transmission of the nerve impulse. A change in their concentration could generate spasms in the tissue starting from a poorly executed neuronal synapse.

The reasons for muscle cramps are still not fully understood.

Potassium deficiency as a risk factor

According to a review published in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation , nowadays it is impossible to establish a relationship between a low potassium concentration and the risk of suffering from muscle cramps.

It is not known for certain whether a mineral deficiency may or may not be a risk factor. However, theories on the subject speculate the possibility that it has something to do with this disorder.

Many sports drinks, as well as gels, contain potassium and other minerals in their composition. The goal is to ensure electrolyte balance, which will have a positive impact on the athlete’s performance.

Additionally, supplements to prevent muscle cramps also usually contain significant amounts of potassium, among other elements. Some experts say that a good strategy to reduce the impact of cramps is to increase your magnesium intake.

Foods to correct a potassium deficiency

Although there are doubts about it, it is advisable to consume adequate amounts of potassium and mineral salts before starting physical activity. In this way, a good functioning of the organism is guaranteed.

For this, it is important to know which foods have high concentrations of potassium in their composition. One of the major representatives is the banana, although it is also possible to find others such as papaya, grapes, mangoes or kiwis.

Papaya is a fruit with important properties for health.

Not surprisingly, from a nutritional point of view, it is recommended to eat fruit before exercising.

On the other hand, potassium performs many other functions within the human body, so avoiding deficits is crucial. One of these is to maintain blood pressure; in this sense, potassium exerts an antagonistic effect with respect to that of sodium.

Potassium, possibly related to muscle cramps

To date, there are still many doubts about what exactly causes the appearance of muscle cramps. There are several theories regarding this, although very little scientific evidence is available.

Perhaps the lack of potassium is related, along with the inefficient supply of other nutrients. For this reason, before starting physical activity, it is good to ensure a correct intake of minerals.

Fortunately, it is difficult to experience potassium deficiency in the context of a varied and balanced diet. This situation could only arise if a lot of fluids were lost through sweat and at high temperatures.

If you play sports in a similar situation, we recommend that you consume sports drinks, gels or fruit before and during your training session. In this way, alterations in the electrolyte balance that can trigger mechanisms that cause cramps are avoided. But it does not end there, because a good warm-up and correct physical adaptation could also be decisive.

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