If you’re one of the 60 million Americans who has experienced leg cramps at night, you might empathize with the pain of a severely tightened muscle. (1)
Leg cramps can range in severity from slight twinges that disappear with a shift in position to painful, persistent muscle spasms that sometimes include most of the muscles in your legs. Addressing keto leg cramps at night (how to treat) is important because leg cramps can keep you from sleeping, too.
This is where leg cramps become a safety issue. If you can’t sleep, your driving abilities might be impaired and your immune system could be weakened. (2)
Where do you look for the answers, though? Opinions are constantly trending and information is updated all the time.
This is where we come in.
We’ve gathered some great ideas for dealing with keto leg cramps at night (how to treat them). Work through these ideas in order, or use them as springboards for further research. You might be surprised at what you’ll find here.
Step One: Know What You’re Dealing With
Knowing what’s causing your leg cramps can be half the battle.
If you’re exercising regularly, you might already suspect something’s not right. You could blame it on dehydration, low electrolytes, or even nerve damage. (3)
And you might be right. How do you tell?
For starters, keep track of when leg cramps hit you. Do they happen during exercise, or after? Do you feel like you’re staying hydrated? If you drink sports drinks to keep your electrolytes up, does that make a difference? And how tired do you make your muscles before you get leg cramps?
Some experts say that leg cramps are more likely associated with muscle fatigue and nerve dysfunction rather than an electrolyte imbalance. Leg cramps can also be associated with some medical conditions, including pregnancy, cirrhosis, hemodialysis, vascular disease, and narrowing of the spinal canal. (4)
If your leg cramps aren’t too severe, you might be able to do some trial-and-error testing to see if you can find a natural solution to alleviate the problem.
If you might have one of the medical conditions above or if your leg cramps are beyond waiting it out, go to your doctors. They’ve got the education and the resources for helping you address your keto leg cramps at night (how to treat).
Step Two: Nutritious foods
If you think you can handle the pain while you search for a solution, your local grocery store may be the place to start. If your muscle cramps are due to an electrolyte imbalance, eating the following foods may be a simple answer for you. (5)
- Bananas—they contain magnesium, calcium, and potassium
- Sweet potatoes—they have the same nutrients as bananas, with about six times the amount of calcium
- Avocado for another potassium burst
- Beans and lentils for magnesium
- Melons—packed with electrolytes but with plenty of water, too
- Milk is also a good source of electrolytes and water, and it has protein, as well
- Dark leafy greens
- Orange juice
- Nuts and seeds
Step Three: Try pickle juice
Surprised? A couple of studies say this folk remedy might actually work. It works fairly quickly, too, providing some relief within about 35 seconds of drinking it. (6)
While there are still some questions as to how it works, experts suspect it might cause a neural response that inhibits the firing of alpha neurons in the cramping muscle.
Step Four: BCAAs
If you’re on a ketogenic diet, you might have started taking a supplement with BCAAs to help prevent muscle waste—especially if you’re dovetailing your keto diet with intermittent fasting.
If you’ve never heard of BCAAs before? Here you go.
BCAAs are branched-chain amino acids. This is a small sub-group of essential amino acids that our bodies can’t synthesize. We have to get them from food.
There are three BCAAs: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. These compounds alone can’t cause muscle growth, but they do work with other amino acids. Leucine, in particular, stimulates protein synthesis in muscles. (7), (8)
Many supplements for pre-workouts or post-workouts contain BCAAs to help prevent muscle fatigue and soreness, to build lean muscle mass and to help with workout recovery. (Along the same lines, collagen supplements might also give you a workout boost.)
BCAAs also affects the central nervous system. (9)
While more research is needed, there’s some interesting food for thought here—especially if your leg cramps are stemming from muscle fatigue, muscle damage or a nerve dysfunction.
Step Five: Electrolyte supplements tailored for folks on a keto diet plan
If BCAAs, nutritious foods, and pickle juice just aren’t cutting it for you, maybe you do need to work on your electrolyte balance a little bit more.
If you’re on a keto diet, it’s easy to lose water weight fast, and with that, you can lose sodium, potassium, and magnesium that normally keep your muscles working well. Check to see if you’re in ketosis and, if you are, consider getting an electrolyte supplement.
You might want to be a little bit choosy about the supplements you try. Some supplements contain a wide range of electrolytes, some have only a few, and some contain different versions you might want to avoid(for example, certain types of magnesium can cause intestinal distress).
If you’re on a keto diet, it’s possible that a good exogenous ketone base could help give you the energy you need, but it won’t address your keto leg cramps at night (how to treat) issues.
To alleviate your cramps, learn what you can. Consider supplementing with BCAAs or electrolytes, eat well, drink enough water and maybe try that pickle juice. If that doesn’t work, see your doctor.