Can Drinking Water Before a Workout Cause Cramps?

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Getting into shape isn't the easiest thing to do, especially with the insistent threat of those pesky cramps. Water cools the body, prevents dehydration and helps burn carbs during exercise, but drinking too much before exercise can also cause stomach cramps. The best way to avoid cramps and dehydration is to get plenty of fluids without overdoing it. Try drinking the recommended 16 to 24 ounces two hours before starting an activity.

Stomach Cramps

  • The physical cause of those nagging stomach cramps when exercising remains a mystery. Scientists hypothesize that the common cramp over the liver and spleen, called "side stitch," may be caused by the jarring of connective tissue attached to the breathing diaphragm. Whatever the reason, working out after drinking too many fluids can cause abdominal pain. Drinking too much water during exercise can also cause stomach cramps, especially in activities like horseback riding, running and situps.

Muscle Cramps

  • According to the National Institutes of Health, not drinking enough water before and during exercise is the most common cause of muscle cramps. A muscle is normally composed of 75 percent water, and when little water is available, the muscle grows weak, becomes uncoordinated and cramps up. When a muscle cramps up, it tightens uncontrollably for an extended period of time, causing pain, swelling and discomfort. The calf, quadriceps and hamstring muscles of the leg represent common muscles that cramp up due to insufficient fluid intake.

Cramp Prevention

  • Drinking ideal amounts of fluid before, during and after an exercise proves the best way to prevent both stomach cramps and muscle cramps. Two to three hours before activity, you should consume about 20 ounces of cold fluid, then another 8 ounces about 20 minutes before the exercise. The body can absorb and process cold fluids faster than warm fluids, so cold is preferred. Drink about 10 ounces of water for every 15 minutes of exercise and 8 additional ounces within 30 minutes of completing an exercise. Stretching before and after exercising has also been shown to prevent muscle and abdominal cramps.

Dehydration

  • Exercising without drinking enough fluids can lead to dehydration, a life-threatening condition wherein the body lacks enough fluid to function properly. While working out, the body loses water quickly by trying to maintain a normal body temperature. The body can become dehydrated by losing only 1 percent of its total water content. Though water can cause cramps, drinking enough fluids while exercising remains essential because dehydration leads to more serious medical conditions like nausea, vomiting, coma and death.

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