Let's get one thing straight: getting cramps in the middle of an intense fitness activity is rather annoying.
First, you feel your leg muscles tightening up, then the mind tells you the inevitable. Once your leg is as hard as a rock, it's over—time to sit out.
But why does pulikat occur anyway? According the Mayo Clinic, muscle overuse, dehydration, or holding a position for prolonged periods can cause cramps. It could also be due to mineral deficiencies, specifically potassium.
Even the fittest dudes, however, suffer from cramps. Watch any PBA or NBA game and it's not unusual to see a player writhing in pain especially during intense sequences. Is there a surefire way to prevent it from, um, cramping your game?
"Aside from staying hydrated and being in the best possible shape, there seems to be no definite answer to cramp prevention. I've even seen it pester high school kids who have just played five minutes on the court," says Julio Veloso, M.S., C.S.C.S., strength and conditioning coach of PBA team Phoenix Fuel Masters and head coach at Movement Performance Manila in Makati City.
"Even when an athlete's in shape, it appears that cramps are more of a mental thing. Kapag masyadong stressed yung athlete, mas mabilis ang onset ng cramps," he adds.
While there is no one-size-fits-all remedy, a handful of measures can be observed to prevent cramps.
(Should you find yourself still tightening up after doing these things, consult a doctor. You could have a medical condition that needs to be addressed.)
Load up on pickle juice
If the idea of drinking it sounds weird, Veloso states that among everything he's tried with players over the years, this one works best. He points to this article where he got the suggestion that he recently tried with Phoenix import Eugene Phelps. The reinforcement, who is usually cramped up by the third quarter, has been pulikat-free since regularly downing some of Veloso's secret stuff.
Veloso's reference explains that "pickle juice has 20 times more sodium and eight times more potassium than a regular sports drink," which can easily address any mineral deficiency. Another theory is that the vinegar component of the liquid "activates nerve receptors in the throat or stomach that send out nerve signals that somehow stop the malfunctioning in the muscle." While just a theory, the juice worked for Veloso and his athletes. He instructs giving it a shot when you feel the cramps about to kick in.
We need to be drinking at least three liters of water daily, even more if we're the active type. Insufficient hydration affects a lot of bodily processes, including muscle functions. During workouts or ball games, always have water at the ready. Up your H2O intake too if you're fond of caffeinated drinks, which act as diuretics that take fluids out of your system.
Exercising for more than an hour? The US National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends a bottle of sports drink. It will help replenish the lost electrolytes faster to sustain activity and prevent pulikat.
Up your nutrients
According to the Cleveland Clinic, electrolyte imbalance can cause cramps. The solution: eat more vegetables and fruits, particularly green leafy vegetables and bananas, on a daily basis. Doing so increases your nutrient intake, which could keep cramps at bay. The humble saging is also high in potassium which is what the body usually lacks when cramps attack.
Warm up thoroughly and stretch
Sometimes we tend to get excited about playing, running, or lifting that we forget to get our body ready for the grind. If you sat around all day at work, your semi-sluggish body will not be able to handle tough physical activity right away. So take time to warm up by doing light calisthenics, joint rotations, and stretching pulikat-prone areas (Read: legs). Here's a simple stretching guide you can follow.
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