Hi, I eat right and exercise, but am having bad cramping in my legs-- especially in my thighs. It feels like a muscle spasm and I have a hard time sleeping at night. I tried stretching; it helps a little, but I am still having the problem.

I would suggest that you check with your physician first to rule out any specific deficiency in your diet or interaction with any medications you may be taking. Having said that, night time cramps are fairly common and can occur suddenly causing a tightening of the muscles of your thighs, calf or even foot. It may be that your exercise is too rigorous and you are overusing the muscles of your thigh. I would try and balance your exercise routine so that you are incorporating strength training exercises for your quadriceps (thighs), hamstrings (back of the thigh) and calves equally. In addition to strength, it is important that you also do specific stretches for each of these muscle groups.

For the quadriceps – lie on your left side with your left arm extended parallel to your body; with your right hand, reach for your right ankle and gently pull your heel toward your buttocks, keeping your knees together. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the right side. This stretch may be done while standing, but will put less pressure on the knee if done lying down.

For the hamstrings – in a standing position bend forward from the hip (maintaining a small arch in your low back), extend your right leg straight with your heel touching the ground and bend your left leg slightly for balance, lean forward as if bringing your chest toward your thighs. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat with the left side. If a greater stretch is desired, place your straight leg on a low stool or chair.

For the calf – position yourself on the edge of a step with your heel extending off the step (your weight should be on the balls of your feet). To increase the stretch, shift your weight to one foot (holding 30-60 seconds) and then the other while bending the opposite knee.

As with all stretches it is important NOT TO BOUNCE. Stretches should be static in nature and held 30-60 seconds at a time repeating 2-3 times each.

As for nutritional considerations, Amy recommends getting enough of certain nutrients. “The body needs sufficient amounts of calcium and magnesium to support optimal muscular function. I would recommend 1000 mg of calcium a day (in the form of milk, cheese, yogurt, calcium fortified cereals, OJ or broccoli. Magnesium filled foods including whole grains, nuts and beans etc.”

And finally “HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE” When the body is dehydrated, it means that it has lost too much fluid and needs to be replenished.

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