Tag Archives: water

Q&A: Leg Cramps

Q: I’m pregnant and have been waking up every night with horrible leg cramps. My researching online says I maybe need more magnesium. Do you have any suggestions how to work this into my diet?

A: Ouch! That is no fun. I had leg cramps with my second pregnancy, and I can remember how much those hurt.

The hard fact is that no one 100% knows why leg cramps happen, because there are lots of things that can lead up to them. Here are four common nutrients that are suggested or that I have seen be helpful. The good news is that many of these are found in the same foods (another reason it can be hard to identify exactly the cause/solution). Also good news, the same answers apply to pregnancy leg cramps or non-pregnancy related leg cramps.

1) Magnesium. As your researching suggests, magnesium is commonly recommended for leg cramps. In general, good sources are nuts, dark leafy greens (like spinach), and whole grains.

2) Potassium. Potassium rich foods are bananas, citrus fruits/juices, potatoes, tomatoes, yogurt, and dark leafy greens.

3) Calcium. Calcium rich foods are dairy products, dark leafy greens, and broccoli.

All three of these nutrients are part of normal muscle function. If one is depleted, it can cause cramps. Since all three work together, it can be hard to know exactly which one is missing, unless you are on a specific medication that we know depletes that nutrient.

4) Water. Water requirements in pregnancy can be hard to determine. You need a lot. Most say at least 8-10 cups a day, others will say up to 16 cups. I personally found that if I was better hydrated, my leg cramps went away. It’s hard, because we tend to not drink water late in the day so we aren’t up in the night using the bathroom. But I’d rather have to go to the bathroom than be up in pain.

Good luck! Hope this helps!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Drinking Water

I have been thinking about water and staying hydrated quite a bit recently. It seems like an odd thing to think about now that the weather is cooler. We aren’t out in the sun and getting sweaty. So, dehydration risk is less, right?

It is true that people are less likely to get dehydrated in the winter. However, since it isn’t at the forefront of our mind, we can easily become under-hydrated. And there are benefits to avoiding under-hydration.

First let’s look at what water does in our body. It keeps us cool, both via sweat and other mechanisms in our body. It provides the liquid base for blood and other bodily fluids (including fluid in our cells). It helps flush waste out of our bodies, through urine and in feces. Everything in your body uses water in some form. We lose it in sweat and in breathing. We gain it by eating and drinking.

The benefits of drinking enough water are bountiful. Less burden on your kidneys to flush out waste. Without enough water, they have to work hard concentrating all the waste into your urine. It keeps blood volume and blood pressure in check. It keeps your skin more soft and less flaky. It helps you not be constipated. It helps deliver nutrients throughout your body.

So, how much do you need? The general rule of thumb is most people need about 30 ml of water per kilogram of body weight. That can be a little tricky to figure out. You need to know how much you weigh (example 150 lbs), divide that by 2.2 to get kilograms (68 kg), then multiply by 30 (2040 ml). That gives you millimeters, easily converted to liters (about 2, round for simplicity). For those of us used to “cups”, you have to figure 1 cup is about 250 ml (8 cups).

That’s a lot of math and thinking for everyday. You can figure it out once, and then aim for that each day. For our example above, that came out to 8 cups, which happens to be the generic recommendation of 8 cups of water per day that we have all heard for years.

Or, you can simply avoid math all together. Watch your urine – is it dark yellow or more like pale lemonade? Pay attention to how often you urinate. If it is only once or twice a day, you should drink more. Are your lips and skin constantly dry? Drink more. Think periodically about if you are thirsty. We all ignore our thirst response so often, it takes practice to really become in tune with it again. Also, as we age, our thirst response is less and less sensitive and can’t be relied on.

Water really is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated. Calorie free and great for you. Any liquid will add to your total. Milk, juice, soda, coffee, tea, soup, ice cream, popsicle, and gelatin are some. Some foods are higher in water than others (think of eating watermelon vs eating a cracker). Mix it up, and getting enough fluid is easier.

Happy drinking this winter!

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Small changes can help you have a better life

I just read about two different studies that provide even more evidence that even small changes can have big impacts on your health.

In the first study, researchers found that substituting on serving each day of water, unsweetened tea or unsweetened coffee for a sugar sweetened beverage (such as soft drinks, sweetened tea/coffee, fruit drinks, etc) decreased overall risk of type 2 diabetes, regardless of obesity. That means, even if you don’t lose weight, swapping your Coca-Cola for a glass of water can help prevent diabetes later on. Seems a good swap to me.

The second study looked at the effects of replacing sedentary time with light physical activity. Replacing two minutes per hour of sedentary time with light physical activity, such as walking, lowered the risk of dying. Think about it. If you got up from your desk every hour for just a couple minutes and went for a walk, you would improve your health. Seems fairly simple, doesn’t it?

Obviously, no single study is conclusive. But this adds to the mountain of evidence available that even small changes can improve your health, even if it doesn’t change your weight or appearance.

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Q&A: Exercise Nutrition

Image from bwdailydose.com

Q: I have been trying to figure out what I should be eating pre and post workout, and there’s a ton of differing information to sift through out there. I do a good mix of cardio and strength training throughout the week. What’s your recommendation on foods to eat before and after a workout?

A: Misinformation abounds when it comes to nutrition and exercise. Tons of powders and supplements exist as well as diets. What you truly need pre and post work out is actually fairly simple.

One overarching principle is to individualize your routine. Our bodies are all different, so you can’t necessarily follow the same practices as your friends. You know how long before your workout you need to eat. You know what foods upset your stomach. You know how much you sweat.

Here are some general guidelines you can adapt to your specific needs.

Pre-workout or event nutrition:

-Eat a small meal or snack that is high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat. This mix of nutrients will be absorbed and digested faster, preventing an upset stomach and cramping.

-Avoid high fiber foods, which are digested more slowly and will sit in your stomach longer. These include raw fruits and vegetables with lots of seeds or tough skins, beans, and whole grains.

-Avoid any foods that give you gas, such as beans, broccoli, and onions.

-Drink plenty of fluids. You can start with two cups or more about two hours before, and then drink one to cups more within half an hour of exercising.

Post-workout or event nutrition:

-Drink plenty of fluids. Replacing losses should be your first priority. For every pound lost during exercise, drink three cups of water. Continue to drink fluids the rest of the day.

-Eat a carbohydrate rich meal or snack within a few hours. Aim for up to half a gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. Sooner is better for muscle recovery. When doing strength training, include some high-quality protein. A glass of chocolate milk, milk and cereal, or a turkey sandwich are some suggestions.

-If you are doing strenuous exercise for more than 90 minutes, eat a carbohydrate rich meal twice – within 30 minutes of finishing the exercise and about two hours later.

I hope that helps. Good luck in your exercising and thanks for the question!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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