University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


Muscle cramps are involuntary, painful, sudden contractions of skeletal muscles that can cause detrimental effects on athletic performance. Recent data suggest that low intakes of dietary calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) can enhance or cause muscle cramps. The purpose of this study was to determine the correlation between Ca and Mg intakes and muscle cramping in female college athletes. Athletes completed a 24-hour dietary recall and a survey on frequency and location of muscle cramps. Of those surveyed, 8 participated in basketball, 21 in softball, and 10 in gymnastics. Calcium and Mg intakes were calculated from dietary recall data using Food Processor® nutrient analysis software. Data are reported as means ± standard deviation (SD). T-tests were performed to determine significant differences between groups. The average daily intakes of Ca above and below the dietary reference intake (DRI) were 1516 ± 559 mg/day and 504 ± 296 mg/day, respectively, for the athletes that cramped and 1620 ± 299 mg/day and 645 ± 250 mg/day, respectively, for the athletes that did not experience cramping. The average daily intakes above and below the DRI for Mg in the cramping group were 423 ± 103 mg/day and 180 ± 65 mg/day, respectively. The average daily intakes for those consuming Mg above and below the DRI in the non-cramping group were 476 ± 80 mg/day and 190 ± 64 mg/day, respectively. No significant differences in the intakes of Ca and Mg were found between groups that cramped and those that did not report cramping. The results of this study suggest that a high intake of Ca coupled with a low intake of Mg is positively correlated to muscle cramping.