THE CLINIC: Weight Loss Can Lead to Leg Spasms

Thu, 27 Sept. 2012 - 9 p.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association

QUESTION:

At night I experience cramping or spasms in my feet and legs. I exercise regularly, lifting weights and using a glider 2 to 3 times a week and jog 5 to 8 miles on other days. I’m 63 and lost 25 lbs last year by better controlling my eating habits. I drink water, coffee, tea or diet drinks during the day and sometimes milk or wine in the evening. I take a senior multivitamin, a calcium supplement, plus vitamins E, C, B6 and B12. What can I do to eliminate the leg spasms?

 

Peter Lily

Boston, MA

 

ANSWER:

A person in a catabolic state such as yourself, i.e., one who is losing weight or breaking themselves down as opposed to gaining weight, can sometimes experience subtle electrolyte aberrations. I can't recall ever seeing a patient who suffered muscle spasms and at the same time was gaining weight. Also, when people diet they often drink more, and since you mentioned tea, soda, and coffee, it may be that you are now consuming too much caffeine, which can cause muscle spasms. 

 

I recommend, then, that you try limiting your caffeine intake and substitute several glasses of electrolyte-rich sports drink per day. If these steps don't help, have your doctor check your electrolytes and thyroid. You may also try exercising every other day for longer periods at a time. Quinine sulfate is indeed a well-known (and ancient) remedy for nocturnal leg cramps, and it is relatively benign, though it can (infrequently) cause blood-related side effects. People with liver problems or those who are pregnant should avoid quinine.

 

Peter Mendel, MD 

Fairfax, VA

 

ANSWER:

Another possible source of the cramps could be statin drugs, if you happen to be taking them. In any case, I have often seen results with 600 to 1,200 mg daily of calcium (without phosphorus), in split doses.

 

Sarah Harding Laidlaw, MS, RD, MPA 

Mesquite, NV

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.

The American Running Association (ARA) and its Clinic Advisory Board disclaims responsibility and shall have no liability for any consequences suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site. ARA does not endorse specifically any test, treatment, or procedure mentioned on this site.

 

 

(RUNNING & FITNEWS® November / December 2009 • Volume 27, Number 6)




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