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Night time leg cramps and muscle spasms


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I'm on Day 10 of Whole 30, and about Day 7, I started experiencing really painful leg and ankle cramps in the night. Once I "clear" the cramp (or cramps), my muscles continually twitch.  Particularly with my ankles, my foot starts to bend involuntarily in the direction of the cramp and within minutes I am hit with another ankle cramp.  Ergo, I spend most of my "sleep" time fighting my muscles that want to cramp!  I have never before experienced cramps in my lower legs and ankles. :(


I've always had problems sleeping (and I'm on anti-anxiety and anti-depression meds), but usually can get 5-6 hours straight without trouble.  Not so with Whole 30!


FYI, I drink water all day long and take Calcium +D3 supplement (recommended by my Dr for bone density). No sodas, no caffeine etc.  After the first terrible night/wee hours of the morning, I added a potassium and a magnesium supplement to no avail.


However, I used to drink maybe six ounces of milk about an hour before going to bed each evening and of course that's a no-no on Whole 30!  I didn't start Whole 30 because I was having digestive issues, I started because I wanted to eat more "cleanly."


After battling the lower leg/ankle cramps from about 3 a.m. until I got out of bed at 7:30 a.m. today, my legs felt incredibly weak, as if they could barely support my weight.  I've never had anything like this happen before re the morning muscle weakness.  I am fairly active and the only time I've ever suffered night leg cramps has been when I've worked outside in the terrible heat and humidity of the South, and obviously didn't compensate with enough water.


It's pretty obvious there's a critical component missing from my diet on this Whole 30 program, and I don't know how many more nights of cramping and muscle spasms I can take.


Anybody else suffering these problems?  Anybody able to recommend a solution? 

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My hubby suffers with chronic calf and foot cramps after having a very serious spinal injury.  He swears by drinking one can of Tonic Water every day (he prefers Canada Dry over Schwepps but says both basically work).  If he misses a couple days, the cramps come back.


It's allegedly the quinine in the tonic water that eases cramps although "they" (all the supposed experts) say that there is not enough quinine to be effective.  But...we all know "they" also say that we Whole30ers/paleo folk are also malnourishing ourselves and that all of our anecdotal evidence of ailment and illness cures is a load of baloney....so I don't put much stock in what "they" say about the cramps.


All that to say...give tonic water a shot...

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Leg cramps are a common problem that is not limited to people doing a Whole30. This Cleveland Clinic article is a good


review: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/nocturnal_leg_cramps/hic_nocturnal_leg_cramps.aspx


Discussions of leg cramps often mention the importance of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. 


High potassium foods include dark leafy greens, potatoes with skin, acorn squash, salmon, avocado, mushrooms, bananas.


High calcium foods include canned salmon with bones, sardines with bones, bok choy, kale, almonds, oranges, turnip greens, sesame seeds, and seaweed.


High magnesium foods include dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, mackerel, green beans, avocado, and bananas.


I get leg cramps occasionally. I think it has mostly to do with my kettlebell training - muscle use. I eat high potassium, calcium, and magnesium foods all the time. I have taken potassium supplements in the past with no noticeable effect on leg cramps. I take a magnesium supplement nightly (Natural Calm). My leg cramps bother me for a few days and then disappear for a few months. I have simply accepted that they are an occasional visitor to my life. 

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Thank you, everyone, for your helpful replies. 


Re a couple days of meals, Weds I started with a two-egg scramble that included spinach, bell peppers, carrots, patty pan squash (the only squash still producing in my garden), and topped the whole thing with fresh chopped tomatoes (still producing for me). Used ghee for my fat with that. Lunch was "Mexican style" chicken as found in Whole30 cookbook, spinach salad with tomatoes and avocado and the dressing also found in the cookbook, plus half a navel orange.  Dinner was seared venison butterfly steak and my own recipe for "healthy spicy hash browns," made from russet potatoes with skins on. Veggie was green beans aglio y olio and fruit was 3/4 Cup watermelon.  I can post recipes on forum if they aren't already there.


Thursday: Egg scramble (getting really tired of eggs, y'all), with sweet potato mash per cookbook, roasted snow peas and   leftover venison steak.  Lunch was turkey burger slathered in home-made guacamole, w raw snow peas and carrots, with the other half of my orange from the day before.  Dinner was grilled striped bass (tossed with EVOO, salt and pepper prior to grilling) drizzled with fresh lemon juice, served with steamed spinach and broccoli, with a small banana as my fruit.


95% of my "red meat" is venison (I occasionally buy a good beefsteak), and while my fish is usually freshwater fish, it is freshly caught from safe freshwater sources. 


Last night, at bedtime, I did ten minutes of leg/ankle stretches and hubby pressure-massaged my calves and ankles.  I took an Ambien because I was desperate for sleep, but I don't think I suffered any cramps because they wake me up in a heartbeat. Once I wake up in the night, I'm not going back to sleep for a couple of hours, period so simply stopping a cramp does not help with sleep deprivation. I dare not nap during the day because I won't sleep at all at night if I do.


This morning, my right hammy is sore, like it would be after a charlie-horse but other than that, I'm okay--don't have the muscle weakness I experienced yesterday morning. After reading the replies to my initial post, I took a spoonful of ACV followed by a glass of hot water, will see if that helps today, and will repeat again tonight.  Don't like the thought of what it might do to my tooth enamel.  Once you lose your enamel, you lose the tooth.


On the Earthclinic site, someone mentioned using pickled ginger, and although it was poo-pooed, I may try that as well.  I keep it in my fridge at all times simply because we love it--but it's getting hard to find a good, clean brand. Also will check into the tonic water suggested there.  I really don't like taking Ambien, or any other pharmaceutical, but like I said, I was desperate last night.


For the record, I am chemically sensitive to almost all man-made pharmaceuticals and I've been poo-pooed (told by many doctors in the past that "it can't be the medicine") regarding my reactions to pharmaceuticals.  When will physicians learn there is no "one size fits all?"  Evidently my body processes medications more slowly than most, because if you give me the "normal" dose of anything at the regular rate, I will usually become very ill and sometimes end up in the ER with "mysterious" symptoms.


So if the side effects of a pharmaceutical say "these serious side effects occur in about 2-4% of  the population," I'm in the 2-4%.  Therefore, many of my "meds" are natural products my physician approves because she knows I cannot take about 90% of Rx meds (no statins for my PAD, for example). Also can't take Tylenol, ibuprofen, etc.  I'm grateful for this caring, compassionate physician who doesn't tell me that the "flu-like symptoms" I experience, or the severe GI problems from antibiotics are all in my head.  I rarely get sick, but when I do, my physician and I do our best to find a natural remedy before she prescribes a pharmaceutical.


I know those last two paragraphs may seem off topic, but they are included to say that things that work a certain way for MOST of the population often have an opposite effect on me.  


Thanks again for all the replies, will keep you posted on what, if anything, works. 




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  • 3 months later...

I'm a long-distance hiker and I sweat a lot.  It took me several years of searching and experimenting to finally get over my leg cramps.  They were happening after hikes, that night, and sometimes mid-week at night. This happened despite eating foods with sodium and potassium, as well as electrolyte powders for my water.  But finally started using Hammer Endurolytes (no wheat, gluten, dairy or sugars, but Othe Ingredients list Rice Flour).  That did the trick for the most part.  Magnesium is said to be involved in a muscle relaxation (contract, relax, repeat), and Endurolytes have chleated magnesium which is absorbed well.  Still had a few leg cramps at night which led me to Doctor's Best 100% Chelated Magnesium (vegan, non-GMO, no soy that I can see) which has almost completely eliminated night-time leg cramps.  Hope this helps.

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If you are still experiencing these issues, google/youtube foam roller leg exercises. If your muscles are chronically knotted (due to how you sit at work or high impact exercise or any number of other reasons) a drastic change in diet may impact those knots in one way or another. By rolling them out you will release them in a controlled manner which may reduce the pain/cramping you experience at night.

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