Making sure you get enough fluids and electrolytes during exercise can help you exercise for up to twice as long before experiencing exercise-induced muscle cramps, according to a study published in the "Journal of Athletic Training" in 2005. Leg cramps are one of the more common types of cramps, and exercise is one of the main causes. Whether orange juice will help depends on why your legs are cramping.
Potassium and Calcium Losses
Performing strenuous activities for more than an hour can deplete your potassium levels and cause muscle cramps, according to the University of Colorado Extension, which notes that a cup of orange juice replaces the potassium lost when you exercise hard for up to two hours. Each cup of orange juice provides about 13 percent of the daily value for potassium. Calcium is another electrolyte than can be lost through sweat during exercise and cause muscle cramps. If you choose calcium-fortified orange juice, it may help with these losses as well because each cup will provide 35 percent of the DV. Regular orange juice only provides 3 percent of the DV for calcium per cup, so it won't be as beneficial if low calcium levels are causing your cramps.
Sodium and Chloride Losses
An article published in "Current Sports Medicine Reports" in 2008 claims that losses of sodium or chloride through sweat are more likely to cause muscle cramps than losses of potassium or calcium. In the event of sodium or chloride loss, orange juice may not help with your leg cramps, as it only contains 5 milligrams of sodium per cup. Drinking an electrolyte beverage or eating a salty food, such as pretzels or nuts, can help you increase your sodium and chloride levels.
Some cramps are due to muscle fatigue or the overuse or injury of the muscle. If this is the case, orange juice won't help relieve your cramps. You may benefit from stretching or massaging the muscle, resting it and applying heat and then ice. Taking NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, can help you minimize any pain you may be feeling.
Dehydration as a Cause
Not getting enough fluid in general during exercise is the main cause of muscle cramps, according to MedlinePlus. Drinking any beverage, including water or orange juice, may help. If water or orange juice doesn't help relieve your cramps, they may be due to sodium loss. In this case, an electrolyte beverage containing sodium is a better choice than orange juice.
- MedlinePlus: Muscle Cramps
- Health-Alicious-Ness.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool
- Colorado State University Extension: Potassium and the Diet
- Current Sports Medicine Reports: Muscle Cramps During Exercise -- Is It Fatigue or Electrolyte Deficit?
- Journal of Athletic Training: Influence of Hydration and Electrolyte Supplementation on Incidence and Time to Onset of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps
- Go Ask Alice!: Muscle Cramps