Thursday, March 29, 2007

Got Low-Carb Leg Cramps? Get More Potassium

I've noticed a trend among the e-mails I have been receiving lately. It looks like people are trying to get back to the basics of their low-carb lifestyle and ask questions that most of us long-term low-carbers are already familiar with. That's okay because I realize there are a bunch of new people who are livin' la vida low-carb in 2007.

You'll never see me complain about answering one of these elementary low-carb questions because it means there are likely hundreds or even thousands more people who have the exact same question. So, in the interest of continuing the education about low-carb living, I'd like to share with you a short, but extremely good question about low-carb.

Here's the e-mail from my reader:

I love doing low-carb and it totally works for me, but I have a problem--horrible debilitating leg spasms. Have you every heard of this?

Have I ever HEARD of this? Oh yeah, I know ALL about the leg cramps you get when you first start livin' la vida low-carb. My wife Christine can testisfy the many nights I used to wake up at 2:00am screaming in pain from leg cramps. Holy cow, this is a very nasty side effect of going on a low-carb diet that I wish somebody had told me how to avoid beforehand.

Thankfully I taught myself what I needed to do to overcome these excruciating leg spasms that would sometimes cripple my legs for days. Yes, I STILL hopped on the treadmill and walked through the pain from these leg cramps because absolutely nothing was going to stop me from succeeding.

Despite these horrifying memories during my first year of livin' la vida low-carb, I have the answer that could help you and anyone else who is putting up with their own pain. Some have it more severe than others, but there is a simple remedy--POTASSIUM! As I wrote about in my book, proper supplementation is important throughout your low-carb weight loss and I list potassium as an essential ingredient for your low-carb diet.

I took about 300mg potassium and even found some almonds that were "salted" with potassium and are absolutely delicious. Atkins bars and shakes are also LOADED with healthy potassium levels, too. Read your labels and try to get more potassium in your diet. Beware of bananas, though, which have a ton a potassium, but are loaded with sugar at a grand total of 29g carbohydrates. EEEK!

For now, try to work through the pain in your legs. I've been there and it DOES pass...eventually. You and anyone else suffering from these cramps are gonna make it (I promise!). Hang in there!

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Blogger lc_christians said...


Love your blog, but was disappointed that you only mentioned Atkins bars & shakes as a high-potassium source. They stall so many people (yes, I know.. not all people) that they should be on the bottom of the list. There are so many REAL low carb foods that are excellent sources of potassium! Here's a list:

HIGH potassium (more than 225 milligrams per 1/2 c. serving)

All meats, poultry and fish are high in potassium.
Lima beans
Winter squash

MODERATE (125 - 225 mg per serving)

Loose-leaf lettuce
Mushrooms, fresh
Summer squash, including zucchini

There's also Morton's Light Salt, which is half sodium and half potassium. A good option.

It should also be noted that some people should avoid high potassium foods or supplements due to medications or medical conditions. It's highly advised to consult with your doctor regarding this.

Have a great low carb day, Jimmy! Keep up the good work! Blessings to you!

3/30/2007 9:23 AM  
Blogger Sparky's Girl said...

While not something you'd want every day, avacados are also a great source of potassium.

3/30/2007 10:07 AM  
Blogger Robin Bayne said...

Potassium is wonderful for leg cramps-also try Quinine, as in Diet Tonic Water!

3/30/2007 10:25 AM  
Blogger Robin Bayne said...

Potassium is wonderful for leg cramps-also try Quinine, as in Diet Tonic Water!

3/30/2007 10:25 AM  
Blogger teapotsgalore said...

Boy, you ain't kidding! I have always suffered from bad leg and foot cramps my entire life, but much more so once I started low-carb 3 years ago. I was "cheating" periodically with 'nanas (which I love), but not happy about all the carbs. So now I'm on potassium supplements, and as long as I remember to take them every day, things are much better. But what a pain in the ... leg! ;)

3/30/2007 10:43 AM  
Blogger mrfritznyc said...

here's how I eliminated the leg cramp problem... I quit doing "cardo". All I do is the slowburn weight program (2 x 25 min. workouts per week) and I am stronger than I've ever been. I've become convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that steady state aerobic exercise ("cardio") is just a waste of time, not to mention hard on your joints, etc.

3/30/2007 10:50 AM  
Blogger joyceej said...

Remember Avocados also for potassium. They are loaded with it.


3/30/2007 10:59 AM  
Blogger BamaGal said...

Thanks for pointing this out...leafy green veggies----collards, turnip greens, spinach, Kale-- and canned fish---like sardines, tuna, salmon---are a good source of potassium also.
And once you begin to add fruits back in--canteloupe, honeydew, strawberries---are also good sources.
chicken, fish, and turkey---3 oz has over 300 mg of potassium---

3/30/2007 1:43 PM  
Blogger Vo said...

Don't large amounts of potassium supplements result in an upset stomach?

3/30/2007 6:05 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

There's a product called "lo-salt" which is half potassium/half sodium and a product called "no-salt" which is mostly potassium. I mix one of these into plain yogurt and have a few spoonfuls in the morning and before bed. Plain yogurt tastes much better with salt added, and the creaminess counteracts any acidity created by the potassium/sodium.

Regarding the warnings above, I avoid asking doctors anything, since they are so hostile to anything low-carb, so it would be nice if someone could get some more real info on the body chemistry which makes potassium supplementing necessary, and exactly how much should we have. Maybe we could ask Dr. Vernon. If we need to become a low-carb society, then we will all have to get educated on this subject.

Someone in a recent post about sodium said the digestive system needs potassium, so in the absence of carbs, it leaches potassium and sodium from the muscles, hence the cramping. It's a dramatic side-effect, but it shows the real power of low-carb to effect body chemistry. The vegetable sources listed above are a great help and I suppose are the healthiest way to supplement, if you can find an effective mix.

3/30/2007 6:21 PM  
Blogger BillyHW said...

The soy milk I use also has quite a bit of potassium.

3/30/2007 7:38 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS for all the great comments everyone. I had to post it quickly (because of my role as an extra on a movie set this weekend) and left out all of this excellent information you provided. You guys are amazing sources of information and I appreciate your input. :)

3/30/2007 8:23 PM  
Blogger Low Carb Chef said...

sounds crazy, but pickle juice works too...add a couple no sugar added dill pickles to your diet, and poof, no more leg cramps...ironically, this fix was figured out by a pregnant woman who was also prone to the cramps...(she probably ate hers with ice cream ;) ) just watch that your pickles aren't too loaded up with sodium...

3/31/2007 4:19 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Peanut butter also has almost 100mg potassium per tablespoon.

Pickle juice is great in the summer, if your tongue or your stomach can stand the vinegar.

4/03/2007 12:03 AM  
Blogger David Harley said...

i was wondering if there is a danger in too much potassium? I take Potassium supplements up to 80% of my RDA and then hope to get the balance from food. I also take sodium (from chicken stock) and magnesium. Yet I still get massive cramps in my legs while swimming. As I am training for an endurance swim, this is not ideal. I was planning to double my Potassium supplement for 2 weeks to see if this helps but am worried of over doing it. I am also quite a big guy so maybe I should be taking more than the RDA anyway. Thoughts?

4/25/2013 6:43 AM  
Anonymous Nurse Jon said...

We also need salt. With the Water Cures Protocol, using a pinch of salt dissolved in the mouth and then drink 8to 10 ounces of water, depending on size.

This is the oral version of a saline IV like you get in the hospital.

We need sodium and potassium in a specific ratio.

To the question above, too much potassium can cause hyperkalemia. This can have you experience tingling of the extremities, weakness or even cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm that can be deadly)

Unlike table salt, unprocessed sea salt will lower high blood pressure so long as water is consumed with it.

1/11/2014 7:44 AM  

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