Web Exclusive - Ask Amy

Published in the February/March 2013 issue.

Photo by Nathan Sayers

I’m prone to calf cramps, but if I eat a banana every day I can keep my muscles feeling pretty good. However, I will be dancing on tour for a month in France, and might not have access to my daily banana. Besides drinking plenty of water, what other suggestions do you have for keeping my legs healthy?  —Alison

I spoke with Jenna Marchitello and Andrea Grunberger, physical therapists who specialize in dance medicine at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA. Both agree that the legs cramps you’re experiencing probably stem from an electrolyte imbalance. When training heavily, dancers often lose important minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium through their sweat. “The reason bananas work so well is due to their high potassium content,” says Marchitello, “which helps balance out what’s being lost.” Other helpful sources include yogurt, dried apricots and coconut water.

While drinking plenty of water will help keep you hydrated, it won’t replace lost electrolytes. Luckily, electrolyte tablets (available at most health food stores) can help when natural sources are not available (plus, they’re travel friendly). “These can be dissolved in water and provide the proper balance required,” says Grunberger. “Just make sure to read the labels and avoid added sugars or other artificial ingredients, which are present in many sports drinks and supplements.”