The truth about Atkins and leg cramps

One of those killer leg cramps woke me up this morning. The muscle of my right calf — it’s almost always the right one — was knotted so tightly that it strangled

the breath out of me.

I wonder what happened to that bottle?

I stumbled to my feet and limped around, whining, until it loosened up. As I lurched drunkenly, with the cats studying me curiously, it hit me: Killer leg cramps really are tied to water consumption.

I didn’t drink much H2O Thursday. I forgot to grab some bottles to stash in the fridge at work, and only wanted to spend $1 on vending machine water. (It’s my frugal side coming out: I can pay $3 for a 24 pack of 16-ounce bottles at the store or spend $1 for one 20-ouncer at the office. I know — it’d be cheaper still to drink tap water. I need to get back in that habit.)

I also didn’t drink a whole lot on Friday. I started my morning with one bottle, then drank a Diet Dr Pepper and a faux Frappuccino before downing two more bottles of water (and another Diet Dr Pepper) throughout my night at work.

Not good enough, I know — and I paid for it. Earlier in the week, when I was averaging more than 70 ounces a day, I was cramp-free. This morning, after two consecutive days of low H2O consumption, cramp city.

In “The New Atkins for a New You,” the authors say leg cramps and other symptoms of “the Atkins flu” — fatigue, light-headedness when standing or exposed to heat, weakness, headaches — are usually caused by consuming too little sodium. They recommend daily consumption of 2 cups of broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt or 2 tablespoons of regular soy sauce.

But on the message boards at, user after user points out the importance of getting enough water when it comes to staving off leg cramps.

Lesson learned — the hard way. You can bet I’ll be downing extra water for the next few days. A little soy sauce or broth couldn’t hurt, either.


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