How Mustard Helps Prevent Cramps While Running

Mustard with Spoon
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Mustard is not just for salty pretzels and hot dogs anymore. More and more road runners, trail runners, obstacle racers, and mud runners are grabbing a couple of extra packets when they walk out of a restaurant these days.

Not for a tasty condiment to top their meal but for race day. These days it is common to have a mustard packet right next to a gel pouch on race day. But why are so many flocking to this humble condiment for their next obstacle race or mud run?

Why Mustard Can Relieve Muscle Cramps

The reason for this mustard madness comes down to race day cramping. Many runners especially long distance obstacle racers and mud runners have a greater chance of experiencing muscle cramps on race day.

If the temperatures are hot, cramps can be a major factor. Cramps can be caused by dehydration or for many by acetylcholine, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter at neuromuscular junctions in skeletal muscle or simply put, it's important to your muscles. Acetylcholine is a chemical compound made up of acetic acid and choline, mustard contains acetic acid.

What Make Mustard Special

Mustard packets have a number of ingredients that help ward off the mid-race muscle cramps including turmeric and vinegar. Turmeric is derived from a plant in the ginger family. While ginger is known by many as an aid to stomach cramps, turmeric is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. This is where the yellow color is traditional American mustard comes from.

For years endurance athletes have praised pickle juice for its anti-cramping capabilities and have been sure to pack a jar of pickles along with the rest of the race fuel. While pickle juice has worked well for many athletes, some cannot stand the salty bitter taste. 

Both mustard and pickle juice share a common key anti-cramping ingredient, vinegar. The vinegar and also the sodium added to both the juice and mustard create a combination to help replenish deficiencies quickly while on course. 

Scientific Research

While there has been little peer-reviewed research on the topic of mustard as a sports supplement many athletes stories are compelling enough to at least give it a second thought.

It seems mustard is the perfect mixture of turmeric, vinegar, and sodium to help fight off the tough cramps that can occur on one of those tough mountain climbs in a race. The anecdotal evidence seems to be there. Many athletes say cramps are gone within minutes of ingesting a tablespoon or two.

Stocking up on Mustard Packets

So why again are all those athletes stocking up on those single serving packets? Well, it seems those packets are just about the exact amount of mustard one would want to ingest to help tackle those mid-obstacle race or mud run cramps.

Cramping can kill an obstacle racer or mud runners race day, a simple packet of mustard might be all that is needed to fight off that next cramp. Mustard is no longer just for pretzels and franks at the ballpark!

As with any supplement, test it out before using it on race day. See if it works for you and how your body reacts. There are two lines of thinking on mustard consumption some prefer one packet prior to the start of a race, while others use it as needed on course. As with any salty product be sure to drink lots of fluid while racing but most importantly find the products that are the best for you!