The 8 Best Vitamins for Leg Cramps, According to a Registered Dietitian

Medically Reviewed by Felicia Newell, RD

Updated on January 23, 2024

Leg cramps, muscle cramps, charley horses…whatever you call them, they’re painful. You’ll know as soon as you have one—it’s a sudden, involuntary contraction of the leg muscle (usually in your calf) that lasts a few seconds to several minutes.  While common, they can potentially be avoided as long as you take the right steps (1). 

As a registered dietitian, I have helped many people try and overcome leg cramps through their nutritional choices. And after reading this article, you will learn what causes leg cramps, which vitamin is best for leg cramps, and how to stop leg cramps immediately.

What Causes Leg Cramps?

Knowing the cause of leg cramps is crucial to addressing the root cause and creating an effective treatment around it. For instance, if your cramps are due to dehydration, drinking more water may be an effective solution. Or if your leg cramps are due to a mineral imbalance, drinking water with electrolytes could help.

That said, the cause of leg cramps can vary, but here are some of the most common reasons why people may experience this condition (2):

  • Poor blood circulation
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte imbalances 
  • Diuretics, statins, and steroids use  
  • Aging
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes

The 8 Best Supplements for Leg Cramps

In most cases, alleviating leg cramps can be achieved through a natural vitamin, mineral, or herb. However, it’s important to know that not every remedy will work for every person. Because of this, it is important to discuss any supplementation plan you are considering with your personal health care provider. 

If you experience leg cramps, here are some supplements to consider with your doctor or dietitian:

1. Electrolytes

Electrolytes are also essential in preventing leg cramps. These minerals, which include sodium, potassium, and calcium, help to regulate nerves and muscle functioning. An imbalance or deficiency in electrolytes can disrupt normal muscle contraction and relaxation, leading to painful cramps in the legs (3).  

Drinking electrolyte mixes, eating electrolyte-rich foods, or taking dietary supplements can help maintain a healthy electrolyte balance. T

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2. Magnesium

Magnesium supplements are often recommended as a good solution for leg cramps. This is because low levels of magnesium in the body can lead to muscle cramps, and an increased intake can help alleviate the symptoms. Magnesium helps muscles relax and contract, and it plays a key role in muscle function (4). 

When choosing a magnesium supplement, opting for one with magnesium glycinate is ideal.

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3. Calcium

While magnesium supplements are often recommended for leg cramps, it's worth mentioning that calcium also plays crucial roles in muscle function and can potentially help alleviate leg cramps (5). 

Calcium is necessary for muscle contraction, and a lack of calcium can cause leg cramps. Both of these supplements can be beneficial in managing leg cramps. But just as with magnesium, it’s imperative to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

4. Potassium

If you ever played a sport, you were probably told to eat a banana before a game or practice to prevent cramping. Well, your coach might have been onto something. One large banana contains about 487 milligrams of potassium, which is roughly 10% of the Daily Value you need (6). Potassium is essential for nerve function and muscle control, and a deficiency can lead to muscle cramps (7). 

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a significant role in maintaining proper muscle function, aiding in the prevention and management of leg cramps. It also assists in the absorption of calcium, another critical nutrient for muscle function (as previously mentioned).

A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to lower calcium absorption, subsequently resulting in muscle cramps, among other symptoms (8). Therefore, ensuring an adequate intake of vitamin D, through sunlight exposure, diet, or supplements (if needed and approved by a healthcare provider), can be beneficial in mitigating leg cramps.

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6. Vitamin B12

Another essential nutrient to consider when addressing muscle cramps is vitamin B12. This vitamin is involved in maintaining nerve function and the production of DNA and red blood cells, all of which are crucial elements in muscle health and function (9). 

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to a variety of neuromuscular issues, including muscle weakness and cramps. Increasing dietary intake of vitamin B12-rich foods like fish, meat, poultry, and eggs or taking a B12 supplement (when advised by a healthcare provider), could potentially mitigate muscle cramps.

7. Cinnamon

Cinnamon bark is another natural ingredient that has been linked to alleviating muscle cramps, including those in the legs. Its anti-inflammatory properties may help soothe the muscles and ease pain associated with cramping (10). Although, more high quality data is needed to support this link.

8. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm, also known as Melissa officinalis, is an herb known for its calming effects and its potential to aid in various health issues. Interestingly, it's also been traditionally used to help with muscle cramps. 

The antispasmodic properties of lemon balm can potentially help in relaxing muscle spasms, including those in the legs (11). It can be consumed as a tea, tincture, or in capsule form, but as always, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider before beginning any new herbal regimen. 

While research on lemon balm's effectiveness for leg cramps is limited, anecdotal evidence and its use in traditional medicine suggest potential benefits.

Other Home Remedies for Leg Cramps

Supplements are just one piece of the leg cramp-relief puzzle. Along with considering some of the aforementioned supplemental remedies, there are some home remedies that have been used for many years.

Vinegar

A folk remedy often mentioned in discussions about muscle cramps is the consumption of vinegar, specifically apple cider vinegar (ACV). Why does vinegar stop leg cramps? 

Proponents of this method argue that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar helps the body produce more acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that stimulates muscles, potentially assisting in the prevention and treatment of muscle cramps (12). 

Furthermore, ACV is rich in potassium, a mineral known to influence muscle function, which could further explain its purported effectiveness. (One tablespoon of ACV has about 11 mg of potassium.)

However, scientific research is inconclusive on the direct benefits of vinegar for muscle cramps, making it vital to approach this remedy with caution and seek professional medical advice before integrating it into your routine.

It is especially important to take it as directed, which includes diluting it with an adequate amount of water. If it is not properly diluted, it can cause irritation of the teeth and esophageal tract over time. 

Pickle Juice

Another somewhat surprising remedy for muscle cramps is pickle juice. Yes, you read that right! Numerous athletes swear by the power of pickle juice in mitigating muscle cramps. 

The theory behind this remedy lies in the high electrolyte and hydration properties of pickle juice, which may help replenish lost fluids and minerals—particularly sodium—that are often linked with muscle cramps. A small volume of pickle juice could potentially alleviate a cramp in a matter of minutes. 

However, like any home remedy, it's important to use pickle juice for muscle cramps thoughtfully and be aware that its effectiveness can vary from person to person. If you’re wondering how long it takes for pickle juice to stop leg cramps, that answer will take a little trial-and-error, as everybody will react differently to this home remedy.

Research on pickle juice is ongoing, and you should always consult with a healthcare provider before trying new treatments. 

Lauren Manaker
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Lauren Manaker

Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian (RDN), certified lactation educator (CLE), author, and speaker with over 20 years of experience. She earned her BS in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida (go Gators!) and an MS in Clinical Nutrition from Rush University in Chicago.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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