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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 08-11-14, 12:42 PM   #1
dvdslw
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How to reduce cramping?

Not sure if I'm posting in the right spot but I am looking to complete a Century in about three weeks (Ride for Ronald, Orlando) but seem to hit a wall around 70mi. I feel like I have the energy and I'm somewhat comfortable but my back will tighten up and my legs will start cramping up especially while climbing. Yesterday was pretty bad, around 64mi in and almost to the car my legs were cramping so bad I had to stop and stretch to continue. It was really hot yesterday and I took a different route that had much more climbing than I'm used to and at one point I found myself without water and on the verge of heat exhaustion (poor planning/never again). My thinking is that I obviously need to keep hydrated first and foremost but is there any supplement,additive, or food that will help reduce the cramping? Does eating certain foods the day before help prepare your body for the stress it will be under the next day?
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Old 08-11-14, 01:05 PM   #2
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once I feel like I'm getting crampy I take a Hammer enduralyte. If I actually cramp, I take another enduralyte. Not sure if there is anything you can do other than that, but conditioning is important. I rarely cramp on the bike unless my conditioning is not quite up to what it needs to be. Cramps are poorly understood, so this might not pertain to you at all
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Old 08-11-14, 02:00 PM   #3
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10-4 on the poorly understood. One can spend hours reviewing the medical lit and the consensus is the same.

2-4 Saltsticks/hour or if the event has free Endurolytes, same dosage, religiously. Tape a small piece of paper on your stem that says "Mom" as a reminder.
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Old 08-11-14, 02:45 PM   #4
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Thanks, I'll look into the Hammer, the bike store I stop at during my rides has asked what I drink/eat while riding and its mostly just plain old water. Every so often I'll do the Cliff bars or gel shots. One of the guys said I should be eating at least one bar every hour to keep the energy going combined with electrolytes and keep drinking. I think the other day I was dehydrated and over did it a bit with those extra hills? This weekend I plan to stay hydrated, pick up some Endurolytes, and eat a bit more than usual. Maybe even take my camelback out of retirement just for the long rides?
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Old 08-11-14, 03:15 PM   #5
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I have gotten into a state that I understand as dehydration by eating too much electrolytes. I drink chocolate milk when I stop and that supplies a lot of sodium. When I'm in good shape, that's all I need.
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Old 08-11-14, 04:14 PM   #6
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I have gotten into a state that I understand as dehydration by eating too much electrolytes. I drink chocolate milk when I stop and that supplies a lot of sodium. When I'm in good shape, that's all I need.
Chocolate Milk? That's a new one, I would think the lactose would cause some kind of acid reflux?
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Old 08-11-14, 05:27 PM   #7
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... I took a different route that had much more climbing than I'm used to and at one point I found myself without water and on the verge of heat exhaustion (poor planning/never again). My thinking is that I obviously need to keep hydrated first and foremost ...
And there you have it.

Your body wasn't prepared for that amount of climbing. It's good to ease into these things ... gradually build up.

And you weren't hydrated. Aim to drink one 750 ml bottle of water every 1 to 1.5 hours ... or slightly more if it is a hot or windy day.


Regarding electrolytes ... yes, you need those too. One good source of electrolytes is salted almonds. But you might also look at dried apricots (they're missing the sodium but they've got the rest), potato chips, a combination of beef jerky and 100% pure orange juice, dill pickles.

You can look up the vitamins and minerals in food on this website:
Nutrition facts, calories in food, labels, nutritional information and analysis - NutritionData.com


And regarding food ... it is a good idea to aim for 200-300 calories per hour on longer rides (more than 2 hours). When you get fitter, you can get away with less than that.

Last edited by Machka; 08-11-14 at 05:40 PM.
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Old 08-11-14, 05:30 PM   #8
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I set my GPS (standard Garmin 500) to sound an alert every 20 minutes. At the alarm, I eat 100 calories, and wash them down with plain water. Every third beep (on the hour) I take 1-2 Enduralytes, depending on temperature and effort level.

I also set a HR alert near lactate threshold to make sure that I sit and spin if I'm climbing a hill too fast or trying to hang with a group that I should let go.

This causes a lot of beeping, but it keeps me honest and never lets food or water intake get too far behind.
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Old 08-11-14, 07:39 PM   #9
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Lower back pain can also result from a lack of core strength -- work on that and it'll help. And body position is different while climbing and can exacerbate that.

While learning to hydrate and keep your electrolytes in balance is key, you might also want to start doing some planks or other core work.
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Old 08-11-14, 09:06 PM   #10
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Lower back pain can also result from a lack of core strength -- work on that and it'll help. And body position is different while climbing and can exacerbate that.

While learning to hydrate and keep your electrolytes in balance is key, you might also want to start doing some planks or other core work.
Yes ... the stronger your core is, the more comfortable you'll be on a bicycle over a long period of time.
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Old 08-12-14, 06:47 AM   #11
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Thanks for the replies, I will take all of this advice and implement a plan which includes staying hydrated, eating some kind of snack/bar regularly during my longer rides, adding some electrolytes along with my water intake, and motivate myself to do some core exercises.
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Old 08-12-14, 11:38 AM   #12
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Don't grow old. Cramps get more frequent as you age.
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Old 08-13-14, 08:58 AM   #13
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"Don't grow old. Cramps get more frequent as you age."
Yep.
I will be 69 in a couple of months and live 70 miles north of Houston-hot and really humid. 25 years ago I lived and raced in Dallas which is really hot but not as humid-no cramping. Now I have cramping problems. i drink at least one large bottle of gatorade with a Nunn tablet per hour for rides longer than two hours. The Saturday morning "fast social (it isn't) ride is around 60 miles most of the time. The better trained I am the less i cramp or the further I can go before cramping. I can ride distance without cramping. But if I ride too long at an effort that is slightly above my fitness level I will cramp. I can get some indication of fitness by how far I go at a strong tempo before cramping or if I finish with the group without cramping at all. I have read that the cooling system doesn't work as well as you age-frankly nothing does!
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Old 08-13-14, 08:28 PM   #14
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You can pretty much take all the advice on cramping and throw it out the window because it doesn't all make much sense when it's all said and done.
What helps more than anything, seems to me, is fitness.
Electrolytes are supposed to prevent cramps. But, I've drank "Pickle Juice" until I sloshed and still had cramps. And I've done long hot rides drinking lots of water and just a little Gatorade and had no cramps.
Supposedly Endurolytes or Sports Legs or Pickle Juice or Gatorade or bananas prevent cramps, and it's all like the elephant repellant that you know it works because there aren't any elephants around.
Supposedly eating a whole tube of Rolaids will cure cramps. Then again, not doing anything for cramps, they'll go away at some point, too, so you never know what did what.
Do a ride, and one leg will cramp and one won't. So what, is one leg hogging the electrolytes?
Do a ride, and the muscles that start cramping are the ones you don't really use- like calves or feet.
Finish a ride, no problem, sit in the car for an hour driving home, and backs of thighs start cramping when you get out. So what, the Pickle Juice didn't make it to your butt and thighs or what?
Writhe around a minute, the cramps go away. So what, are there more electrolytes there than before you writhed around in pain?
Like I said, it doesn't make much sense.
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Old 08-13-14, 08:57 PM   #15
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StephenH you stated the issue better than I did. I agree the heart of my cramping is fitness or lack of fitness for the level of ride on which I cramped. The more fit I am for the tempo and hills the less I cramp.
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Old 08-13-14, 10:15 PM   #16
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If I have cramping on a ride, it's because I have exceeded my conditioning in some way, usually by doing more hill climbing than I'm used to. Having said that, it's somewhat unlikely that the OP will be able to improve his conditioning to the extent that this would go away in the next few weeks. But I'm a big believer in faking it.

I consider enduralytes and other forms of electrolytes to be a bandaid. In fact I'm pretty sure that I have recently seen that many people find relief from cramps simply by tasting something salty. It's not really necessary to actually ingest large amounts of these substances to have them work. I know that if I can get an enduralyte when I have a severe cramp, the cramp disappears when the pill hits my mouth. The notion that there is some physiological change due to the contents of the pill beyond that initial response is not that obvious to me. This is why I don't think that people that take an electrolyte pill every hour or so are really doing much for themselves, and possibly causing themselves problems.

If I'm just experiencing soreness in my leg muscles, that is a sign I need to eat. I can see that being described as "cramping," but it's not. However, I figure if I have acute cramping I probably need to eat.
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Old 08-14-14, 02:32 AM   #17
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Cramping is your body's way of telling you that it's being made to do something it is not prepared for. There is not much evidence that electrolytes (or lack thereof) are a big factor in cramping, despite what the supplement industry wants you to believe. Work your legs too hard, especially doing low cadence, high torque climbing when you're not much used to it and you're likely to cramp.

My advice to the OP is to only aim for completing and not so much worry about keeping some fixed pace, and also to use lighter gears for climbing where possible.

I now have 24 months of at least one century a month under my belt, with rides anywhere from 162 km to 575 km. I have yet to experience leg cramps. I never use electrolyte pills and hardly ever drink sports drinks, or even particularly seek out salty food on hot days and I sweat a lot (35C = 95F is quite common around here in summer). I'm OK because I take it slow and steady and am not afraid to use the ultra-low gears I have when it gets really steep.

Paying attention to eating and drinking throughout the ride are important too, as other have pointed out already.
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Old 08-14-14, 03:32 AM   #18
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For me ... dehydration is the Number One reason why I cramp.

And it is not just cycling related.

If I don't drink enough water during the day at work, my feet will cramp in the evening. I can be walking through a grocery store or sitting on my sofa, and all of a sudden my feet go into a severe cramp. And if I'm particularly dehydrated, my calves will cramp too. I don't have to be exerting myself at all.


Of course, I've noticed the same thing when cycling. Dehydration = cramps.

[HR][/HR]

My Number Two reason why I cramp would be lack of fitness, or more specifically the lack of fitness to tackle a particular challenge, like a big hill. Those cramps are usually quad cramps, and are they ever painful.

I've discovered that they can be eased by drinking A LOT of water. Taking a few electrolytes and a panadol seems to help too.

[HR][/HR]

My Number Three reason why I cramp is because of my shorts. As a ride progresses, the elastic around the the thighs seems to get tighter and tighter. I have to change immediately after a long ride or my quads will go into a cramp.

If that happens, I need to ease out of my shorts and into loose trackies ... and drink A LOT of water. Taking a few electrolytes and a panadol seems to help too.
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Old 08-14-14, 06:41 AM   #19
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Last year I had a lot of bad leg cramps where I had none the year before. I couldn't figure it out. Then I realized that I had changed saddles. I put the old one back on and VOILA! Cramps gone. Go figure. This year the cramps are back.
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Old 08-14-14, 06:44 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
You can pretty much take all the advice on cramping and throw it out the window because it doesn't all make much sense when it's all said and done.
What helps more than anything, seems to me, is fitness.
Electrolytes are supposed to prevent cramps. But, I've drank "Pickle Juice" until I sloshed and still had cramps. And I've done long hot rides drinking lots of water and just a little Gatorade and had no cramps.
Supposedly Endurolytes or Sports Legs or Pickle Juice or Gatorade or bananas prevent cramps, and it's all like the elephant repellant that you know it works because there aren't any elephants around.
Supposedly eating a whole tube of Rolaids will cure cramps. Then again, not doing anything for cramps, they'll go away at some point, too, so you never know what did what.
Do a ride, and one leg will cramp and one won't. So what, is one leg hogging the electrolytes?
Do a ride, and the muscles that start cramping are the ones you don't really use- like calves or feet.
Finish a ride, no problem, sit in the car for an hour driving home, and backs of thighs start cramping when you get out. So what, the Pickle Juice didn't make it to your butt and thighs or what?
Writhe around a minute, the cramps go away. So what, are there more electrolytes there than before you writhed around in pain?
Like I said, it doesn't make much sense.
I recently had a cramp in the back of my leg 2 hours after completing a ride. Never had one before. I will say they it was not pleasant. drink more, eat better, hope for the best I guess.
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Old 08-16-14, 06:27 PM   #21
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Well, tomorrow I am going for 100 miles so we'll see if I fair better with a few less hills and the introduction of endurolytes and sportslegs? I also plan to eat a pbj and few bananas with plenty of water too before I head out.
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Old 08-31-14, 02:22 PM   #22
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Cramps? Carry and eat a couple packs of mustard when needed. Not sure about this? Take some along and try it.
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Old 09-06-14, 09:12 AM   #23
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Hydration is something that needs to be maintained all the time...It's a good idea to place an emphasis upon hydration the 2 days before a long ride like that...I do Endurolytes as well. I like them because they don't mess with my stomach at all...and, pasta, man, every time I eat copious pasta in the days before a long ride I really feel on top of the endurance game. On the bike I carry Kind bars, Larabars, dried apricots, Nutella sandwiches, bananas...I'm going to try the mustard trick. I rarely cramp up but when I do I ride through it, I change my breathing rhythm, stretch on the bike...Stretching is important pre-ride for me, and really knowing how to relax your body and falling into a rhythm while riding is important. Dropping your shoulders and just kind of rocking along. You're whole body should be loose with your cadence. Some visualization goes a long way, sequence in your mind from the top down, head, neck, shoulders, arms, core, waist, etc...Most people don't realize how stiff they are when riding. Subconscious tension really saps your energy.
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Old 09-06-14, 11:34 AM   #24
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I'm prone to cramps in my calves. Being in good physical condition for the intended distance is best, Sports Legs works for me when I've exceeded my conditioning. I can see leg muscles quivering on the verge of a cramp and in a few minutes after taking a single tablet that will subside.
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Old 09-07-14, 10:51 AM   #25
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Only one person mentioned stretching! (Although all the other advice in thread seems good to me).

Cycling can be very tough on hamstrings and calves - tightening-wise. Stretch before and after (and periodically during if you need to), calves quads and hamstrings. You can do a bit for your calves on the bike. Walking up a hill (shoe choice might be an issue) can be a good opportunity to stretch and loosen off.

It may be that stretching has an inordinately big impact on me - could be the same for you.
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