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Training & Nutrition Learn how to develop a training schedule that's good for you. What should you eat and drink on your ride? Learn everything you need to know about training and nutrition here.

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Old 11-25-05, 07:26 AM   #1
jbdmd
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Why do I cramp so much?

Hello

I started mountain biking about 15 years ago. I have been road cycling for the past 2 years. I noticed long ago that I tend to cramp more than my peers. Mostly in my quads, but occasionally in my calfs, inner thighs and some times forarms and hands. Some of why I cramp is obvious. I cramp more when I was less fit. I cramp more when I am less well hydrated. I notice that, even a single cup of coffee can leed to cramps. Last weekend I was doing a century race and cramped so badly I crrashed and the cramping started at about mile 45. This is very strange b/c I routinely ride much longer and harder without crmaping at all.

My questions:

1)how should i be hydrating before, during and after a ride?
2)is there something else i can do to lower my likelyhood of cramping?
3)does stretching help?
4)any good books on the topic?
5)any hydrating drinks, powders or supplments you would suggest?
6)anyone out there overcome cramps?
7)any other suggestions??
8)any foods i should avoid?

thanks for any info
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Old 11-25-05, 08:34 AM   #2
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I get cramps if I don't drink enough water.

Drink plenty of water before, during, and after riding.
In warmer months empty a water bottle every 15 miles. In cooler months every 20 miles.
Eat bananas or other foods with potassium.
Yogurt is good too - calcium.
See if sports drinks help.
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Old 11-25-05, 09:40 AM   #3
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Cramping is caused by:

- dehydration. You should be drinking one 750 ml (3 cup) bottle of water and/or sports drinks every 1 to 1.5 hours while cycling/exercising. Keeping up with that '8 glasses a day' while you are off the bicycle is probably not a bad idea either.

- lack of electrolytes: potassium and sodium. This is not usually a problem among people who eat a lot of processed foods. Processed foods are full of those, but if you're trying to eat a healthy diet and are preparing your meals from scratch, or if you are exercising so that you are sweating heavily ... you may be running a little low on those. Getting sodium is easy, and as for potassium, things like dried apricots, potatoes, and bananas are quite high in it.

- lack of stretching and cool down work. Muscles can cramp if you just leap off the bicycle (or stop running or whatever) and sit or lie down. It's not a bad idea to ride easy at the end of your ride, or go for a light walk, and to stretch a bit when you get off the bicycle.

And you might also check to make sure you are getting enough calcium and magnesium in your diet - take the recommended doses NOT more. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant, but can have bad side effects if too much is taken.
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Old 11-25-05, 11:19 AM   #4
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Don't forget you need to take in a lot more electrolytes than normal people. In general, you'll need about 1000mg of sodium per hour to match what's being sweated away. On a century ride, you may end up needing 6000mg of salt. That ends up putting your total daily intake at THREE TIMES what normal people eat. If you're not getting this much salt in your diet, that's most likely the source of your cramping.

There's a bad side-effect of always thinking "more water is better" without taking in elecrolytes as well. Only drink just enough to replenish what you've sweated away. A little more won't hurt, but a lot more will cause excessive peeing. Same with coffee. You end up peeing out a lot of your body's salts and end up with a hyponatremia condition. The rates of athletes (especially runners) having this condition is on the rise as well as the deaths caused by it. I always carry some salt-tabs in seat-bag. Hikers use these a lot to prevent cramping and dehydration. You can get them at any sporting-goods store like Big-5. I eat one every hoiur if I'm drinking just plain water.
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Old 11-25-05, 11:44 AM   #5
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As everyone has mentioned, electrolytes play a key role in preventing cramps as does proper hydration, and the two must be used in moderation. As Machka said, calcium and magnesium are also very important electrolytes that 90% of people overlook. Another thing you might want to check is your fit. An improper fit can lead to cramps as I learned in the RFTR century. My seat was way too far back (After my tune-up hmmmmm ) and I started to cramp up severly in my hammies and calfs. Hope this helps.
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Old 11-25-05, 06:02 PM   #6
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thanks to all
very helpful!
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Old 11-25-05, 08:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
Don't forget you need to take in a lot more electrolytes than normal people. In general, you'll need about 1000mg of sodium per hour to match what's being sweated away. On a century ride, you may end up needing 6000mg of salt. That ends up putting your total daily intake at THREE TIMES what normal people eat. If you're not getting this much salt in your diet, that's most likely the source of your cramping.

There's a bad side-effect of always thinking "more water is better" without taking in elecrolytes as well. Only drink just enough to replenish what you've sweated away. A little more won't hurt, but a lot more will cause excessive peeing. Same with coffee. You end up peeing out a lot of your body's salts and end up with a hyponatremia condition. The rates of athletes (especially runners) having this condition is on the rise as well as the deaths caused by it. I always carry some salt-tabs in seat-bag. Hikers use these a lot to prevent cramping and dehydration. You can get them at any sporting-goods store like Big-5. I eat one every hoiur if I'm drinking just plain water.
i won't go into my problems with cramping. i will say that i never used to salt my food or anything that i ate; i never really could taste it, it had a really bad reputation, and there is so much salt put in everything you eat that i figured i was getting enough. i started salting my food and it's solved a lot of my cramping problems. since then, i call myself the only person in america who doesn't get enough salt. i think danno has a good point; try taking more salt and see if it helps. i don't use salt tablets, but i salt a whole lot of what i eat now, and the cramping is noticeably reduced
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Old 11-26-05, 07:40 AM   #8
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Yep, just like water, carb/fat/protein and electrolyte intake needs to be adjusted for the level of activity you have. A doctor actually diagnosed my low-sodium problem as a kid when I had a problem with cramping and dehydration while playing soccer.

You can also try a 50/50 mix of normal sodium-salt with "No-Salt"; a potassium-choride version. Low sodium-levels will actually cause an acceleration of potassium-excretions as well (a rapid downward spiral). The idea is to balance your sodium and potassium/magnesium intake. It's also this ratio that really determines risk for hypertension. Low potassium-levels are also linked to rheumatoid arthritis. Again, nothing is simple, there's always multiple processes going on in many different directions.

Journal Applied Physiology
Changes in renal and central noradrenergic activity with potassium in DOCA-salt rats
Potassium's cardiovascular protective mechanisms

New England Journal of Medicine
A Clinical Trial of the Effects of Dietary Patterns on Blood Pressure (indirect test of increasing potassium/magnesium intake)

American Heart Association
Normotensive Salt Sensitivity 0n Effects of Race and Dietary Potassium

Last edited by DannoXYZ; 11-26-05 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 11-26-05, 07:45 AM   #9
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OK - I'm a weekend warrior but in excellent general shape and have much more muscle mass than avg cyclist - I had the worst cramping of my life on a humid day in August (think TX) where I had a couple cups of coffee (along with plenty of water). Didn't ride that far when terrible cramps hit (around mile 25) and my other dudes that I always hang with were fine. I got some Endurance caps from Hammer nutrition and it never happened again, coffee or not. I doubt mine was dehydration cause I drink tons of water and ride in heat without problems all summer. The caps were $20 and will last me a year - cheap investment. My brother (genes and looks/build very similar) also cramped bad in spite of everything he tried - except one thing an old retired physician told him - he drinks a small (8oz) of tonic water (w/quinine) about an hour before running and he has never cramped again. E Caps are easier to transport and don't taste as bad as tonic water.
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Old 11-26-05, 07:49 AM   #10
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Are you talking about this?

Hammer Nutrition - Endurolytes

Electrolyte Replenishment

Superior support for the prevention of cramping, spasms, and other heat related issues
Enhanced endurance from effective, complete, balanced electrolyte replenishment
Efficient absorption of nutrients eliminates upset stomach
Flexible dosing provides effective electrolyte replacement for all body types under all conditions
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Old 11-26-05, 11:46 AM   #11
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I also use Endurolytes and never have had a problem with cramps. During the summer, here in FL, I take 2 an hour.
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Old 11-27-05, 03:44 PM   #12
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I've yet to cramp in my life. Don't seem to be much affected by salt or hydration level, because I'm often severely dehydrated on some rides. I think it's genetic, mostly.
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