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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 06-25-09, 08:01 PM   #1
jwade
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leg cramps

I'm a 57 year-old road rider with a major problem with getting muscle cramps during and after riding. I take calcium supplements, eat bananas (two-three daily) and when riding I drink gator-aid and use Clif shot energy gel. I sweat more than the adverage person so I try to keep my electrolytes replaced. I'm not a racer, just a recreactional rider who enjoys 50 to 100 mile rides. I ride about 5000 miles yearly. I hear people talk about potassium helping but all I've found for a supplement is "potassium gluconate". The lable says this is for controling the activity of the heart muscle, nothing about muscle cramps so I don't know if it's the same thing.
Any ideas on how can I prevent these cramps during and after rides?
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Old 06-25-09, 08:09 PM   #2
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Stretching after rides, massage therapy, epsom salt baths, hydration, proper warm up and recovery days. Worked for me.
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Old 06-25-09, 09:59 PM   #3
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Do you eat a natural foods diet with home-cooked meals? If so, you may be low in salt. You need a minimum of 3/4 tsp. salt per day, a little more is OK.

Magnesium seems to be more important than calcium for cramp prevention. Your calcium supplements should have half as much magnesium as calcium, plus vitamin D. I take 500mg calcium citrate + 250 mg. magnesium after every hard ride. Nature's Science is cheap and good quality. Most people get plenty of potassium in their diet.

During the ride, try taking Endurolytes, sold by Hammer Nutrition, at a rate of at least 1/hr. These are pretty standard for long distance cyclists and a proven help. Many people also get good results from taking Tums during a ride.
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Old 06-26-09, 03:15 PM   #4
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sometimes the cramps are just a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard for too long, I was cramping early in the season when really pushing myself but now I really have to go all out i.e 25 mile TT before they creep back and that tends to be only the calves...not all out cramp in the thigh on both legs front and back and the calves.... that was not a fun ride had about 10 miles of constant cramping.....
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Old 06-26-09, 05:48 PM   #5
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Your muscles use magnesium to relax and calcium to contract. A cramp is a muscle contraction that failed to release. Take LESS calcium and add magnesium.

Anthony
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Old 06-27-09, 10:09 AM   #6
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What I've learned this season (the hard way):

1. Off-season training is paramount.
2. Keep hydrated with a high-quality electrolyte replacement (I use Nuun tablets)
3. Keep hydrating with (2) after your ride, your body is still depleting your stores long after you stop. A couple of weeks ago, I had a post-8hr-ride leg cramp that almost brought me to tears.
4. Gatorade doesn't have enough electrolytes for me, gets me sick to my stomach, and discourages water consumption. (see #2)
5. Keep adjusting your approach until you find what works. Lots of people recommend E-load, and such. I've tried it and had the same problem as Gatorade.
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Old 07-02-09, 12:58 PM   #7
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stretch
salt in your water bottles
potassium supplements (bananas have very little potassium) most foods have non
magnesium supplement (not too much or you'll get loose bowels)
massage
warm bath with epsom salt or whirlpool (20 minute minimum)
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Old 07-02-09, 03:15 PM   #8
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Any ideas on how can I prevent these cramps during and after rides?
Hard to say what's going on. But if you are eating several bananas per day and using Gatorade - electrolyte levels may not be the cause of your cramps.

Bear in mind, that too much of a mineral can cause problems as well. I would not recommend potassium supplements without a metabolic panel and the approval of a physician.

Again, understand that mineral levels must be balanced for healthy nerve conduction - and that cramping has been found to occur in individuals without electrolyte shortages. You should consider adjusting your training down to a level where there is little cramping, and then restarting your program.
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Old 07-04-09, 01:09 AM   #9
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Your muscles use magnesium to relax and calcium to contract. A cramp is a muscle contraction that failed to release. Take LESS calcium and add magnesium.

Anthony
thanks for this, EXTREMELY useful info
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Old 09-21-09, 03:29 PM   #10
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Orange juice is an excellent and easy to find source of potassium

I've been told that leg cramps can be a sign of low potassium. The easiest way to get some potassium in you is to drink some orange juice. It has more potassium than bananas (surprise to me!) and also gives you some much needed fluid during a ride. I've used the orange juice when I've had some serious quadriceps and hamstrings cramping during rides over 50 miles, and it helped quite a bit.
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Old 09-21-09, 04:17 PM   #11
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I've been told that leg cramps can be a sign of low potassium. The easiest way to get some potassium in you is to drink some orange juice. It has more potassium than bananas (surprise to me!) and also gives you some much needed fluid during a ride. I've used the orange juice when I've had some serious quadriceps and hamstrings cramping during rides over 50 miles, and it helped quite a bit.
Once again:

Orange juice does nothing to hydrate you while riding, the high nutrient content means that it requires more water for your kidneys to process all that is being put into your body; so, regardless of the fact that it is liquid, orange juice does almost nothing to rehydrate you and can actually increase your chances of dehydration when consumed during or before exercise.

The water content of the juice is negated by the amount of water it takes your kidneys to process all of the vitamins and minerals found in the juice. It is for this same reason that drinking ocean water, though water it is, dehydrates you because it takes more water for your kidneys to process the salt in the water than is present in the water itself.

Last edited by OptionalStick3; 09-21-09 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 09-21-09, 06:38 PM   #12
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If you decide to get some Magnesium, and this is a reasonable idea, get Magnesium Glycinate. Its more easily absorbed than the cheaper variety found in common suppliments and vitamins (ie, Mag oxide).

For Potassuim, get Potassium Gluconate for the same reason.
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Old 09-22-09, 12:00 AM   #13
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Once again:

Orange juice does nothing to hydrate you while riding, the high nutrient content means that it requires more water for your kidneys to process all that is being put into your body; so, regardless of the fact that it is liquid, orange juice does almost nothing to rehydrate you and can actually increase your chances of dehydration when consumed during or before exercise.

The water content of the juice is negated by the amount of water it takes your kidneys to process all of the vitamins and minerals found in the juice. It is for this same reason that drinking ocean water, though water it is, dehydrates you because it takes more water for your kidneys to process the salt in the water than is present in the water itself.
Thanks for the correction that orange juice does not hydrate. Orange juice is a very easy way though to get some potassium in you when you are having cramps. Drinking some orange juice has really helped me when I am getting cramps in my quadriceps and hamstrings.
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Old 09-22-09, 08:00 AM   #14
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I think a lot of you are overcomplicating the issue greatly. 2 of the most common causes of cramps during prolonged cycling are actually dehydration and poor fit. I would seriously look at those 2 issues before wasting time with electrolyte pills, supplements, and all the other stuff suggested above.

You may do even OK with a poor fit for shorter rides as your muscles may adapt, but the moment they start getting fatigued the poor fit becomes evident by either pain or cramping. Spend the time and money and get someone to get you fitted well to the bike. I would start with the general bike fit and follow it with a very good cleat/shoe fit.
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Old 10-02-09, 09:00 AM   #15
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I am very interested in the thread. I have started suffering cramps hours after rides, not during. This is after recovery, eating, drinking etc. The cramps are also in unusual locations, inside of the thigh, up through the hip joint. The magnesium idea seems worth considering. BTW, at this point in the season, over activity is not really an issue for me. My regular week is 150 miles with intervals and hill repeats. Cramps only seem to happen after high cadance speed drills that last an hour or more.
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Old 10-02-09, 09:34 AM   #16
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unusual locations, inside of the thigh, up through the hip joint.
Improper fit.

i have this problem, not as much as I used to. I got some pedal extenders.
http://www.bikefit.com/products.php


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Old 10-05-09, 07:08 PM   #17
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Update to original post of leg cramps

Thanks for all the info. It sounds like most are about the same. I have been using 500mg of calcium supplements and 250mg of magnesium daily since I first posted. I also started using Gatoraid Endurance during extra hard or long rides and then taking another 250mg of magnesium when done. I also use the old fashion after ride drink of chocolate milk. So far so good, no more cramps either during or after rides. Though if I pull my legs up behind me without using my arms to stretch them they will start to cramp. After riding the STP "Seatle-to-Portland" ride in one day and no problems I figured things must be working for now.
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Old 10-14-09, 08:29 PM   #18
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Big time cramper... used to be!

I was a huge cramper!!!! Big Time pain in the inner thighs after and during hard efforts. A couple of years ago that could be 25 or 30 miles into a training ride. As my conditioning increased my cramping subsided.
I'm a huge believer in that if you've addressed the electrolyte situation and are hydrating well, then conditioning is your key and there's no shortcuts here. Just get good recovery and use harder more intense but shorter efforts to adapt your body for the longer efforts.
If you are a salty sweater you can ad a bit more salt to your drink while riding. I use a pinch of mortons lite salt in my accelerade.
I use a calcium supp. called Sportlegs (3 caps pre-ride) I firmly believe these have helped as I seem to cramp more on rides that i forget to take them.
Conditioning, conditioning conditioning(and sportlegs)
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Good luck
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