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  1. #1
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    Question on Potassium

    Couple times in the past week I started cramping in the calves during my ride (first time this year; rides are typically 20-30 miles). Read up on it, most answers are "hydrate!" and "eat bananas!" (potassium).

    I often eat a banana before a ride but don't detect a correlation with cramping... so thought I'd check out potassium supplements. The ones I looked at supply 90mg K, or just 3% DV. Eat one banana and you get 8 times that much. So this doesn't make sense to me - I expected a "supplement" would deliver ~100% RDA, or at least significantly more than one would get from a normal diet. Can anyone comment on that?

    Also - any other recommendations on cramp prevention (topic is beaten to death, but I'm asking anyway).

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Senior Member Shimagnolo's Avatar
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    According to this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perspiration#Composition

    Perspiration contains sodium 0.9 gram/liter vs potassium 0.2 gram/liter.
    In my experience, just adding a 1/4 tsp per liter of salt to my home made maltodextrin/fructose mix prevents cramps.

  3. #3
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    Don't forget to stretch? You probably do, but didn't mention it.

  4. #4
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    Watermellon, peanuts, bananas, raw potatos, are the best for me. When I start cramping, I know I didn't eat enough! You can't get tooo much potassium.

  5. #5
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    Think about this, how can they(scientist) get a whole bannana plus several other nutrients into a little pill?

  6. #6
    Senior Member Shimagnolo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stoop View Post
    Think about this, how can they(scientist) get a whole bannana plus several other nutrients into a little pill?
    What resembles a pill is really a miniature TARDIS.

  7. #7
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    It's almost never potassium, and on a short ride like that, it's probably not salt or magnesium or calcium, either, though it could be any or all of those three. I'd guess it's conditioning or position. Try doing a set of one-legged calf raises, with your toe on a stair step or 2 X 4. Go all the way down to a full stretch. Do them after you get home from a ride. Do them to failure. Try to do at least 30. It'll hurt.

    You might also be "ankling" on the bike. Relax your calves and let your heels go all the way down. Don't consciously push down with your toes. You might also have your saddle too high. Use the heel-on-pedal method, with knee fully locked, to check saddle height.

    And you're right, you can't fit a banana into a pill.

  8. #8
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    don't forget that the cleat position, the further forward the cleat on the shoe, the more load on you calf muscle

  9. #9
    Senior Member
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    If you are on high blood pressure medication, then you likely cannot follow the instructions below (because you may be on a potassium sparing type of drug of which there are many). Otherwise:

    I recently reviewed a lot of information about potassium, and found that most people probably do not get near the "daily value". Also tablet forms, OTC and prescription, are generally potassium chloride. Fruits and vegetables, of which many authorities are recommended to get 7 to 9 servings (1/2 cup) per day, contain potassium and other anions other than chloride, such as carbonate, citrate and others.

    In addition to increasing your potassium intake (which could be a good idea, to help prevent or combat hypertension, diabetes, poor health etc), you could try at the same time to reduce your sodium intake (which may or may not be high, but most Americans do take in a high sodium to potassium ratio every day). (1) avoid salty foods like soups, hamburgers, french fries, other fried foods, other restaurant prepared foods. (2) try to eat 7 to 9 1/2 cup servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Even dried fruit has lots of potassium. Most fruits do and you can get a list of the potassium content of fruits off the internet.

    The problem is, to reiterate, that many people can tend to have a high blood potassium level and increased intake would not be safe or useful for them. That's why OTC supplements have such as small amount of potassium. But for young, healthy people with no kidney disease, who are not on high blood pressure medication, are probably safe to try to increase the potassium, from fruits and vegetables. Get your blood potassium checked if in doubt, and monitor it after you have altered your diet.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    You might also be "ankling" on the bike. Relax your calves and let your heels go all the way down. Don't consciously push down with your toes.
    I think you nailed it. Hadn't considered this but in retrospect I think you're exactly right. I've actively tried to avoid doing this in the past week and haven't had any cramping issues. Thanks for the spot-on advice.

    Also FWIW I don't use cleats, or even biking shoes for that matter. BUT! I got some for my b-day (yesterday) so will be trying those out. So my new question becomes: any tips on how to acclimate to using cleats?

    Other misc background info: new-ish to semi-serious biking. I have a hybrid, not a road bike. Two years ago I did 70 miles (OMG). Last year I did 750 miles. This year I have a goal of 2000 and I'm currently at 1200. Currently 200#, lost 15# this year. Rides are at least 20, sometimes 30, as long as 50.

    Thanks all

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shimagnolo View Post
    What resembles a pill is really a miniature TARDIS.
    WHO told you that?

    Edit - Whoops, clicked too soon.

    I started getting some cramping about a month ago. Stretching helped a lot, but I'd still get occassional minor cramps. I bought some powdered gatorade mix and drink 8oz once-a-day when I get home from commuting. I've not had issues with cramping since I started doing that (bananas were already part of my diet).
    Last edited by eshvanu; 08-13-09 at 10:08 AM.
    I reserve the right to be wrong at any time. :D

    Man does not live by bread alone, that's why God made ice cream.

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