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Muscle cramping.

Old 05-13-10, 11:14 PM
  #1  
arexjay
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Muscle cramping.

I've only experienced muscle cramping three times while riding my bike: once during a 100 degree road race in which I dropped my bottle with electrolytes and bonked, and now twice in the past week on the same ride.

I rode 1:30 at tempo-ish to the local Tuesday/Thursday night hammerfest, about 4 hours total riding with a couple puke-inducing efforts and otherwise hard riding - a lot like a road race. I drank two bottles of water (one with an electrolyte tab), ate a clif bar, a gel, a banana, and 5 oz of homemade date-based gel. Both of my calves started cramping and locking up in the last 30 minutes of the ride and I had to pretty much limp home. I didn't feel dehydrated and ate enough, and it wasn't super hot weather or anything. I'm afraid that this will carry over into a couple upcoming road races that I'm peaking for, and it would suck pretty bad to be out of the mix due to a couple cramping calves.

Does anything stand out as muscle-cramp inducing? I was under the impression that muscle cramps come about due to lack of electrolytes/water uptake to muscles. What else can cause muscle cramps?
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Old 05-14-10, 04:26 AM
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my guess is that it was lack of liquids - I've been told to average about a bottle and hour (more in that kind of heat). I am very sensitive to cramping if I don't drink enough - especially early in a ride. Had some on the 2nd half of the TT last night due to being a bit dehydrated due to a cold.
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Old 05-14-10, 06:27 AM
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Dehydration is the killer.

And to be clear, proper hydration doesn't just mean drinking a lot during the ride. It starts days in advance.
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Old 05-14-10, 07:20 AM
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Several factors may play a part;
Highly arched feet for instance are more prone to cramp,short or weak calfs also.
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Old 05-14-10, 07:32 AM
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Nutrition
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Old 05-14-10, 07:35 AM
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Ugh, I had my first cramp during a race last weekend, calves as well, and it was completely annoying and frustrating.

It was actually pretty cold out, and I had been drinking and eating normally (maybe eating a little less than usual, but still drinking lots of water) in the days before, so I'm curious to see the responses to this thread.

EventServices, any advice/guidelines for staying hydrated in the days before a race, aside from drink lots of water?
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Old 05-14-10, 08:21 AM
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Not really. Just Gatorade, water, and a willingness to accept the constant trips to the bathroom.

Pro riders will tell you that the worst part about being a racer is that they have to get up three or four times each night to expel. (They also get sick of eating so much. And driving too far to the start of a race.)
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Old 05-14-10, 08:45 AM
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Cramping for me is a problem I'm still working with. On bad days I'll end up with simultaneous calve, quad, and hamstring cramps. All that is left to do is soft pedal until I get some more electrolytes in me. I need to concentrate more on drinking in longer races. Crits are not a problem. Doubling up crits has been a problem, though.
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Old 05-14-10, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by EventServices View Post
Not really. Just Gatorade, water, and a willingness to accept the constant trips to the bathroom.

Pro riders will tell you that the worst part about being a racer is that they have to get up three or four times each night to expel. (They also get sick of eating so much. And driving too far to the start of a race.)
I'm not a huge Gatorade fan, any other suggestions? Is that just to get some electrolytes ahead of time, and would something like hammer's electrolyte pills do the same thing?

Man, between going to bed before 10pm and waking up all night to pee, I'm the oldest 23 year old I know.
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Old 05-14-10, 09:00 AM
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I know it gets a bad rap here on BF, but I have had good results with cytomax.

Event: even mediocre amateurs like me have the same issues. forgetting to eat is a big no-no, and I usually have to get up a few times every night. Last night was at least 4 times.
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Old 05-14-10, 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by GirlAnachronism View Post
I'm not a huge Gatorade fan, any other suggestions? Is that just to get some electrolytes ahead of time, and would something like hammer's electrolyte pills do the same thing?

Man, between going to bed before 10pm and waking up all night to pee, I'm the oldest 23 year old I know.
You can drink Smart Water. It's just water full of electrolytes.
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Old 05-14-10, 09:11 AM
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Hammer's electrolytes made a big difference to me. Problem I had was remembering to take two every hour during a race. I started putting them in a weekly pill box-put two in a compartment and pop a compartment open when I want them.
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Old 05-14-10, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by GirlAnachronism View Post
I'm not a huge Gatorade fan, any other suggestions? Is that just to get some electrolytes ahead of time, and would something like hammer's electrolyte pills do the same thing?

Man, between going to bed before 10pm and waking up all night to pee, I'm the oldest 23 year old I know.
this is what I take before rides and a couple during if it is over 3 hours.

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Old 05-14-10, 09:22 AM
  #14  
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as for pre-hydrating:

I drink 2-3 1L bottles of water with 50 drops of Elete per bottle during the day, every day. This has helped me immensely. Also, I noticed that before adding the Elete, water would just shoot right through me. After adding the Elete, I started gaining water weight. Seems to help me retain the fluids.

As EventServices mentioned, I've almost learned to sleep walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night.


I also bought the glass Gerolstiener bottles to drink out of (refill from local RO water system). I hate drinking from plastic.

Last edited by Doggus; 05-14-10 at 09:25 AM.
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Old 05-17-10, 10:35 PM
  #15  
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Originally Posted by arexjay View Post
Does anything stand out as muscle-cramp inducing? I was under the impression that muscle cramps come about due to lack of electrolytes/water uptake to muscles. What else can cause muscle cramps?
Yes - the fact that you were riding very hard for an extended period of time.

The idea that electrolyte depletion and dehydration causing cramping is folk wisdom, not science. There's no evidence and no plausible mechanism described for this hypothesis.

The best explanation that we have going is altered neuromuscular control, associated with fatigue but also, presumably, with other factors. Basically, ride to the point of muscle failure and you're going to start cramping. As long as we're bringing anecdotes into this, my quads and hamstrings tend to cramp when I've been riding hard and my leg muscles are quite fatigued already. I'm more likely to experience cramps, or those twinges you feel when you're right on the edge of a cramp, when climbing on exhausted leg muscles; putting more force to the pedals, either by climbing or pushing a big gear.

But back to the science: electrolytes and dehydration aren't a credible expanation for cramps. Abnormal or aberrant neuromuscular control (so far) is. And while lots of factors can contribute to neuromuscular issues, fatigue is a really big one. Which means that fitness level and how hard you push yourself relative to it is the biggest factor.

In short, you cramped because you pushed your muscles too hard and too long relative to your level of fitness. The solution: train more.

http://www.sportsscientists.com/2007...ories-and.html

http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/l...cle_spasms.htm
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Old 05-18-10, 11:32 AM
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I love it.

"There is no evidence for your explanation, so here's another one with no evidence." As far as using big words, "Abnormal or aberrant neuromuscular control" isn't the cause, it's the symptom. It's what we stupid people call "cramping". You can't say that cramping causes cramping.

I have been plenty fatigued and super tired many times, but I only cramp when I don't get enough water + electrolytes. I need both, and they need to be relatively balanced. Conversely, I've forgotten to drink, still felt good and fresh, and still cramped even though I wasn't fatigued.

Call it science with n=1. I'm not saying what will work for everybody, but I'm sharing what works for me, and many others apparently.
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Old 05-18-10, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by brianappleby View Post
I love it.

"There is no evidence for your explanation, so here's another one with no evidence." As far as using big words, "Abnormal or aberrant neuromuscular control" isn't the cause, it's the symptom. It's what we stupid people call "cramping". You can't say that cramping causes cramping.

I have been plenty fatigued and super tired many times, but I only cramp when I don't get enough water + electrolytes. I need both, and they need to be relatively balanced. Conversely, I've forgotten to drink, still felt good and fresh, and still cramped even though I wasn't fatigued.

Call it science with n=1. I'm not saying what will work for everybody, but I'm sharing what works for me, and many others apparently.
Are you kidding? There is evidence. Read the articles I linked to. Would you like me to hunt down the papers they reference for you? I work at a university, finding the abstracts would be pretty trivial.

The fact that altered neuromuscular control is not a complete explanation for all exercise-associated cramps does not change the fact that it is a much better explanation for them than electrolyte depletion or dehydration. Again, there is no plausible physiological mechanism to this hypothesis. We lose water faster than electrolytes.

As for the terms, you're mistaken. The cramp (uncontrolled contraction of the muscle) is the symptom. Neuromuscular control doesn't refer to the action of the muscle, it refers to the mechanisms by which the brain controls to muscles and tells them to contract or relax. The hypothesis is that cramping is caused when those signals start to get scrambled. The source of the cramp is some kind of problem in the signaling from the neurons attached to your muscles. This is abundantly clear if you actually read the articles I linked to. Your claim that the argument is that "cramping causes cramping" is absurd.

As for your experience, you are not a controlled study, any more than I am. The ingrained belief among endurance riders that electrolyte depletion causes cramps is an added complication, since it will strongly influence your recollections and conclusions about what you did wrong. For example, you say that you've only cramped when you've forgotten to drink - but how many times have you forgotten to drink and NOT cramped? Are you really keeping track? I don't think so.

It gets even worse in the case of this thread, where the OP states specifically that he had plenty of water and electrolytes, and asks for thoughts on this. The conclusion: because (in the minds of cyclists) cramping is ipso facto the result of electrolyte and fluid depletion, the OP did not in fact ingest enough fluids. That's absurd, it's worse than useless, it's the wrong conclusion and it's bad advice! It's uncritical and dogmatic thinking. And it's not going to solve the problem.
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Old 05-18-10, 12:40 PM
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I'm inclined to believe grolby on this one, based on my own experience. I felt like I cramped because I just pushed myself too hard for too long and wasn't fit enough to continue work that hard.

I don't doubt that dehydration/lack of electrolytes can contribute to/cause cramping, but it really didn't seem to be the main factor for me in this instance.
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Old 05-18-10, 12:41 PM
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But since I'm interested in providing some good faith evidence for my argument, not just dismissing your criticisms, here's the link to an explanation of a newer (and much better) hypothesis explaining cramps.

http://www.sportsscientists.com/2007...-part-iii.html
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Old 05-18-10, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
Yes - the fact that you were riding very hard for an extended period of time.

The idea that electrolyte depletion and dehydration causing cramping is folk wisdom, not science. There's no evidence and no plausible mechanism described for this hypothesis.

The best explanation that we have going is altered neuromuscular control, associated with fatigue but also, presumably, with other factors. Basically, ride to the point of muscle failure and you're going to start cramping. As long as we're bringing anecdotes into this, my quads and hamstrings tend to cramp when I've been riding hard and my leg muscles are quite fatigued already. I'm more likely to experience cramps, or those twinges you feel when you're right on the edge of a cramp, when climbing on exhausted leg muscles; putting more force to the pedals, either by climbing or pushing a big gear.

But back to the science: electrolytes and dehydration aren't a credible expanation for cramps. Abnormal or aberrant neuromuscular control (so far) is. And while lots of factors can contribute to neuromuscular issues, fatigue is a really big one. Which means that fitness level and how hard you push yourself relative to it is the biggest factor.

In short, you cramped because you pushed your muscles too hard and too long relative to your level of fitness. The solution: train more.

http://www.sportsscientists.com/2007...ories-and.html

http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/l...cle_spasms.htm
1+

Cramping, in my experience, is caused by fatigue. The best thing I've done for myself in this respect, this year, is ride a huge amount of base miles over the winter and early spring. 2 hour roller rides and 70% of threshold. Four, five, six hour rides at endurance pace. And a "training camp" of sorts where I went four big mile days in a row.
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Old 05-18-10, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
1+

Cramping, in my experience, is caused by fatigue. The best thing I've done for myself in this respect, this year, is ride a huge amount of base miles over the winter and early spring. 2 hour roller rides and 70% of threshold. Four, five, six hour rides at endurance pace. And a "training camp" of sorts where I went four big mile days in a row.
for most cramping is more common in hot weather than cold. do we just get more fatigued when it's hot?

honestly, the more i read about cramping, something to which i have some suscetpiblity, the less i think the cause and effect is understood. everyone agrees it's some combination of fatigue, hydration, and nutritional balance, but no one really knows much more than that.
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Old 05-18-10, 01:56 PM
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What helps me (be it physiological or psychological) are endurolytes. I use the powder and add it to my carb drink. more when hot, less when not.
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Old 05-18-10, 03:14 PM
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Man, between going to bed before 10pm and waking up all night to pee, I'm the oldest 23 year old I know.
My thoughts exactly
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Old 05-18-10, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
Yes - the fact that you were riding very hard for an extended period of time.

The idea that electrolyte depletion and dehydration causing cramping is folk wisdom, not science. There's no evidence and no plausible mechanism described for this hypothesis.
Well, here's one.

Overuse doesn't explain spontaneous, non exercise cramps among other types and scenarios, including heat stroke.

Lots of info there including cramps caused by diuretics.
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Old 05-18-10, 04:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
Well, here's one.

.
Its not a study or research ,however.
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