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Cramping Problems(8 posts)

Cramping ProblemsBurtonSpeedy
Jun 9, 2003 11:45 AM
I am having some major cramping problems, and wanted to get the groups advice on what I might be able to do to prevent them in the future. I am currently a cat 2 rider, so most of the road races have been between 70 and 95 miles. In almost every road race after about 2-2.5 hours my legs start having cramping problems. This past Saturday I was on a 20 mile solo break and they were especially bad (To the point that I almost could not continue) Here are all the details:

Location: Auburn, Maine
Weather: 72 degrees, overcast, but humid.
Race: 6 laps on an 11 mile course with 1100 feet of climbing per lap. Feed zone on every lap.

I started with a 28oz bottle of Gatorade and a 20oz bottle of Extran Energy Food mixed at half strength (

This is what I took on:
First Lap: 20oz bottle of water.
Second Lap: 28oz bottle of Gatorade.
Third Lap: 20oz bottle of Water
Fourth Lap: 28oz bottle of Gatorade
Fifth Lap: 20oz bottle of water.

After the first lap I kept the Extran in my back pocket and would sip from it every so often. On the food side of things I nibbled on a Clif Bar (finished one by the end of the race) and had one Clif Shot on lap 3 and one Clif Shot on lap 5. I made sure to take some big gulps of water to rinse those down.

I can not believe I went through that many bottles. I was working really hard but that seems like A LOT! After the race I consumed 28oz of Endurox R4 plus another bottle of water. What is also weird is that I did not have to urinate until well after the race had finished.

I am thinking that this may be a mineral problem, has anybody had any luck preventing cramps with salt tablets or mineral supplements during races? Any suggestions or recommendations?

Andrew Knight
Team Director, Louis Garneau Racing
re: Cramping Problemsmtber
Jun 9, 2003 1:48 PM
Boy, do I hear you!

Same experience for me this weekend, however mine was a MTB race at altitude (9-11,000') - 3 laps w/ 2000' of climbing per lap. Approx 40 min climbing followed by a ~15min steep, technical descent (ie NO pedaling but legs still flexed for stability/shock absorption). Race started at 9AM in cool (60degF?) weather, finished at ~noon - hotter and sunny (~80degF).

I was kicking butt for the first 2 laps, then after finishing the DH and starting the 3rd climb, my left leg locked up solid. After an intial short climb (where I cramped) there was a short, flat section where I tried to spin the cramps out of my leg, then more climbing. The cramps subsided a bit, but I started feeling nauseus and even threw up a bit of undigested gel (sorry to be so graphic). It was a major struggle to continue and not DNF - I felt pretty bad. Almost everyone passed me.

It was just last week that my coach figured out that I appear to have an inability to perform in the heat. I seem to have a history of doing poorly in the heat and when I was a child, growing up in the NE, I remember puking when exerting myself on real hot, humid days. We decided that I was going to try to acclimate myself to the heat by trying to train during the hottest part of the day and/or riding in the bathroom w/ a heater on (really!). I am also going to try Liquid Endurance by e-caps, which contains glycerol, but I had not received it before last weekend.

After this weekend's race, I did some more research and decided I might have suffered from hyponatremia (too much water, not enough salt).
I tend to sweat a lot and am always covered in white after a hard workout. My helmet and even my 1yo Camelback (yeah, Im a mountain biker and wear a Camelback!) are quite salt stained. I looked back at what I had eaten the day prior to my race and noticed that I had consumed very little salt. AND I NEVER drink anything but water, even when I race. My friends have been telling my I should drink Gatorade when hydrating before and during my races, but I thought my water w/ some Electromix (mostly Mag and Cal) and some Hammergel would do it. Apparently not!

So my plan is to:
1) try to acclimate by training in the heat 80-90 deg (inside if I have to)
2) start drinking Gatorade when training/racing
3) add some glycerol to either water or Gatorade
4) make sure I consume 25 grams of salt in the days leading up to my races

I don't know about you, but I only seem to cramp when racing, so there is really no way to test anything out except at my next race. Kinda sucks.

Let me know if you find out anything else about this subject.
When I had hyponatremia....niteschaos
Jun 11, 2003 9:14 PM
the same thing happened to me. I'm from Georgia so I'm used to the heat and actually use it to wear my visiting competition down. One day I didn't eat right and it was particularly hot. I got in from the race and tried to drink and my body rejected it and I went into chain vomitting and had to go to the hospital via ambulance. 3 liters of IV and I was walking again, though with a killer headache. YOu might wanna look into making sure your diet 3 days before a race has all the minerals you'll need, and sport drinks made a bid difference for me.
You might have found the clueKerry
Jun 9, 2003 5:48 PM
"What is also weird is that I did not have to urinate until well after the race had finished." Sounds like you could have been dehydrated. Try adding more salt to the regimine, and drink more. Cramps are tricky:

Adventure Cyclist Sept/Oct. 2001 Muscle Cramps comments by Nancy Clark

5 theories (none proven, as science does not know the cause of cramps, and cannot cause cramps predictably): 1) hydration, 2) lack of calcium (doubted by nutritionists), 3) lack of sodium, 4) lack of potassium (not likely since the body has so much) 5) lack of pickle juice (lots of ions). Note, musicians get hand cramps, even though they are not likely experiencing any of 1-5.

My own experience has been that electrolytes and hydration are the keys. While I've only done it a few times, taking a TUMS at the break in a long ride seems to help in the home stretch. This assumes you keep a high cadence. Your check for hydration can be either weighing yourself as you leave and when you get back (retrospective), having to pee every 2 hours or so during the ride (concurrent), or keeping track of past rides and how much you drank and drinking more this time (prospective). It never hurts to down a slug of water just before you get on the bike.
Two questionsshirt
Jun 9, 2003 7:35 PM
1. Are you still doing any LSD, or have you relegated that to winter memories? I haven't done a lot of personal research on this, but it seems my cramps are often related to time on the bike as well as effort. If you're doing 3 hr races, I'd make sure to do a 4-5 hr. low-zone ride every 10 days or so. But I'm only a cat-3, I may be wrong.

2. Regarding the amount of water you drank: man, that's a lot. Is it possible you started the race dehydrated? The volume you put back suggests you started with a deficit. I like to over-hydrate the night before, stopping an hour before I go to bed (for obvious reasons), and start hydrating as soon as I wake up. I also stop about forty five minutes before the race (again for obvious reasons.) Did you do all that?

RE: Two questionsBurtonSpeedy
Jun 10, 2003 4:41 AM

1) I have been doing one 3.5-4 hour ride once a week for the past 12 weeks. I knew that moving up to cat 2 I would have to up the millage so I have been using up a little vacation time from work and taking one afternoon off each week to get the long ride in.

2) I was well hydrated both on friday night and on saturday morning. Since this has been a problem for me I always make sure things are "topped up" both before and after rides

I am going out for a long ride this afternoon. I have mixed up some accelerade and will try that. It has a lot more potassium and sodium in it compared to most of the other drinks.

re: Cramping ProblemsVeloflash
Jun 10, 2003 1:57 PM
Cramps can also be brought on by using creatine (not raised by yourself), lack of endurance fitness (does not appear to be your problem) or placing more stress on your calf muscles through pedaling technique placing more emphasise on the pull through and up.

Cramps can also be caused by taking on too much water and thereby diluting body salts and electrolytes.
This is my cure.jesse1
Jun 11, 2003 2:23 AM
I'd have the same problems as you after 1 1/2 hrs of race pace effort. It didn't matter how much Gatorade, potasium pills, or the product Endurlites (sp) by Hammer Nutrition I took, it would still happen.
I read about a study on the internet by a graduate student on the addition of magnesium to the diet of athletes with this problem. So, I go down to the local Sam's Club and pick up a big & cheap bottle a combo calcium, magnesium, zinc tablets. Each tablet is 33% RDA. I take one every morning at breakfast. One at one hr before an event/workout. And I put a half tablet (ground up)in each water bottle. No problems with cramps in the 1 1/2 yrs since I started this. BTW - Other Hammer Nutrition/E-Caps products have worked very well for me in other areas.