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Muscle cramps and alcohol

Old 01-05-20, 11:47 AM
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Muscle cramps and alcohol

I did a search on these forums and found some good discussions relating somewhat to this topic, decided to start fresh.

So Iíve been getting more regular muscle cramps lately post bicycling, usually while sleeping in the evening and the next AM interfering with sleep and making me generally grumpy. Yes, I do quite a bit of stretching post workouts, some light Yoga, and try to electrolyte And hydrate back up with supplements during and post ride. My rides lately have been fat bike rides in Iowa winters. Nothing terribly strenuous mileage or terrain, 1-2 hour rides.

i also enjoy a good evening drink, like Whiskey-coke, Captain & coke, or Rum & 7-up. Usually just one, but a stiff one. Wondering if these are contributing to muscle cramps via alcohol's dehydration effect?

I will try cutting it out over the next week and report back. In the meantime, what are others experiences here with the affects of alcohol post ride vs muscle cramping? Is it the type and quantity of alcohol? Is beer better for recovery? Iíve done long, hot summer rides (like RAGBRAI) where I sweated my balls off, guzzled some beer, and didnít have near as much cramping usually.

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Old 01-05-20, 06:38 PM
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I'm not sure cramps can be attributed the dehydrating effect of alcohol -- it's a bit exaggerated, and normal healthy drinking of water based beverages is enough to rehydrate. Same with allegations about coffee and tea being diuretics or causing dehydration. That's pretty much been debunked.

I don't drink much anymore, including beer. The main problem I noticed is it interferes with my sleep. Even a single beer makes it hard for me to fall asleep and stay asleep. That makes everything feel wrong the next day. I feel achy, grumpy and several other dwarfs.

I've had nighttime spasms, mostly in my legs and arches of my feet. And cramps during rides or workouts. It's difficult to attribute it to any single thing because of so many variables in my health -- multiple injuries from being hit by cars (twice in less than 20 years), muscles that have been knotted up for years between my injured shoulder and neck, and a thyroid disorder that threw my metabolism out of whack for more than a year.

But it seemed to lessen in frequency and severity when I added electrolytes to my water for every ride and workout. And I added creatine more often, and magnesium lactate which seems to work better for me than other forms of magnesium (the lacate version can cause stomach upset for some folks so use it cautiously the first time).

One of my main problems during rides was painful spasms in my legs or feet during any sudden increase in effort - a sprint zone, hill climb, etc. It got so bad and so frequent I quit participating in group rides so I wouldn't endanger anyone drafting me if I had to slow or stop unexpectedly.

But since using extra electrolytes including mag lactate, and creatine, I've had very few spasms during workouts or while sleeping. And that combination may also help a bit with short bursts of maximum effort during rides. My thighs don't cook as quickly now during sprints and short steep climbs, or even when standing to pedal for up to a minute or longer at a time.

The only side effect I've noticed from using electrolytes more often is my sweat feels soapy and there's almost always a whitish frosting residue on my helmet straps and bandanna on my head. That never happened in years of working out and bike rides when I drank plain water. And it doesn't happen now if I drink plain water. But I'll start excreting electrolyte immediately even with only moderate effort - just a brisk walk and my fingers will feel a little soapy.

And extra creatine should be accompanied by extra water. The only problem I've heard associated with taking creatine supplements is temporary kidney problems from underestimating water intake and getting seriously dehydrated. On workout days when I use extra creatine I urinate much more frequently and copiously, including every 2-3 hours at night. But I'm drinking a lot more water those days too.

And I check my blood pressure and heart rate daily, including HRV -- more often during hard workout days. I'm concerned about excess sodium, but so far, so good.
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Old 01-05-20, 06:53 PM
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I used to get terrible cramps in my lower and upper legs. I also used to drink a lot of wine. My diet was pretty good, drank a lot of water and rode bikes regularly. I stopped drinking alcohol, soon to be 5 years ago, and have not had leg cramps since shortly after I started abstaining.
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Old 01-06-20, 10:14 AM
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Caveat: I love Bourbon. Experience: I have had days with no alcohol and generally have cut back by 75-90%. My calf cramps are gone. Alcohol is not your friend. Once saw a great sign on the wall at a wedding reception...."You are a great dancer. Your friend, Alcohol."
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Old 01-06-20, 01:41 PM
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I've only had one Charlie horse in my life. Hadn't had alcohol for years prior to it, I don't drink much. I was dehydrated though. My understanding (which probably isn't 100% accurate) is that your fluid levels are less important than your electrolyte levels when it comes to muscle cramping.
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Old 01-06-20, 02:11 PM
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In spite of the above anecdotes, I don't think alcohol has anything to do with cramps. I know cycling alcoholics who don't cramp. My wife has always had terrible problems with cramping. Nothing to do with her occasional alcohol intake. As far as I can tell, cramps are associated with fitness. More fit, less cramping, really fit, no cramping. That said, stopping alcohol might just have something to do with desire for increased fitness.

For the OP, I think fat biking has not been as good for your fitness as those long hot rides of summer. Get a set of resistance rollers or a good trainer and work out on it every day for the next 2 weeks. And of course stop drinking, just to confuse the issue. Kinda doesn't matter what does the trick as long as you get fitter. Riding hard makes you fitter for sure.

I tried a variety of electrolyte supplements on my wife. Nothing really worked, only getting fitter. The electrolytes worked about as well as always having a bar of Ivory soap between the sheets, that is to say, maybe.
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Old 01-07-20, 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
In spite of the above anecdotes, I don't think alcohol has anything to do with cramps. I know cycling alcoholics who don't cramp. My wife has always had terrible problems with cramping. Nothing to do with her occasional alcohol intake. .
Association Between Alcohol Consumption and Nocturnal Leg Cramps in Patients Over 60 Years Old: A Case-Control Study
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Old 01-07-20, 08:22 PM
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You haven't said anything else about your habits. A small dose of metformin will create leg cramps at night as the drug creates excess of lactic acidosis. Especially if you have any alcohol intake before bed time. A lot of water taken during the night will decrease the problem. HTH, MH
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Old 01-07-20, 08:36 PM
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If you get cramps at night after a hard ride, lay on your back and pedal with your legs. Of if you think they are coming.
I rarely get cramps but if I do it's after a couple of full power sprints, on the ride earlier in the day.
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Old 01-07-20, 09:25 PM
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I see. Neither my wife, who is subject to nocturnal leg cramps (NLC) and I, nor any of our cycling buddies have noticed any association between alcohol and NLC. Those of us who drink alcohol frequently, and as I said, an alcoholic, do not report NLCs. They rather marvel that my wife gets them because we ride a lot. The study to which you linked is very complicated in design and choice of subjects and I confess that I simply don't know enough about the subject to be able to evaluate it properly.

So I'd say, if you drink regularly and cramp, try stopping the alcohol completely, noting that the NLC in the study were independent of weekly alcohol consumption as long as it was greater than zero.

A confusing element in the linked study is that the drinkers were said to consume an average of 96g of alcohol per week. Which is a totally bizarre statement in a supposedly scientific study, BTW. If one were drinking 86 proof, that'd be 1.7 gallons of booze/week. The study also states:
We found only 2 reported cases of cramps, without any signs of myopathy, that were presumably due to the consumption of alcoholic beverages.20,41 Cramps are one of the symptoms of alcoholic myopathy and is characterized histologically by selective atrophy of type II fibers
I don't know what to make of that statement in relation to the supposed finding of the study.

Boiling it down:
1)
Patients were distributed into groups of consumers and nonconsumers of alcoholic beverage. When patients used an alcoholic beverage less than once a week, they were distributed in the nonconsumers group.
2)
Cases were defined as patients aged 60 years and older currently having NLC. Controls were defined as patients free from any kind of rest cramps.
3)
Weekly, cases consumed a median of 94 g of alcohol (interquartile range 211), while controls consumed 66 g (interquartile range 198)
4)
We found an association between the global consumption of alcoholic beverages and NLC. Patients drinking alcohol at least once a week had an odds ratio of 6.5 of having cramps (95% credibility interval, 1.68-38.05; posterior probability 99.82%). There was no linear relationship between amount of alcohol used and odds of cramps.
How is one to understand these statements in the study as saying that alcohol causes NLC? See quote 3.
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Old 01-07-20, 09:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Mad Honk View Post
You haven't said anything else about your habits. A small dose of metformin will create leg cramps at night as the drug creates excess of lactic acidosis. Especially if you have any alcohol intake before bed time. A lot of water taken during the night will decrease the problem. HTH, MH
i don’t take any other medicine but allergy medicine, I’ve actually cut back to taking only Benadryl at night to open my air passages better. Benadryl makes one drowsy, which is why I only take it at night or in emergencies of an allergic reaction if outdoors. I’ll take 2 ibuprofen if I got any pain or cramps with a snack as otherwise it can bother my stomach.

With the exception above, and now abstaining from alcohol for the week, I’d consider myself pretty much drug free.
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Old 01-07-20, 10:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Toadmeister View Post
i donít take any other medicine but allergy medicine, Iíve actually cut back to taking only Benadryl at night to open my air passages better. Benadryl makes one drowsy, which is why I only take it at night or in emergencies of an allergic reaction if outdoors. Iíll take 2 ibuprofen if I got any pain or cramps with a snack as otherwise it can bother my stomach.

With the exception above, and now abstaining from alcohol for the week, Iíd consider myself pretty much drug free.
Eeeek!. Don't take Benadryl. It's an anticholinergic medication. Ask your doctor for an alternative to anticholinergics.
Taking an anticholinergic for the equivalent of three years or more was associated with a 54% higher dementia risk than taking the same dose for three months or less.
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/...k-201501287667
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jam...rticle/2091745

Ibuprofen isn't that great either because it inhibits healing, i.e. adaptation to training stress. It's an antiprosteglandin, an NSAID. Over the years, I've found I heal faster if I don't take NSAIDs. My exception is long-term tendon pain, which NSAIDs really help.
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Old 01-08-20, 06:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
I see. Neither my wife, who is subject to nocturnal leg cramps (NLC) and I, nor any of our cycling buddies have noticed any association between alcohol and NLC. Those of us who drink alcohol frequently, and as I said, an alcoholic, do not report NLCs. They rather marvel that my wife gets them because we ride a lot. The study to which you linked is very complicated in design and choice of subjects and I confess that I simply don't know enough about the subject to be able to evaluate it properly.

So I'd say, if you drink regularly and cramp, try stopping the alcohol completely, noting that the NLC in the study were independent of weekly alcohol consumption as long as it was greater than zero.

A confusing element in the linked study is that the drinkers were said to consume an average of 96g of alcohol per week. Which is a totally bizarre statement in a supposedly scientific study, BTW. If one were drinking 86 proof, that'd be 1.7 gallons of booze/week. The study also states: I don't know what to make of that statement in relation to the supposed finding of the study.

How is one to understand these statements in the study as saying that alcohol causes NLC? See quote 3.
When I saw that your anecdotal experience was different than my anecdotal experience, I wondered what the medical/scientific opinion was. So, I did a search. The article I posted was one of many that concluded that there is a connection with alcohol consumption and leg cramps. If you do a search I'm sure you can find them and perhaps answer some of your questions. I am not invested in either outcome. However, the research does mirror my experience. My issue was not so much the amount of alcohol consumed in any one particular day but the consistency of drinking every day and the accumulation of alcohol in the body over time. FWIW, I also had a skin issue that dermatology could not resolve and the elimination of alcohol fixed that. Which, according to another search, is also supported by medical science.
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Old 01-08-20, 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Eeeek!. Don't take Benadryl. It's an anticholinergic medication. Ask your doctor for an alternative to anticholinergics.
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/...k-201501287667
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jam...rticle/2091745

Ibuprofen isn't that great either because it inhibits healing, i.e. adaptation to training stress. It's an antiprosteglandin, an NSAID. Over the years, I've found I heal faster if I don't take NSAIDs. My exception is long-term tendon pain, which NSAIDs really help.
Thanks for the feedback. I'm aware of the NSAID side effects, I might only use them twice a week so little concern there.

Your warning on Benadryl is a surprise however and I will research it further. Much appreciated.
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Old 01-09-20, 01:27 AM
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I've had a cramp in my calf all evening. Last alcohol I had was red wine, in mid December.
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Old 01-09-20, 06:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
I've had a cramp in my calf all evening. Last alcohol I had was red wine, in mid December.
Not significant data to draw a correlation....
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Old 01-09-20, 09:51 AM
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bad news for riding drinkers
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Old 01-09-20, 09:46 PM
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I stopped taking Benadryl the last 2 nights to see what happens. Mostly my nose just gunks up with boogers more.... Gong to hit the fluticasone nasal spray instead.

i was 3-4 days alcohol free and I feel muscle tightness gradually reduced/improved! Even with doing a hard spin class Monday evening I wasn’t very right at all. Than I ate at a brew pub Wed night during happy hour and was obligated to have a couple of Heavy brews. Calves were tight again today for no good reason even though I skipped excercise the other day. I might be on to something?
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Old 01-09-20, 10:59 PM
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I stopped taking Benadryl the last 2 nights to see what happens. Mostly my nose just gunks up with boogers more.... Gong to hit the fluticasone nasal spray instead.
OK -so now what?

I think some things contribute to cramps and other things deter cramps. I think people who assume that a single agent must be the cause of a symptom are simple minded in their approach to understanding their health.
There are many factors closely related to the support of muscle innervation. Among them are sodium, potassium, calcium, and of course the entire RAAS system.

If you are at all interested in how fluids, and to some extent muscles are regulated - take a look at the basics of blood pressure control- Here .......
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Old 01-10-20, 09:14 AM
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My 1:1 is that it matters what time of night and the amount and timing of food when drinking. In terms of sleep quality, not cramps.

The closer to bed time the worse it is. The less food consumed with or near consumption of alcohol, the worse it is.

I recently pledged to accumulate 180 days in 2020 without drink. I sleep better days without, but my leg cramps are typically due to hydration during/before a hard bike workout. Like a Zwift TT race. And they'e immediately after. Like, climb off bike and lay on the ground after a TT.

I'd say if you're going to partake, do so with dinner and maybe have your last one a good time before bed. If it's a night to have a few drinks, end it earlier and end it with water and take the consequence of having to pee more from the water.
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Old 01-10-20, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
When I saw that your anecdotal experience was different than my anecdotal experience, I wondered what the medical/scientific opinion was. So, I did a search. The article I posted was one of many that concluded that there is a connection with alcohol consumption and leg cramps. If you do a search I'm sure you can find them and perhaps answer some of your questions. I am not invested in either outcome. However, the research does mirror my experience. My issue was not so much the amount of alcohol consumed in any one particular day but the consistency of drinking every day and the accumulation of alcohol in the body over time. FWIW, I also had a skin issue that dermatology could not resolve and the elimination of alcohol fixed that. Which, according to another search, is also supported by medical science.
It's certainly inconsistent. The group I've been riding with are drinkers with a riding problem (our in-joke). No cramps except from overdoing it. That one study, as I tried to point out, doesn't hold up to even casual inspection. AFAIK there is only that one study and zillion references to it, as is common with that sort of thing. People seize onto any explanation for idiopathic events. Yes, we did try Ivory soap between the sheets.

Whatever works is good, but there don't seem to be any cramp cure-alls other than training and quinine. Quinine is no longer recommended because of side effects, so that leaves training. I leave out hydration and electrolytes because studies have shown that cramping is independent of both of these, both idiopathic cramping and athletic cramping. Remember that Lance once lost 7 kg.. during a long hot TT and didn't cramp. Almost lost the GC, though.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445088/
https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/38/4/488
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Old 01-11-20, 03:55 PM
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I never experienced any cramps from drinking a beer or two....Teetotalers have more health issues than moderate drinkers.
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Old 01-11-20, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Flip Flop Rider View Post
bad news for riding drinkers
It's not bad news, it's bull****.
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Old 01-12-20, 06:40 PM
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After 1-week I feel my muscle cramps have lessened while reducing alcohol. This isn’t very scientific and still preliminary, I’ll continue to monitor.

I've exersized every day but one this week. exercise included Fatbiking outdoors, spin class, basketball, and stationary bicycling, some light weightlifting. Stretching and/or light Yoga done daily and supplement electrolytes taken with or during excersize. Shoveled snow Sat, made me hungry but no stiffness from that.

Had a couple beers one night and I do think it contributed to cramping some the next morning. Has a brandy and 7-up Friday night (played Basketball that day) and felt a stiff Sat again. I actually woke up early and took a couple ibuprofen, went back to sleep Sat morning, which was a luxury.

Had NO Benadryl this week. Still slept fine but nose was a bit funky first few days, getting better now using fluticosone nasal spray.

Diet is nothing special or radical. I’m getting a good balance of grains, carbs, protein, I avoid junk food and processed stuff pretty well. Been eating venison often . Mostly I’m just trying not to overeat. Doing good except for a pizza one night.

So far so good. Will continue on this path this week and report back. I do want to be able to enjoy a drink now and than, so got to find the right balance.
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Old 01-13-20, 06:14 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
I never experienced any cramps from drinking a beer or two....Teetotalers have more health issues than moderate drinkers.
It isn't about a beer or two. It's about daily/consistent intake of alcohol over time. At least that's been my experience.
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