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Help with cramps in the summer

Old 07-04-17, 09:18 AM
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carleton
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Help with cramps in the summer

I have suffered with cramps from heat ever since I was a teen. If it was hot outside when I was playing baseball or tennis, I would probably start cramping before the day was over. Sometimes before the game was over. This has carried on until now. I once collapsed on the tennis court during a tournament only to find my calf literally writhing like something out of an alien movie.

I hung out at Masters Track Nationals in the hot infield and was (seemingly) properly hydrated with a big 1.5L Nalgene bottle that I was making my way through maybe twice with water.

I sweat a lot, but I wasn't even racing and I experienced cramps later in the evening (Saturday). Small leg, back, and even finger cramps. The same thing happened the next day (Sunday). Monday, I did a trainer workout (the kind that leaves sweat everywhere) and got through it fine...then I awoke at 3AM with debilitating, wake up the house, cramps. I couldn't move.

I had to ask my lady to get a heating pad to put on my inner thigh, then she fed me table salt out of her hand like a I was a broken animal , then I ate like 6 Rolaids (calcium). About 20 minutes later, I'm calmed down a bit and I promised her a trip to Paris

I had a similar event happen in 2013 or 2014 where I did a hard summer workout and came home, showered, and napped, and awoke to cramps. This was much, much worse. I couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't get to a phone. I was stuck in a "knot" for about 2 hours of agony until my body synthesized whatever it needed to release my muscles.

This is literally the worst pain I've ever experienced and I've broken finger bones, ruptured my Achilles Tendon, tore up my knee, dislocated my shoulder, slammed my head on quarter pipes, rolled several ankles.

How can I prevent this? This has plagued me in varying degrees for years. Even basic 1-2 hour fitness road rides will have me cramping towards the end. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 07-04-17, 09:58 AM
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I have found that taking daily doses of Ubinquinol (CoQ10)(available at Costco) and Slo Mag (slow release magnesium)(available in CVS and other fine drug stores) have stopped abut 99% of the cramping I had which was very similar to what you are reporting. My friend swears by LYTEshow, but I have not used yet since, like last Saturday at Natz, I get tested every now and then and I have not convinced myself that LYTEshow is completely legal, although I have no basis for believing it is not. I figure better safe than sorry.
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Old 07-04-17, 11:08 AM
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Thanks, rensho!

I've never heard of any of those products. My only solution to date was to put a small bit of salt in my water bottles. But, I'm not sure how good that solution is long-term.

I'll definitely look try those.
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Old 07-04-17, 01:07 PM
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Men, that's not normal.

See a doctor, because that degree of cramp vulnerability could well be a muscular disease (or a sign or a consequence of other disease, probably glandular).

Edit: Taking suplements it's fine, but will only fix the final consequences. Other factors may indeed affect your state; diet principally. Density of the fluids intake also could be a factor. But cramping in the way you describe it's crazy.

Last edited by Franklin27; 07-04-17 at 01:14 PM.
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Old 07-04-17, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Franklin27 View Post
Men, that's not normal.

See a doctor, because that degree of cramp vulnerability could well be a muscular disease (or a sign or a consequence of other disease, probably glandular).

Edit: Taking suplements it's fine, but will only fix the final consequences. Other factors may indeed affect your state; diet principally. Density of the fluids intake also could be a factor. But cramping in the way you describe it's crazy.
Not saying you are wrong. I'm open to all suggestions. But, I've never heard of a muscular disease related to cramps. Is there one in particular I should learn about?

All signs point to mineral levels, heat, sweat, and water all being factors. The symptoms last night were mitigated almost immediately after eating salt (sodium chloride) and calcium minerals.
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Old 07-04-17, 01:45 PM
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I can relate. Although I have never had a significant cramp on the bike. Doesn't happen often but always well well after a ride. Sitting eating hours after a hard race. Or even laying in bed the night of a hard morning ride.

I've never 100% sorted it out so not much help other than I can relate.
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Old 07-04-17, 01:49 PM
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Quinine tablets, or in your drinking water should take care of any cramping. It's non medicine and works amazingly well. You can also just drink quinine water, about $1/bottle from a store
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Old 07-04-17, 01:59 PM
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I take a magnesium/calcium supplement. It definitely reduced cramping I would get after long rides/hard workouts when hot. I seem to consume more water than most of my peers as well.
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Old 07-04-17, 03:35 PM
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What's worked for me is Endurolytes, a calci/mag/zinc supplement, and constant small hydration. Also eliminating protein intake during races. Still get the odd cramp out of nowhere, but I got those as a kid as well. I'm really fussy about staying out of the heat and direct sun as much as possible as well unless I'm doing some deliberite adaptation, then I go right to recovery mode with cooling, replenishment, and rehydration.

I think it my be one of those things where you may need to try several of the things that were mentioned here and see what works.

Cramps can, in rare cases be caused by MS, Parkinsons, ALS, or several other disorders. Unlikely if it's a lifelong issue, some people are just more prone to cramping then others.
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Old 07-04-17, 05:08 PM
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I've only ever had cramps when I wasn't getting enough electrolytes with my water, and usually when I was drinking plain water in large volumes for a long time (or in an extreme environment, like riding mid-day in the mojave in July...). Probably just adding salt is enough, but using something that adds other electrolytes isn't likely to hurt, and may help.

I think it's also not that unusual a thing - a few years ago when we were riding up Baldy to watch the AToC, as we were getting from Baldy Village to Icehouse Canyon, all the teams had their RVs parked along the way. Some of them were friendlier than others, and as we rode past the Chipotle RV, they were asking if anybody needed water or anything. One of my friends asked "Do you maybe have any salt?" in a way that she didn't expect that they would. The guy just reached back without even turning around and pulled out a 1 lb box of salt, flipped the pourer open, and said "say when".

Racing in LA, where half the time I'd be racing outside in the heat at Encino, I used ramen as my pre-race food 3-ish hours before the race start. It's got a ton of salt, so if you're going to be outside in the heat sweating for 3-4 hours you can be pre-salted. I routinely carry some kind of electrolyte supplement on rides longer than about 6 hours around here- it's hot, it's dry, you go through a lot of water. They even make the water taste better (even unflavored salt mixes) than plain water, making it easier to drink more.
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Old 07-04-17, 06:50 PM
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Thanks, everyone, for the replies.

When I was a kid, I recall the first stomach cramp I got. I was about 13 walking home from my cousin's house where we played basketball in his dirt lot of a court in the back yard in the Alabama summer sun for hours. Similar situation as we've discussed above. There was plenty of water to drink, but we never knew to add electrolytes (what kid does?).

I generally avoid adding salt when I cook. When I'm seasoning food, I rarely (if ever) add salt. But, eating out, I can't control what's in the food.

I think drinking plain water without additives, no sports drink, sports mix, etc... was the culprit. Now I have to find the right thing to remember to take ahead of time.

Also, does anyone have any clue as to why some of the spasms occur long after the exposure to heat, exercise, or sweating? That's always been a head-scratcher.

Last edited by carleton; 07-04-17 at 07:00 PM.
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Old 07-04-17, 07:31 PM
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Originally Posted by carleton View Post
Also, does anyone have any clue as to why some of the spasms occur long after the exposure to heat, exercise, or sweating? That's always been a head-scratcher.
Dunno. Might be you end up with an electrolyte imbalance after eating/drinking/Etc. Protein makes me cramp during races so there may be something there, after eating your recovery meal. I get those late cramps and sometimes they are worse than the initial cramps. I've been trying to add in some minerals post race.

I also get these weird micro flexations in my calfs post exercise...I can watch little areas contract and relax while I'm just sitting. It's a weird deal.

Salt gets a bad rap. If you don't have high blood pressure or water retention issues (or another condition) it would seem to be pretty innocuous and quite necessary. Magnesium is often ignored but it's a precursor to the contraction/release cycle; my old coach had some research that it was the most important element in allowing the muscle to release.
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Old 07-04-17, 10:29 PM
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Magnesium is super important, along with potassium. If you want to go one better than table salt, use sea salt. It has minerals in trace amounts that include magnesium and potassium. It's still mostly salt, but at least it's turbocharged as far as electrolytes go.

The most important thing to consider when supplementing with electrolytes is to not overdo it. If the concentration of electrolytes is higher than the body's internal fluids, those fluids will be used to dilute your supplement as it's taken into the body. This creates a sort of temporarily increased state of dehydration, at least until both fluids equalize. There's a reason why Saline solution is 0.09% salt. That's the concentration of salt within your body. Go higher than this, and water is drawn from the cells to dilute the drink. Lower is best as it rehydrates and replenishes electrolytes lost to sweat. It's pretty salty to the taste, so it's hard to overdo it with liquids. When the salts are present in food, or flavoured drinks, it's possible. I've always diluted my Gatorade by adding 1/4 water to it. This for me was the sweet spot on long rides. One bottle of diluted Gatorade along with a bottle of plain water.
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Old 07-05-17, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
Dunno. Might be you end up with an electrolyte imbalance after eating/drinking/Etc. Protein makes me cramp during races so there may be something there, after eating your recovery meal. I get those late cramps and sometimes they are worse than the initial cramps. I've been trying to add in some minerals post race.

I also get these weird micro flexations in my calfs post exercise...I can watch little areas contract and relax while I'm just sitting. It's a weird deal.

Salt gets a bad rap. If you don't have high blood pressure or water retention issues (or another condition) it would seem to be pretty innocuous and quite necessary. Magnesium is often ignored but it's a precursor to the contraction/release cycle; my old coach had some research that it was the most important element in allowing the muscle to release.
Yeah, the calf flexations are fun to watch, hahahaha

Originally Posted by taras0000 View Post
Magnesium is super important, along with potassium. If you want to go one better than table salt, use sea salt. It has minerals in trace amounts that include magnesium and potassium. It's still mostly salt, but at least it's turbocharged as far as electrolytes go.

The most important thing to consider when supplementing with electrolytes is to not overdo it. If the concentration of electrolytes is higher than the body's internal fluids, those fluids will be used to dilute your supplement as it's taken into the body. This creates a sort of temporarily increased state of dehydration, at least until both fluids equalize. There's a reason why Saline solution is 0.09% salt. That's the concentration of salt within your body. Go higher than this, and water is drawn from the cells to dilute the drink. Lower is best as it rehydrates and replenishes electrolytes lost to sweat. It's pretty salty to the taste, so it's hard to overdo it with liquids. When the salts are present in food, or flavoured drinks, it's possible. I've always diluted my Gatorade by adding 1/4 water to it. This for me was the sweet spot on long rides. One bottle of diluted Gatorade along with a bottle of plain water.
Thanks for the tips about sea salt and over-doing it with salt.



Does anyone have any suggestions regarding timing of these minerals. Can I start taking the electrolytes when I start the workout or is this something that should be ingested the night before in order for them to be ready for use during the workout? I assume it's right before the workout, but I figured I'd ask.
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Old 07-05-17, 03:38 PM
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Consider seeing a good sports nutritionist. I did when I started racing Ironman triathlons as I would suffer from leg cramps... After bloods were taken and my diet was analysed, it showed I was deficient in magnesium even though I had a vegetarian diet containing plenty of food high in magnesium! Suplimentation of magnesium sorted it nicely!
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Old 07-05-17, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by carleton View Post
Does anyone have any suggestions regarding timing of these minerals. Can I start taking the electrolytes when I start the workout or is this something that should be ingested the night before in order for them to be ready for use during the workout? I assume it's right before the workout, but I figured I'd ask.
Start about an hour before. You can start earlier, but anything 6 hours prior you'll just end up peeing it out. For those that are deficient in certain minerals, supplementation 48-24 hours prior will help, as your body will slowly absorb things, and bring those deficient levels up.

Originally Posted by Dalai View Post
Consider seeing a good sports nutritionist. I did when I started racing Ironman triathlons as I would suffer from leg cramps... After bloods were taken and my diet was analysed, it showed I was deficient in magnesium even though I had a vegetarian diet containing plenty of food high in magnesium! Suplimentation of magnesium sorted it nicely!
People with vegetarian, vegan, or other dietary restrictions should take note of your experience. Iron is also a big one for vegans to be deficient in as well. It's not necessarily that you aren't getting enough of certain nutrients, it's that they are not being absorbed/retained (this can happen with any diet if certain foods are being omitted). People think that just because they have their nutrient macros and micros sorted that they are ok. If you're vegetarian/vegan, look up ferritin. It's very common to be deficient in ferritin (both intrinsically, and dietary), for people on meat restricted diets, even if they are consuming lots of iron. Low ferritin levels in the blood are what is responsible for anemia most of the time, not low iron intake. Most of the population ingests more iron than they need regardless of dietary choices. Ferritin is the protein that acutally allows iron to be attached to a red blood cell. If you're low in ferritin you can eat chunks of I-beam and still be anemic.
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Old 07-05-17, 06:30 PM
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What is your diet like? You were doing keto, are you still doing that and how long low carb in general?

Over the years I've had the odd cramp, but since adopting a low carb diet towards the end of last year I was getting cramps just like you describe. Often enough that I had to look into it. I tried having some salt before sleep but the problems persisted and so I could tick sodium off the list. In research something I found was that a classic consequence of a low carb diet was magnesium deficiency among other deficiencies. So I tried that next. I found a sports magnesium supp that was a higher dose than "normal" mg supps. It also has other ingredients like calcium that was also on the list of deficient minerals associated with the diet. Ever since taking those I've not had a problem. I take a double dose after my hard days before bed.

The worst cramps were ones in my foot. Trying to sort those out in bed often led to my calf cramping and I ended up with no choice but to get up and walk it out.
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Old 07-05-17, 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by brawlo View Post
What is your diet like? You were doing keto, are you still doing that and how long low carb in general?

Over the years I've had the odd cramp, but since adopting a low carb diet towards the end of last year I was getting cramps just like you describe. Often enough that I had to look into it. I tried having some salt before sleep but the problems persisted and so I could tick sodium off the list. In research something I found was that a classic consequence of a low carb diet was magnesium deficiency among other deficiencies. So I tried that next. I found a sports magnesium supp that was a higher dose than "normal" mg supps. It also has other ingredients like calcium that was also on the list of deficient minerals associated with the diet. Ever since taking those I've not had a problem. I take a double dose after my hard days before bed.

The worst cramps were ones in my foot. Trying to sort those out in bed often led to my calf cramping and I ended up with no choice but to get up and walk it out.
Ha. You might be on to something.

I can't say that I was low carb when I was a kid, but I was definitely ultra low carb when I had the episode a couple of years ago when I was in a knot for 2 hours and I've been relatively low carb lately (probably 15% of what I'd normally consume).
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Old 07-07-17, 08:31 AM
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Update:

I have Magnesium supplements and salt on-hand at home. I took the Magnesium about an hour before an interval workout. I don't recall the size but 1 pill is supposed to be 63% of the recommended daily allowance. I took 2 of them.

I put salt in my water bottle that I used during the workout. The amount of salt was just past he point where I could start tasting it (that's vague, I know. But, I didn't measure it.) It certainly wasn't as much as one would use when seasoning a meal.

Got through the workout fine. I didn't sweat as much as the workout on Monday, but I did sweat a good bit. The somewhat salty water went down OK. No cramps or hint of cramps to speak of.

I'll still experiment with other options mentioned in this thread. I have some outdoor workouts planned this weekend in +90F / +32C heat.
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Old 07-07-17, 05:56 PM
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Re: the low carb diet thing...as mentioned before ANY protein during exercise and I knot up.

Be interesting to query a big brain on a hypothesis as to why. But cramps are at present a bit of a mystery, at least from the papers I've read.
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Old 07-07-17, 08:09 PM
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Protein requires additional water to digest. Carbohydrates contain "water" in them (hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water, 2 hydrogen to 1 oxygen). So ingesting carbs brings "water" into your system, just through the chemical makeup of the carbohydrate itself. So through the breakdown of the carb, you can synthesize water from the carbohydrate. This is in addition to any moisture also contained in the carb source. Proteins are typically present with water in their sources, but require additional water to digest. If you're a little "dry inside", then more protein will draw water out of your cells and into your digestive tract to help digest the protein.

But don't look at it as "protein bad/carbs good" when it comes to cramping. If you're going low carb and cramping, it's because you've eliminated a "water" source from your diet.
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Old 07-07-17, 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by taras0000 View Post
Protein requires additional water to digest. Carbohydrates contain "water" in them (hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water, 2 hydrogen to 1 oxygen). So ingesting carbs brings "water" into your system, just through the chemical makeup of the carbohydrate itself. So through the breakdown of the carb, you can synthesize water from the carbohydrate. This is in addition to any moisture also contained in the carb source. Proteins are typically present with water in their sources, but require additional water to digest. If you're a little "dry inside", then more protein will draw water out of your cells and into your digestive tract to help digest the protein.

But don't look at it as "protein bad/carbs good" when it comes to cramping. If you're going low carb and cramping, it's because you've eliminated a "water" source from your diet.
This is very insightful and interesting. When I cramped this week, I ate some chicken strips only after the workout for dinner. No sides. But I did drink a lot of water.

Could the lack of electrolytes and the processing of protein be the deadly combo?
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Old 07-07-17, 10:39 PM
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That would be my guess. Straight protein coupled with a depleted water/electolyte state is what I would hypothesize. For me, in the past when I was training, I would never tolerate a meal of any size right after a workout. Even though it is best to get something into your system ASAP to speed recovery, I could never do this. I ended up settling on a BCAA/whey isolate mix. Mix some BCAA powder and some Vanilla Whey Isolate, diluted to half strength to help replenish lost water. The BCAA powder als contained electrolytes. I would sip this over a 20 minute period about half an hour after a workout. An hour later I would be able to eat some real food. I was never prone to cramping unless it was a long event like an 80km+ road race, so I can't fully relate to your issue, but at the same time, maybe try the post workout strategy that I used. I used Dymatize Amino Pro, and felt it was a good product.

Last edited by taras0000; 07-07-17 at 10:47 PM.
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Old 07-08-17, 06:25 AM
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Looks like it's already been covered that just water is insufficient to prevent cramps. When I ran cross country in high school, I struggled with cramps when we would do 2-a-days not matter how much water I would consume. Simply adding gatorade solved that issue for me. Also, on long weekends of racing (particularly after a road race) I've found this to be a godsend:

It's relatively low calorie for the volume, and I've come to enjoy the taste. The generic stuff works just as well.
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Old 07-08-17, 09:14 AM
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Pedialyte is one of the worst electrolyte supplements on the market, but has one of the better marketing campaigns. Heed by Hammer Nutrition is repeatedly scored as one of the best, if not the best. I use it, never have a problem and highly recommend it.
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