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Nutrition to keep legs from cramping

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Nutrition to keep legs from cramping

Old 10-02-21, 08:12 PM
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Nutrition to keep legs from cramping

My legs have threatened to cramp during the last 3 races I have done, and it's been at mile 40 each time.
These are 55-65mi races so the last 15-25mi were ridden without me standing to climb and I end up slowly spinning up hills.
I have yet to actually cramp up, to be clear.

My calves aren't happy, but my quads are straight up angry.
I finish feeling hydrated and full so it isn't a total lack of liquids.
For today's race I had 44oz of water, 24oz of Body Armor, and 20oz of Nuun. Then had some quick food- singer waffles, larger, and larbar.
Also, I dont cramp in any other ride.

So it's back to the drawing board. Not enough electrolytes? Not enough hydration? Too fatigued since I am riding harder and farther without a stop?


Anyone had this issue and resolve it??
I'm sure ill go down a Google rabbit hole on this, but hearing views here is always helpful.
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Old 10-02-21, 09:31 PM
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When are you consuming those substances? That matters too.... The key for me to prevent cramping during long workouts is to evenly dispurse the electrolytes throughout, consuming smaller portions many times rather than larger portions fewer times.
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Old 10-02-21, 11:10 PM
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I had 24oz of water in the first 20mi, 24oz of Body Armor in the following 15mi, 20oz of Nuun in the next 10mi, then 20oz of water over the last 10mi.

I drank before riding too, obviously. Maybe more sooner?
...or I need to ride with with camelback of picklejuice.
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Old 10-02-21, 11:14 PM
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You might want to read the 5-part Science of Sport series on Muscle Cramps
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Old 10-03-21, 06:51 AM
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I had cramps a few times while riding however more of my experience is due to work. I work outdoors and my company constantly reminded all 10k of us to stay hydrated.

I always have. I then transferred 1,100 down south. In the summer I was constantly sweating. With that came cramping. I was constantly drinking water during all waking hours not just work. The cramps weren't horrible while working however 3-4 hours after work was when the bad ones came.

I tried various ratios of sports drink to water, bananas, multi vitamins. The only thing I found to work was protein shakes. Of course these have the protein but also the trace minerals. The lower end Boost brand worked okay but found out after trying various brands that cost wise Kirkland (Costco) or Premier Protien brands worked best and I didn't need to drink 2: 1 late morning and 1 mid afternoon. Muscle Milk worked real well however it's costly.

Certainly biking is different than my situation although an 8 ounce drink may be worth a try.
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Old 10-03-21, 08:51 AM
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Has pickle juice been helpful? I know many folks that consume it during a ride before cramping signs start. It is pretty effective for many folks but not all apparently. From what I have read the acetic acid is some sort of neurological trigger that can turn off the cramp signals to your muscles. I use it as well and have found it can ease cramp symptoms very quickly, often in less than 5 minutes. At our last race we run probably close to half of the folks on the longer distances had at least one shot of pickle juice at an aid station so it is a pretty popular solution.
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Old 10-03-21, 09:18 AM
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Pedialyte reg or sport
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Old 10-03-21, 10:07 AM
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Hydration
Compression Leggings
Normal Electrolytes (Orange Juice 8oz = 10 Meq)
Combination Calcium Magnesium Zinc daily supplement
Many Sugar substitutes are suspected of causing leg cramps (Aspertame)
Cramps in cold weather respond to warming

More than 2/3s of the general population responds to Quinine Sulfate even in small doses. Try Hylands Leg Cramp tablets and see if they work. Chew two to four at onset of the cramps to see if they get under control. You can do this while ridding. (If you are a cardiac patient and want to take high doses of Quinine Sulfate you need to check with your doctor first.)
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Old 10-03-21, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Hasek View Post
...The cramps weren't horrible while working however 3-4 hours after work was when the bad ones came.
Man... Resting cramps can be the worst. You can be sore from days afterward. One of the things I noticed about protein supplements is the additional potassium found in them. Along with other minerals and amino acids they truly fortify the body. One of the side effects of high protein diets is potassium deficiency. This happens to people who are not even working out. A strict high protein diet may require prescribed potassium.

Also note that a majority of protein supplements contain Aspartame. There is a small percentage of people who are hypersensitive to the artificial sweetener. The side effects are mostly found in those who have migraines and intractable leg cramps. There is of course a continued debate over aspartame as it is long approved by use in the USA. But the Europeans and Australians are extra cautious in its use even though it is approved for general use.
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Old 10-03-21, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
My legs have threatened to cramp during the last 3 races I have done, and it's been at mile 40 each time.
These are 55-65mi races so the last 15-25mi were ridden without me standing to climb and I end up slowly spinning up hills.
I have yet to actually cramp up, to be clear.

My calves aren't happy, but my quads are straight up angry.
I finish feeling hydrated and full so it isn't a total lack of liquids.
For today's race I had 44oz of water, 24oz of Body Armor, and 20oz of Nuun. Then had some quick food- singer waffles, larger, and larbar.
Also, I dont cramp in any other ride.
.
I've had this experience a couple times, with almost exactly the same scenario - right down to the details you've given. The common denominator was HEAT. Both were very challenging races on hot days. The first time was about 15 years ago, and the cramps were so bad that, after the finish, I almost fell over -- couldn't straighten my legs enough to dismount properly. The last time was about six weeks ago, in a gravel race that was 65 miles with about 8000 feet of climbing; temps hit about 86 degrees, with 100% humidity. By 50 miles, I was cramping so badly that I could barely get my leg over the bike in order to dismount. I don't know that I have any real solutions (but see below), but man, I sympathize.

Originally Posted by dwmckee View Post
Has pickle juice been helpful? I know many folks that consume it during a ride before cramping signs start. It is pretty effective for many folks but not all apparently. From what I have read the acetic acid is some sort of neurological trigger that can turn off the cramp signals to your muscles. I use it as well and have found it can ease cramp symptoms very quickly, often in less than 5 minutes. At our last race we run probably close to half of the folks on the longer distances had at least one shot of pickle juice at an aid station so it is a pretty popular solution.
Don, I wasn't cramping at your race, but I did slam some pickle juice, just to be on the safe side! At some other events, I have had the experience you describe: felt cramps coming on, slammed a couple little cups of pickle juice at an aid station, and managed to finish without having my quads lock up. It can't hurt, and I think it might help.
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Old 10-03-21, 02:07 PM
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I get leg cramps with some frequency when riding hard (races mostly) in the 40+ mile range. I’ve had them running too; but only when I was doing marathons. So for me, onset seems to be only after 2-2.5 hours of intense activity…usually longer. However, I often don’t get them. A few weeks ago I did close to 80 miles on what turned out to be a fairly warm day, and somehow managed without any real cramping.

I wish I could say that I’ve solved the problem, but they still occur despite my best efforts. This year was better than recent ones, so maybe I’m learning.

Here is the extent of everything I’ve learned about cramp avoidance:
  • Drink more than normal in the days leading up to a big ride…go easy on (or avoid) alcohol the night before.
  • The biggest issue seems to be staying hydrated (including sufficient electrolytes). This is tough because it’s hard to know what your body’s needs are. I will say that I have gotten dehydrated on hot days despite drinking over 100oz of fluid in 50 miles (3-3:30 of riding)
  • Before a bike race, I eat something like PB toast with banana, and try to keep 100-200 calories coming in per hour. I think I probably get close to 200 between food items and electrolyte mixes if I’m doing things right, but if I’m doing (say) less than 3 hours I can keep it closer to 100. I seem to have fewer problems with cramping when I keep up on calories.
  • Occasional breaks to catch up on eating, drinking, stretching out my legs, etc. There must be some psychological benefit of the resetting of one’s gears, so to speak…on long rides/races that I’ve stopped a lot to help riders or take in scenery, I’ve always performed better.
  • Probably obvious, but the easier I ride the less problem they seem to be.


When cramps come:
  • Get off the bike. Massage the cramped muscles, walk out the cramp, and try to put it into easy mode for a while. While this is happening, so what you can to try to catch up on any caloric/electrolyte/hydration deficiencies. I’ll get back on the bike and ride as I feel comfortable…usually staying unclipped and walking big hills for the rest of the race
  • Pickle juice is okay if available. I bought some shots of it and usually pack one on longer rides…I need to learn more about the mechanics of how it works, but I know there a few theories. I’ve had better luck with Hot Shots (single shots) and Tri-Fuel (sports drink). Both of those products work great to eliminate cramping, but are expensive and not always easy to find.

In closing, hope you can find something that works for you…Cramps suck.
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Old 10-03-21, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
I've had this experience a couple times, with almost exactly the same scenario - right down to the details you've given. The common denominator was HEAT.

I concur. In fact, the only times I've ever cramped (usually my calves) has been on hot days -- never on cool rides, even when I've gone farther or climbed more.

My post-ride recovery drink is this stuff, from the fine folks at Martin House Brewing. After a sixer I feel like a new man!
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Old 10-04-21, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
So it's back to the drawing board. Not enough electrolytes? Not enough hydration? Too fatigued since I am riding harder and farther without a stop?
My money, if I were betting, would be on the latter. No fun, unwelcome answer, since it'll take a while to get in condition to ride longer and harder, and throwing money at it won't help.
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Old 10-04-21, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
My money, if I were betting, would be on the latter. No fun, unwelcome answer, since it'll take a while to get in condition to ride longer and harder, and throwing money at it won't help.
Yeah, that could be the issue, but I sort of wrote it off a bit due to some things-
- my miles are up this year over prior years and I havent had this sort of cramping in past races.
- the prior incident was a 100k race on the first Saturday of August and I had just ridden 640mi in July. Admittedly, those miles often times had a break halfway thru for regrouping and while they were hard ridden, they werent race effort.

I am guessing it was largely due to not enough riding with race effort leading up to the race.
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Old 10-04-21, 11:16 AM
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My legs have started to cramp up in the last couple of seasons if I ride too fast for too far. I just assumed it was part of getting old.
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Old 10-04-21, 03:46 PM
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My problem is that I have cramps off the bike. (Often days after the ride.) Has anyone gone through this?
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Old 10-04-21, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Yeah, that could be the issue, but I sort of wrote it off a bit due to some things-
- my miles are up this year over prior years and I havent had this sort of cramping in past races.
- the prior incident was a 100k race on the first Saturday of August and I had just ridden 640mi in July. Admittedly, those miles often times had a break halfway thru for regrouping and while they were hard ridden, they werent race effort.

I am guessing it was largely due to not enough riding with race effort leading up to the race.
I did a more strenuous ride than usual this weekend, and pretty much just ran out of gas around 45 miles. If I'd had any sense, I'd have stopped for 10-20 minutes to eat and drink; but I wanted to get back before the rain hit, you know? If I'd stopped to refuel I'd have probably finished the ride sooner.
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Old 10-06-21, 03:25 PM
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I'm glad you brought this up. This has been happening to me as well and I've had more active seasons with longer rides, in hotter conditions, with more effort/less fluids and no cramping. Perhaps my fitness level is not the same, or it's that I am getting older. For a second I even wanted to blame it on Pfizer(just kidding! or am I? Yea, I am!). It's always the last 5 or so miles and at the same spot - lower quads just above the knees.
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Old 10-07-21, 07:32 PM
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I was getting lots of cramping and found out I had a hyperactive para-thyroid. Had it (one of four) removed and my calcium and other balance of electrolytes significantly improved.
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Old 10-19-21, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Colorado Kid View Post
My problem is that I have cramps off the bike. (Often days after the ride.) Has anyone gone through this?
You are not alone. Usually, when it happens to me, it is at night following a long hard ride during the day. But I concur with others, pickle juice has stopped cramps dead for me. Yeah, I've heard it was some sort of reaction to the vinegar in it.

You can buy little 2oz packets or bottles of the stuff to easily take with you on a ride if they don't have it in bulk at aid stations on a supported ride.
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Old 10-20-21, 01:13 AM
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I come from a long line of muscle cramp sufferers. It runs in the family apparently.

Magnesium Bisglycinade supplements have made a huge difference.
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Old 10-20-21, 08:59 AM
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Have you tried SportLegs? https://www.sportlegs.com/ They flat out work for me.
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Old 10-20-21, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard View Post
Have you tried SportLegs? https://www.sportlegs.com/ They flat out work for me.
Thanks for that link. I'm going to give those a try.
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Old 10-20-21, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by prj71 View Post
Thanks for that link. I'm going to give those a try.
There are a lot of marathoners and triathletes that swear by them.
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Old 10-21-21, 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by dwmckee View Post
Has pickle juice been helpful? I know many folks that consume it during a ride before cramping signs start. It is pretty effective for many folks but not all apparently. From what I have read the acetic acid is some sort of neurological trigger that can turn off the cramp signals to your muscles. I use it as well and have found it can ease cramp symptoms very quickly, often in less than 5 minutes. At our last race we run probably close to half of the folks on the longer distances had at least one shot of pickle juice at an aid station so it is a pretty popular solution.
This might be a hot take but I think it has more to do with the sodium in pickle juice, IF that's what helps. People get caught up on low sodium everything they forget (or don't know) that it is an essential electrolyte that you lose quite a bit of during intense exercise.

I usually mix a good quality salt with my electrolytes, or just add it to my water bottles and drink that. And it does help with muscle cramps/fatigue.
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