Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

Cramping Up

Recommended Posts

I rode a XC endurance race last fall and after the fourth lap (84 miles over 4.5 hours) started to have some leg cramps. At this point I still felt good and could have continued for quite a while if not for the cramps. I stopped to drink and eat and before I knew it I was flat on my back with cramps all over my body and was dizzy whenever I tried to move. This lasted about three hours. This was my first long event and I didn't really have any idea what I should do for hydration and such. I drank about three gallons of Gatorade over two days leading up to the race and had that in my hydration pack. I stopped for a short 10 minute break (I was my own pit crew) between laps and ate and drank.

What will cause the cramping and how should I prep my body prior to the next race?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

hey, I see you're in Oregon, which race was it? where was it?

I've seen lots of people recommend pickle juice for cramps here on TT

I think in a nutshell with cramps is that you're not hydrating/fueling right--what were you eating? Were you sipping your Gatorade as you were riding or gulping a lot on the breaks? same with food? if you drink or eat a lot at once when you are doing big exertion it can cause your stomach to cramp up.

How you fuel is different for everybody, but like for me I can't deal with Gatorade, I only use water and keep sipping a few gulps all along the way, and I don't drink a lot at breaks. There's too much sugar(or whatever else) for me in Gatorade and it makes my stomach cramp and get real nauseous.

FOr food I thnk you need to pay attention to having protein and carbs and fat--so like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and trail mix does me good, easy to digest. I can't handle meat--too much energy goes to the stomach to digest it I guess. I think it's really important to eat in frequent little portions--you dont' want to dump a load into your stomach and have your body focus on digesting and not riding.

THe better cardio shape you're in and the more relaxed you ride the less cramps you have.

And find your "bonk" food--for me it's a snickers bar, a few bites will fix me up. I know a candy bar has a lot of sugar(like before I said I can't handle sugary Gatorade)--BUT the Snickers bar also has fat and protein(a bit, in the peanuts), which balances out the sugar I think so it's not so potent.

Breakfast is important too--I like eggs, yogurt, banana and orange juice--easy digesting protein n stuff.

ha, I know some guys eat hot dogs and hamburgers on their breaks too....

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you're not in decent shape, NOTHING will prevent cramps. Once you get in decent shape, then worry about hydration and nutrition.

Why would you drink gatorade in the days before a race? that much sugar can't be good for you.

In hot weather, i would dilute gatorade or a similar energy drink to about 1/2 -3/4 strength.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was the November 24 hr at Starvation Ridge, WA.

A friend had suggested starting a couple of days early on getting my hydration and electrolytes up. I drink about a gallon of water a day so I just substituted the Gatorade for water.

Point well taken on being in shape for the ride in the first place.

The part that scared me a little was it started with one cramp in my thigh and within 15 minutes of sitting (not on the bike) the cramps took over my whole body and for three hours I basically couldn't move. I don't know if that is caused by running out of electrolytes or what.

For some of you that do long distance XC what do you do besides exercise to prep your body? (Food and such.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gatorade is great for quenching thirst and horrible at hydrating your body. Don't use it to hydrate and keep it out of your camel back. The sugar within it actually dehydrates you, much like drinking a pop. If you want to drink something with a little flavor that actually serves a purpose, try Cytomax. Personally, I just drink water.

Also... trying to get hydrated three days prior to the race is way too late. You need to be fully hydrated atleast 5 days prior. One way to tell if you are fully hydrated is by looking at your urine. If it's clear, you are hydrated.

Another good idea is to eat a banana everyday. The banana can actually serve two purposes. One, the potassium helps keep you from cramping up. Also, banana's can help you fight off the dreaded "lactic acid" build-up within your muscles. The week prior to any race, I actually take down 2 bananas every day.

You could also try increasing your salt intake moderatley the week prior to one of these long races. Salt helps you retain water, but I wouldn't go salting the crap out of everything you eat. You can increase your salt intake effectively through various foods. However, like the guy before me said; if you're lacking in physical conditioning, all of the above suggestions will only help you to a point. If you aren't in good enough shape, you will sweat alot and lose tons of water that your body just can't replace fast enough.

Hopefully some of this helps, good luck at your next race. I believe one my buddies is actually competing against you in the 40B.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't forget to stretch, before & after, actually every day. Make your muscles more efficient.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

deep tissue massage can be helpful a few days before. i'm not exactly sure why but i've known several elite level pro mountaineers that swear by it for giving their legs some extra performance/endurance abilities

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gatorade is great for quenching thirst and horrible at hydrating your body. Don't use it to hydrate and keep it out of your camel back. The sugar within it actually dehydrates you, much like drinking a pop. If you want to drink something with a little flavor that actually serves a purpose, try Cytomax. Personally, I just drink water.

Also... trying to get hydrated three days prior to the race is way too late. You need to be fully hydrated atleast 5 days prior. One way to tell if you are fully hydrated is by looking at your urine. If it's clear, you are hydrated.

Another good idea is to eat a banana everyday. The banana can actually serve two purposes. One, the potassium helps keep you from cramping up. Also, banana's can help you fight off the dreaded "lactic acid" build-up within your muscles. The week prior to any race, I actually take down 2 bananas every day.

You could also try increasing your salt intake moderatley the week prior to one of these long races. Salt helps you retain water, but I wouldn't go salting the crap out of everything you eat. You can increase your salt intake effectively through various foods. However, like the guy before me said; if you're lacking in physical conditioning, all of the above suggestions will only help you to a point. If you aren't in good enough shape, you will sweat alot and lose tons of water that your body just can't replace fast enough.

Hopefully some of this helps, good luck at your next race. I believe one my buddies is actually competing against you in the 40B.

What he said, it was like listening to myself. GOD you annoying cause you just so right... :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For some of you that do long distance XC what do you do besides exercise to prep your body? (Food and such.)

I race desert races (2-4 hrs) and enduros (4-6 hrs). My preparation is:

1. ride both days every weekend year round. I like to ride. Riding lots helps me relax on the bike and use less energy to go fast.

2. Ride my bicycle to work (32 miles round trip) a couple days a week when it's decent weather, and pedal after work or cross-country ski or do a light weight routine the rest of the time.

3. Try to drink less than 5 beers the night before. I'm not always successful at this part.

Compared to something like racing bicycles or cross-country skis, I find racing motorcycles easy enough that I don't really stress about hydration and nutrition as if I were riding the tour de france. But our normal weekend rides usually wear out our riding friends halfway through, so races are pretty much just another day of riding to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am also from Oregon and keep myself pretty fit with walking, running, cycling, regular trips to gym and long trail rides and/or races. I recently went down to California for the Soboba trail ride and was hit with 90 degree heat.

Just the weekend before, I had been riding in snow, so I wasn't prepared for that much heat and started cramping and then got heat stroke. Plus the trails were very challenging with almost no breaks, and we were riding pretty hard.

I think the mistake I made was not realizing how much stress going from a cold envrionment to a hot one puts on the system. Also, I drank a bunch of wine the night before and coffee the next morning, and that probably didn't help. To cool down, I literally jumped in a stream and that helped me feel better, but the cramping took a couple of hour to subside.

Live and learn. Some great tips here about eating lots of bananas and pounding down water prior to rides. I will be watching this much closer in the future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For some of you that do long distance XC what do you do besides exercise to prep your body? (Food and such.)

Take in your share of lean meats, namely fish and chicken. It's not that red meat is bad, but it takes a long time to digest. Not to mention, the older you get the harder red meat gets to digest. It will esentially store in your body and you won't reap many benefits from it.

Eggs & yogurt are good, as mentioned above. Almonds are great, along with green salad and any fruit or veggie. Drink plenty of water and 8 oz. of milk every morning. I totally avoid any pop, diet included, energy drink or gatorade type drink.

A couple days before a race I'll reintroduce (in moderation) grains into my diet like rice, pasta, bread or even pancakes. Between races I directly avoid these types of complex carbs. They break down slow, they're full of sugar, and they store as fat. However, you can effectively use the energy boost they provide prior to a race. If you eat these foods on a daily basis, you will notice no benefit. Your body will be used to them and will promptly store them away. A little bit of diet confusion can go along way to boosting your energy levels.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

4.5 hours is a long time to exert yourself. Try putting accelerade in your pack instead of just water. It has a great combination of the right kind of carbs which are monosaccharides(these digest easier and are less prone to causing cramping or bloating) and protein. The ratio is 4carbs to 1 protein. There are several articles in the Journal of Medicine, Science, sports and Exercise that have shown its benefit over water specifically in cyclists. It has made a huge difference for me on long rides and more so in my mountain biking. Also, you have got to eat and drink more often than you think. There are lots of books out there that are easy quick reads on nutrition during and immediately before and after endurance competitions that are simple and make a huge difference.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

GREAT! Thanks for all the tips - that is exactly what I was looking for. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One last thing from me on this topic, check your blood type, you're either veg or protein (red meat) type anyway this is what was explained to me by a dietician (I realize it's not quite as simple as this but since I'm not an expert...); In other words either food group agrees with your body/digestive system better. Once you work this out everything else seems easy.

I'm veg (blood group A+) this includes white meats (Chicken, fish) and Ostrich (un-steroid effected/modified) (avoiding red meat and processed grains and sugars) (I don't eat like this all the time - I'll die - red meat and beer: hell yeah), my system can digest them more effectively and produce more energy from them (provided I eat correctly). I never thought this true until I tested it and it does seem to make a difference. (Ripley's believe it or not)

Kind of like putting in cheap fuel... (I don't know works for me)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I dont race, but thought I would chime in, I think Llama is on to something, being in shape is key. If I ride with faster riders that are in shape, I repeat to myself "pick good lines and conserve energy", not sure that always works and hopefully nobody hears me. I like propel cut with water as its not too sweet, pasta the night before, try to hold off on the beer(right), bananas!!, and get ready to laugh- Midol. If I am dehydrated after and am riding the next day, kids Pedialite works good, if you can stomach it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

forgot to add, not too much coffee the morning of, hot tea if you need the caffine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

that's an interesting theory, putting Midol in a man :) what does it do for you?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

it seems to help with cramping, I reluctantly tried it on a suggestion from a friend and it worked for me, maybe its all in my head, so far I can tolerate the smart ass comments from riding buddies, if it works what can it hurt?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I first heard about pickle juice on T.V. for the Philadelphia Eagles. Who are well trained athletes who still get cramps. I take potassium pills regularly and drink a gallon of water daily, dilute my gatorade on race day, drink a bottle of pedilyte the day before a race no matter what temperature, and take a swig of pickle juice when I can remember before and after a race. I cramped up bad at a National Enduro a few years ago in Michigan. Had a bad cold and took some cold medicine and it dryed me out, cramps all day, by the last section my arms were locking up. Not fun. I take precautions to be sure that never happens again. Another time at this years aligator enduro, after the first section I was get really sore and cramps in my thighs. I just linked it to the head cold I had, but I took no medicine to dry me out. And if it were that why was I not getting cramps elsewhere. Turns out that my knee braces were too tight, and I didnt realize were cutting off cicrculation. Man did I feel like a goofball, but lesson learned. Hope this can help you all enjoy riding better, Rich Remember Fitness is a lifestyle, not just something you do a few days before the race!!!!!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing on hydration. You can reach a euhydrated(normal) state by drinking 5-7ml/kg of body weight 4 hours before activity. You don't have to do this 5 days in advance. It is obviously good for you to be well hydrated consistently, but just like anyone that does multiday racing or training you can get hydrated well in a shorter period of time. It is better to take in smaller amounts of fluid more often than large amounts at one time. You can convert the ml to ounces if it is easier. There are 30ml in 1 oz. and 2.2lbs in 1 kg. This is all concerning preactivity hydration.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Reply with:

Sign in to follow this  

×