Why cyclists suffer from cramp
There are 2 main theories on what causes Exercise Associated Muscle Cramp...
- The ‘Dehydration/Electrolyte Theory’. If you lose a lot of sodium and don’t replace it (as is common when you sweat a lot) it can cause fluid shifts in the body that in turn causes cramps.
- The ‘Neuromuscular Theory’. Muscles tend to cramp specifically when they are overworked and fatigued due to electrical misfiring.
Both theories have their merits (and you can read more about the different theories of cramp here) but unfortunately there's no ‘magic bullet’ available to kill off muscle cramping.
Things to try to avoid cramp.
- Train specifically for event(s) that tend to induce cramps - i.e. with the right mix of volume and intensity to prepare your muscles for what is going to be asked of them.
- Pace yourself appropriately based on fitness levels and environmental conditions to avoid overloading muscles prematurely.
- Taper into events so that you are fresh and well rested when you start.
- Make sure you’re adequately fuelled with plenty of carbohydrates on board before you start events and that you fuel adequately to avoid becoming glycogen depleted which can contribute to premature fatigue.
Try consuming additional sodium before and during your rides
Especially if your cramps tend to occur during/after periods of heavy sweating, in hot weather.
Make sure your sports drinks are strong enough. Typical electrolyte supplements contain <500mg sodium per litre (32oz).
Sweat has 920mg/l on average (32oz), and we often measure athletes losing over 1,500mg per litre through our Advanced Sweat Test.
Look for >1000mg sodium per litre and over 1,500mg/l if you suspect you're a particularly ‘salty sweater’.
Take the extra sodium in the hours immediately before and during activities that normally result in cramping. 89% of athletes suffering from cramp who drink our 1,500mg/l electrolyte drink said that this helped them manage or eliminate their cramp.
A good way to see where this should fit in to the rest of your hydration strategy is by taking our free Cycling Sweat Test, just hit the button below to get started.