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  1. #1
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    Hydration/quad cramping

    Hey guys/gals,
    So in my preparation for an upcoming orgainized 35 miler I signed up for I have started lengthening my rides. Typically I get out from anywhere between 10-15 miles but the past two weekends have uped that to 20-25 respectively. My goal is to increase the distance each week up to the event.

    In any case, on Saturday at about the 20 mile mark my right quad started tightening up on me with each down stroke. My left was not as bad. I would say that if I had to stand and climb up a large hill that my right would have certainly cramped up on me.

    I had been drinking water the entire way via my hydro pack and stopped for a quick snack/break at about the 12 mile mark. But I did not have liquid with me other than water. Durning the summer when I was riding with water bottles I normally had one full of gatorade and the other with water and would sip on them both durning the ride. I guess I just figured I would be fine with a full pack of water this trip. WRONG

    Ok so my question is how should I approach this? Does this sound more like a dehydration issue or a simple lack of carbs???? I ate a good breakfast and dinner the night prior. Just curious what sort of supplement I should consider carrying with me on the ride to help prevent this from happening in the future. I can't imagine having this hit me at mile 25 and still have 10 to go with the worst climb of the riding hitting at about mile 33!

    Keep in mind that I raced road bikes for years back in the day and had problems with my calfs cramping back then but my quads is something new (and I rode with cytomax back then). Just wondering how any of you guys that put in longer rides deal with this sort of thing or what I could try in the future.

  2. #2
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    Are you feeling pain in the affected quad?

    My guess is a magnesium deficiency. You lose mag from sweating.....try some Rolaids before the ride. I recently read an article that said this was the most common, yet overlooked cause for cramps and pain for cyclists. I'll see if I can find it.

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    Heres the article...apparently I took a lot from that article. Thats where I read using Rolaids helped.

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    Yep, definitely still feeling a little pain. Right above the tear drop portion of my quad if you will. Almost where it tires in I guess. I wouldn't say it hurts so much as it just feels stiff. Sorta like a day or so after a hard leg day in the gym.

    going to read the link now but makes sense.

  5. #5
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    Endurolyte does the trick for me, mix in water, adjust the mix to suit.

    Endurolytes - Electrolyte Replacement Supplement | Hammer Nutrition

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    Do any of these taint your hydration bladder? I mean, does it end up leaving a taste in the bladder the next time you only drink water out of it? Don't get me wrong, I can clean it out but just curious if you guys have experienced that at all.

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    I use Heed and it doesn't do anything to the bladder if I rinse it out good. Sometimes you get a little taste the first sip, that's it though.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by AZ.MTNS View Post
    Endurolyte does the trick for me, mix in water, adjust the mix to suit.

    Endurolytes - Electrolyte Replacement Supplement | Hammer Nutrition
    Is the powdered form flavored? I don't see any options on their site so I am guessing it is not and is considered flavorless if you will.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metalhack View Post
    Heres the article...apparently I took a lot from that article. Thats where I read using Rolaids helped.
    Good little article. Especially since I sort of fall into the south beach diet plan. Trust me, I'm not on any diet. I simply tend to not take in as many carbs as I probably should. Perhaps this is from years of training in the gym (not that I am huge by any means-185 at 5'9") where it was always about protein intake.

    I will definitely give the Rolaids a shot though as I would say that while I am getting cramps I am also suffering from DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) similar to how I would feel after a hard workout at the gym. Normally it hits me at about the 48 hour mark for my legs which is exactly where I am at today.

    I will also make sure that I add in some electrolites as I am sure that was part of it as well as I tend to sweat quite a bit and it was quite humid out there.

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    Well, I thought I was doing things right. I carb loaded starting two days out, I drank water all frickn day on Thursday (I swear, I ran to the take a leak 3 times an hour at least), I ate well... Friday morning, I ate a good breakfast, popped some Rolaids before the ride and headed out. At mile 10 I stopped, took a Gatorade Prime, drank more water, stretched my quads a little bit and got going again. At mile 13 I started getting the crampy feeling in my quads again! WTH?? I popped two more Rolaids and drank alot more water and drank a Gatorade recovery drink. I figured since it has about 230 calories as well as protein that it would help. I never felt tired or wooped in anyway. Keep in mind that from mile 8-13, the trail was fairly mellow with minimal climbing. I felt pretty good at this point but at mile 17 my quads hit the wall. I got off, stretched some more, drank more (I was drinking the whole time mind you-water) None the less, I was screwed! I had to climb up a 3 teared road climb to link the two sections of trail and get back to my car. It was horrible. I caught a cramp on the second tear. I stopped at one point and got off the bike. Both quads were cramping, I couldn't straighten my legs to even stand and stretch one leg. I couldn't lay down as there was no shoulder on this tight little country road either. I started to go back down the hill thinking I would just hike up the side of the hill but figured I only had about 200 yrds to go. I litterally sucked it up and pedaled up to about the last 50 yrds and got off again. I managed to walk up the rest of the way w/ my knees bent. I swear I probably looked like I was handicapped (honestly, I was!). I want you all to know that I was a Ranger in the Army for several years and I have suffered through many physical things durning that time. But hiking up a hill pushing a bike with cramps in both quads was easily as bad as my worst day ever as a Ranger. I managed to ride back to the car (about 3.5 miles). I was littlerally grunting and cussing the entire way! But when I hit the parking lot it seemed like the cramps suddenly went away. I was able to walk around my car, bend over to take off my shoes, put the bike in the car... I just don't get it. I even stretched a little bit.

    So here I am a day later. My quads feel like I did squats yesterday and are stiff as hell. I know I did some damage trying to ride through it and it will take a few days to get back to normal. But I am stumped. I did a little research and learned a little bit more but the reality is that everything seems to point out the same things...Hydrate (drink water), good nutrition, STRETCH! During my research, I came across a post that a member made on here a few years ago. The guy had some really good points, but to my surprise he only had/has one post on the forum. Not sure if he was asked to come on and post something or what. None the less, I copied it and have attached it below. Its a good read for anyone that is dealing with some cramping issues.

    I know this is an old thread, but I figured it needed my input.

    Cramps are very simple. Treat them as such.

    All of these suppliments and electrolytes that are apparently missing, thereby causing cramps is only a small, very small part of the equation.

    You need to look at the root cause of WHY you are cramping. Yes, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals play a key role. Yes, fatigue and colder/hotter than normal temps play a key role. But these keys are are fairly uncommon unless the rider is feasting on doughnuts and pop every day before a ride or is riding in Death Valley or Alaska in February. Your body has a knack of being able to handle these imbalances quite well.

    So, in a nutshell, unless the temperatures are TRULY extreme and/or your body is simply lacking proper nutrition altogether, your muscles make do.

    What people fail to realize is that MOST of the time a cramp happens because of one thing... generally. This one thing is simple, but has two parts.

    Your muscle needs to do two things, contract and relax. Period.

    The contraction is what most people focus on primarily because it is what "gets the work done". Therefore, the RELAXATION is simply forgotten about because, heck it's only relaxing so it can CONTRACT again to do more work.

    This is the problem.

    When you paid $400 for a "bike fit" what did they do? Yep, they set up your seat height so your leg is in that "sweet spot" for a maximum extention for greatest efficiency. GREAT!

    Here's the problem with that.

    A muscle NEEDS to relax fully at least once in a while to complete the cycle. This never happens in a full pedal stroke. It's impossible. A truly FULL relaxation of the muscle is with your heel touching your buttocks. Do you ever kick your butt while pedalling? Nope.

    So this full contraction/ partial relaxation cycle slowly builds up toxins and lactic acid from the partial movement and the muscle doesn't have a chance tp "flush" so to speak.


    So enough on the technical stuff.... So obviously you can't touch your heel to your butt while cycling, so here are some tips to MINIMIZE the possibility of cramping.

    1. Proper nutrition. Before, during and after a ride. REAL nutrition... you know, fruit, veggies, protein, fiber and water. Not diets, not Taco Bell, and not pop. Real food the way God intended. (sorry athiests) Beer is ok as it is the nectar of the earth.
    2. Stretch your key muscles prior to riding. Not too much, just a good 45-60 second stretch to get the blood flowing
    3. Water intake. I didn't say Gatorade, Powerade or Enduralytes. Water. Your muscles need to be hydrated to flush toxins and lactic acid away. You're already screwing them over by only partially relaxing your muscles while pedalling so good hydration gives them the best fighting chance to do their best for you.
    4. Electrolytes. This is actually debated in many scientific fields stating that your body has more than enough to sustain itself for many hours of strenuous excersize, but that supplimentation "can't hurt" and if you ARE deficient to begin with (see #1) then supplimentation is going to be a plus.
    5. Seat height. While I have discussed this earlier as being more of a cause than a cure for cramps, improper seat height can still cause cramps in many other ways, especially if it is too high which will carry your cramps into your calves. A seat that is too low is inefficient, but will aleiviate some cramping in the calves and quads, but will start to cause cramping in the hamstrings. I always tell people on the trail to lower the seat a bit if they are quad/calf cramping and raise it a bit if the hammys are going nutso.
    6. Crank length. This is an expensive solution, but a longer crank arm will give you a little bit more relaxation in each crank, will lower your center of gravity and even give you a bit more climbing power... but the downfall is more pedal strikes, especially on a full squish.
    7. Stretch: If you get a cramp. Stop. It won't go away. Suck up your pride, get off the bike and stretch it out. Hold the stretch for at least 45 seconds and 60 if possible. Release slowly and repeat a few times. While doing this suck down as much water as you can afford. Eat something as well. The extra carbs and sugar get your blood flowing which is what your muscles need... the water hydrates them.
    8. Consider cutting your ride short if there is ample climbing left. Once you cramp, it's difficult to not re-trigger them on the next climb... especially if you're trying to keep up with faster riders.
    9. Don't push it after a cramp. That's a guaranteed re-cramp. Spin
    10. Feel a cramp coming on? Stop right then. It's easier to stretch out a budding cramp than a full blown muscle blaster that already has you in the fetal position and begging for your mommy.
    11. Stretch: Again??!! Yeesh! Yep. Like I said before, it doesn't have a be a long drawn out event, but you need to give those muscles a chance to go through a few more good full relaxation cycles to help flush the buildup and to ease them back into regular life.
    12. RECOVERY. Did I mention recovery? Well then, RECOVERY. If you just took a little spin for an hour, chances are you didn't tear down your muscles too bad. But that same spin at full intensity or an epic 40 mile endurance testosterone fest with maps, six Camelbaks and lack of civilization will do significantly more muscle fiber damage that needs to be repaired. So let it happen. A healthy and undamaged muscle will give you many more miles of cramp free service than one that is damaged and screaming at you to piss off and die. Give your muscles a minimum of 48 hours of passive or active recovery. Both are acceptable.
    13. Train: Yes, believe it or not, you probably weren't cut out for that particular ride that day... get over it. Keep riding and alternating short "sprint" rides with longer endurance "epic" rides. Keeps your muscles on their toes and on a constant state of alert and adaptaion mode. This is a good thing.
    14. Give yourself a pat on the back after a good cramp.... it means your cranked your arse off and were pushing it. That's just simply being an athelete in my book. Don't be ashamed of a cramp. It happens. To ALL OF US. I once had a fellow rider tell me,"Suck it up, aw you're just faking it." Which is what he truly thought until I pulled my face out of the dirt (to muffle the cries) to look at him... my look was unmistakable and his attitude changed as well. Trust me... there's no face quite like the face of a rider enduring a true cramp.
    15. Adapt: Your muscles WILL adapt. They will be able to sustain those short relaxation cycles for many more miles than they did a year ealier. They will be more efficient, requiring less stringent nutritional needs, and they will be more responsive to post cramp treatment (stretching) when the time arrises that you cramp again. You will. Even the endurance racers get them... and noone has legs more adapted to long rides than they do.


    I hope this helped.
    My fingers are cramping.


    With all of that said, I would like to add that I was also experiencing some PITA during the ride. Not sure if it was my shorts or what. But my butt was in a little bit of pain during this ride. So, I swapped out my seat out. I was riding a SLR carbon rail set up and changed it to my road seat, a Fizik Aliante. Unfortunately, I have not been back out on the bike yet (it rained all day...and I feel like crap!). I am also going to lower my seat about 1/4" as well to see if that helps any.

    On a good note, I got up and went out to an urgent trail maintenance day. We have a very large Epic ride scheduled by our local bike riding club (MORE) in two weeks and unfortunately some of the heavy eastern storms have taken a toll. So we ended up cutting in about .75 miles of new trail, added a creek crossing (pavers and all), some gravel paths thru some really wet and muddy areas, all while dealing with the rain beating down on us. Did I mention that this was like working on a damn chain gang???? Good God, now my back is tight, abs are tight... from swinging hoes, axes, rakes, pulling out roots.... Oh, I carbed up on some beer while working on the bike and cleaning it up. All in all, even though I am sore, it was a good day considering the weather.

  11. #11
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    Cramps

    Try adding bananas to your diet, especially a few hours before a ride, it has helped me.

  12. #12
    AZ
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1SPD View Post
    Is the powdered form flavored? I don't see any options on their site so I am guessing it is not and is considered flavorless if you will.



    Yes, it is largely flavorless. Sorry it took so long to reply.

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    Awesome

    So the other night I dropped my buddies son off at his house after taking him to my daughters soccer game (which he did not watch-instead he and my other daughers and her friend all went over to the play ground). In any case, he has started working out again (used to be my workout partner) and he gave me some preworkout BCAA's from GNC. Nothing special but I tell you what that stuff really worked! That along with some creatine (which is a cell volumizer basically) twice a day. The cool thing about creatine these days is that the science has progressed to the point that you no longer have to go thru a loading phase with it. So, I took the creatine first thing in the morning and then took the prework out crap about 20 minutes before I set off on my ride. I will add that I drank about 1/2 gallon of water throughout the day prior to the ride (been drinking alot of water each day lately). During the ride I continued drinking water. At mile 10 I stopped and drank a 1/2 water bottle of gatorade (brought a smaller 20oz btl w/ me in my hydration pack). At mile 15 I took a gatorade prime and an Alieve. At mile 17 I had a decision to make, either go straight to my daughers game (was the plan from the get go) which would have resulted in about 18 miles for the ride. I opted to add a portion of one of the loops at the local trail (which is where my ride ends up at-right next to a huge soccer complex where my daughter was playing in a tournament this weekend) which resulted in my ride being about 22. I honestly felt like I could have kept riding had I not been under a time constraint. I can say that I was starting to get a little tired but I know I could have kept riding w/ little to no problems! Honestly, it was just an awesome day. I felt like my old self again. Not even a hint of a crap. BTW, I also swapped out my seat post and lowered it. I went back to my KCNC straight post from my Blacksheep 20 degree lay back. It felt a little uncomfortable at first but I will keep the bike set up this way through my 35 miler.

    So with all that said, today was simply a good day. I plan on running this same nutrition plan next weekend but will get to add in the rest/aid stations so that should help out. That along with having a ton of other people out there riding with me!

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    It could be a lack of potassium, or even calcium as well. I know that I have had quad and calf cramping myself, and those are both areas in which I increased my intake of both of those and have virtually put an end to the problem. Hope that you are able to fix it as well!

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    Increased intake of both. Started with increasing potassium and did not notice much of a change. Think I got things under control at this point.

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    Well, I was wrong. I repeated my same supplement strategy starting on Friday evening before my ride on Sunday. I honestly felt great and would say that I was pretty well hydrated judging by the frequency in which I was running to the bathroom. None the less, at mile 14 (3 miles after our first aid station stop) the cramps started coming and of course got worse as the ride continued. I never hit a point where they were flat out cramped, but rather managed to keep my leg bent just enough to prevent total lock out if you will. It was horrible riding the last 23 miles of the ride in this condition and of course I ams still stiff 3 days after the event.

    I am a little stumped at this point as to what the problem is. I have adjusted my diet by increasing my fluid intake, increased carbs as well as potassium, made seat height adjustments...I thought I had things worked out but apparently not.

    I happen to have an anual physical scheduled for tomorrow so I plan on asking the doctors as many questions as I can. I am also trying to get in contact with one of my wifes friends from college who is one of the UMD's sports teams doctors. Basically there is a staff of doctors that simply rotate to cover the various sports teams at games/practices. I figure she will be a great place to start and if anything perhaps tell me what I should be asking my doctor tomorrow at a minimum. At the moment, I am keeping my fingers crossed in the hopes of trying to figure out what the issue is.

    The bottom line though is that judging by the way I feel when the cramps are hitting it simply makes me think that somehow my body is now making more lactic acid than it can push out of the muscles. I know that is basically what causes a cramp to start with but what I can't figure out is why this has somewhat suddenly started happening (over the past 2 months). I never had this problem before so it just seems so out of left field right now its not funny.

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    So I just got off the phone with my wifes friend "Val" who specializes in sports medicine for the University of MD. She suggested a couple of things to ask the doctors but understands that the office I am going to is for general medicine if you will and may not be able to do a whole lot of testing (stress testing...).

    She suggested that perhaps I could try to ride or replicate the cramping prior to going to the appt. Honestly, that does not sound fun at all! That would mean having to do a solid hour or two on the spin bike in my basement to generate that condition, and then heading over to the appt all sweaty and nasty, but it could allow for them to see things in blood work that they might not normally. I doubt this is the approach I will take and she mentioned that depending on what sort of results they see back that perhaps she could set something up at the university for me to have them do some testing on me. How frickn cool would that be??? Wait a minute, how much would that cost????

    She also mentioned a few things to have the doctors look at or test for.
    1. Potassium levels
    2. CK enzyme
    3. Compartmental syndrome

    Number one seems simple and should pretty much show up in the routine blood work.

    Number two CK (Creatine kinase): basically an indicator of muscle breakdown. Your CK levels tend to rise as muscles begin to break down. The question here is why are the muscles breaking down all of a sudden. Simple suggestions for lowering your CK levels is to stop/minimize the use of the muscles affected (stop riding) for up to 4 weeks! I don't like that solution of course. I will however be making sure they look into this in my blood work.

    Lastly number 3: defined as the compression of nerves, blood vessels, and muscle inside a closed space (compartment) within the body [1]. This leads to tissue death from lack of oxygenation due to the blood vessels being compressed by the raised pressure within the compartment. Compartment syndrome most often involves the forearm and lower leg. I can understand this and perhaps my seat could be part of the problem here. Perhaps the seat is hitting pressure points or cutting off blood flow. This could all be as simple as maybe trying to find another seat that fits me better. The odd thing again is that I don't recall having this problem before and I have been riding this seat for longer than I have had this problem.

    So, at this point I am glad that I spoke with Val and feel that I can go to the doctor tomorrow with some good questions to ask and hopefully get the ball moving in the right direction.

    At this point I have read that it is suggested to make sure you are consuming higher quantities of quality fluids (water, gatorade, powerade...) to help flush out some of the CK enzyme. However, I think I am going to keep my diet exactly the way it is right now so that when they draw blood we will have a better idea of what is going on. If I start trying to self treat everything right now, I could end up masking an indicator or something that is normally there. So I will hold off and see what the doctors have to say.

    I will post back when I find out more as I'm sure I can't be the only person suffering from this sort of thing.

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    Fitness

    I used to cramp during every race I did. I tried all the various supplements/sports drinks/diets out there to find a solution. Nothing worked.

    Finally I realized it was a fitness issue. I added back to back hard long (1.5 - 2 x race distance) rides on the weekends (often riding till I cramped) and now I don't cramp unless I go way beyond what my body is used to.

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    That very well may be the case. I just seems odd that it has started in the past couple of months. Then again, my distances increased as well. I put in 17.6 yesterday however and felt great the entire ride.

    Should have blood results back some time tomorrow and will then forward them on to Val (wifes doctor friend). Not sure what all we are going to see at this point as the sample came a few days post ride and I had not ridden at all from the date of my cramping ride to the date of the sample.

    Compartmental Syndrome testing needs to be done before/during/after the event. Basically, I will need to be on a spin bike or something creating the same scenerio when the samples are taken. I am sure they will collect blood but the real testing comes from them taking pressure readings from the muscle compartments themselves. Basically that means inserting a needle that has a syringe/pressure gauge connected to it directly into the muscle, aspirating, and reading the gauge. Sounds fun huh? NOT! I'm not sure if I will ever get to that stage as I'm sure my insurance will not cover that sort of testing. It is easier for them to agree with a doctor that says not to ride any more than to fund the testing. Gotta love insurance! I will add however that after speaking with the PA that did my exam that he said that typically compartmental syndrome occurs in the lower extermities (forearms or below the knee). Not that it can't occur elsewhere but it typically does not. So that is actually a reasuring fact at this point and goes along with what I have read so far.

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    Your saddle height is set high enough isn't it? Maybe it's a dumb question, but I thought I'd ask it anyway. It doesn't hurt to rule out all the potential contributors.

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    Yes, the saddle height is high enough. I actually swapped out my post from my Black Sheep layback to a straight post and lowered it slightly. It felt awkward in the beginning and I could really tell the difference on seated climbs. But I did not get any cramps on my next 22 mile ride so I figured things were good. However, when I did my 35 miler the cramps hit me at mile 14 or so. I have since raised the seat back up about 1cm and did 17.6 yesterday with no problems at all. It definitely feels better at its current height so that is where it is staying.

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    1SPD,

    I hope you are getting this under control. I have had cramping in endurance races, but never in training on road or mountain. I don't know why the race causes the cramps, but the equally intense and equally long or longer training rides don't result in cramping.

    I also had surgery for compartment syndrome (facial release) in my right shin. I highly doubt that you have compartment syndrome. The pain and symptoms are very different from cramps.

    Good luck.
    Whether you think you can, or think you cant, you're usually right.

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    I really don't know what you missed. You seem to have covered almost everything. Focus more on your general 24/7 diet. Gobs and gobs of fruits and vegetables. All colors. Small portions of poultry and meat. Also you aint no spring chicken; more spinning, less pushing. Especially on the Epics.Good luck.

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    your cramping is from lack of electrolyte replacement. Has nothing to do with carbs. Go back to the Gatorade and I bet you'll be fine. FYI....I am really a doctor and not just qualified to play one on tv

  25. #25
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    have you tried a stretching regimen during and after a ride and making a habit of stretching at night to after warming up a bit. on long rides I force myself to stop at some points and stretch even if I feel good. I find that helps in preventing my cramps.

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