Low Electrolyte Theory
Muscle cramps are brought on by loss of sodium, chloride, calcium, potassium or magnesium in sweat during exercise. This is the oldest cramping theory, and recent evidence suggests it's also the most unlikely cause of muscle cramping. However, as athletes it's an easy one to fix during a race.
Prevention: Before the race, add extra salt to your meals to top-up sodium levels. During the race, supplement with a solution like Elete or use Endurolyte capsules to replace electrolytes lost in sweat.
Hyper-hydration TheoryHyper-hydration is linked to the low electrolyte theory. Drinking too much will dilute the sodium concentration in the blood.
Prevention: Drink just the right amount of fluid and not too much. A good rule of thumb is to drink only when you are thirsty.
Dehydration may or may not cause muscle cramps. Avoiding dehydration is a no-brainer for racers, as dehydration negatively affects race performance in multiple ways.
Prevention: Maintain hydration status by drinking when you are thirsty. Use the color of your urine as an indictator as to whether or not you are properly hydrated.
Some people are simply more susceptible to muscle cramps than others. There's evidence too that susceptibility increases with age.
Prevention: Regular stretching may help reduce the incidence of cramping. If you have frequent muscle cramps, you should stretch regularly. If you have a pill or tonic that prevents muscle cramps, keep taking it. The placebo effect might be working nicely for you. Some athletes swear by pickle juice.
If your legs do cramp in a race, your best option is to drop the pedal force and spin easy. If your muscle cramps become too intense to keep the pedals moving, stop and stretch the affected muscle.
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