I tend to cramp up when I ride centuries. I consume lots of sports drink, but that doesn't seem to prevent the cramping.
On my last long ride - 80 miles - I had a couple of packages of salted peanuts and didn't have any cramping, but it was a slower ride than usual. Additionally, I'd like liquid so I can consume it on the bike.
Are there reasons why adding a little salt to a sports drink would be a bad idea?
Great question! I have seen some athletes who sweat as little as 300 mg of sodium per hour while others around 2000-3000 mg per hour so the individual sweat sodium losses are all across the board.
A sports drink such as the new Gatorade Endurance Hydration Formula will most definitely help you replenish your sodium needs but you may be on the end of large sodium loss therefore, it is okay to add extra salt to the drink as long as it is still palatable.
Your idea of salted peanuts is a good one also. If you can eat more salty snacks during your rides, that would be of great benefit also.
Interesting study results done regarding excess sodium intake:
From the British Journal of Sport Medicine:
Sodium supplementation is not required to maintain serum sodium concentrations during an Ironman triathlon
T D Hew-Butler, K Sharwood, M Collins, D Speedy and T Noakes
University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Context: Critical assessment of recommendations that athletes consume additional sodium during athletic events.
Objective: To evaluate if sodium supplementation is necessary to maintain serum sodium concentrations during prolonged endurance activity and prevent the development of hyponatraemia.
Design: Prospective randomised trial of athletes receiving sodium (620 mg table salt), placebo (596 mg starch), or no supplementation during a triathlon. The sodium and placebo tablets were taken ad libitum, with the suggested range of 1-4 per hour.
Setting: The 2001 Cape Town Ironman triathlon (3.8 km swim, 180 km cycle, 42.2 km run).
Subjects: A total of 413 triathletes completing the Ironman race.
Main outcome measures: Sodium supplementation was not necessary to maintain serum sodium concentrations in athletes completing an Ironman triathlon nor required to prevent hyponatraemia from occurring in athletes who did not ingest supplemental sodium during the race.
Results: Subjects in the sodium supplementation group ingested an additional 3.6 (2.0) g (156 (88) mmol) sodium during the race (all values are mean (SD)). There were no significant differences between the sodium, placebo, and no supplementation groups with regard to age, finishing time, serum sodium concentration before and after the race, weight before the race, weight change during the race, and rectal temperature, systolic and diastolic blood pressure after the race. The sodium supplementation group consumed 14.7 (8.3) tablets, and the placebo group took 15.8 (10.1) tablets (p = 0.55; NS).
When I moved up to running distances above 6 mi I encountered severe leg cramping. By severe I mean I could not continue running and I would need several days to recover.
Adding sodium didn't help, but adding potassium sure did. The cramping went away completely. For long runs I carry liquid protein for fuel and I add potassium chloride to it.
I'm not sure about the science, but it works for me.
I agree with the previous poster about Endurolytes (made by HammerGel). I ride and race exclusively in Miami, Florida, and the summers here are hot and humid. I routinely take 2 capsules prior to a hard summer ride or race, and additional pills as needed. Heat stroke always looms large here, and I've revived riders on centuries with these pills.
I swear by these pills, and I'm sure they've kept me alive on more than one occasion.
On days that aren't quite as hot and humid as to require Endurolytes, I use Enervit tablets which are specifically designed to prevent cramping. They are kind of like large Sweet Tarts, and you just let them dissolve in your mouth as you ride, taking one every 30 min or so. They work great, as long as you aren't losing a ton of salt through sweating on a really hot/humid day.
Cramping/heat stroke is serious business in Miami, and this is the proper way to deal with it. Good luck, and keep the rubber side down!
Try a product called Nuun. They are electrolyte tabs that dissolve in water or other liquid and provide a tremendous amount of different electrolytes and no calories (carbs, protein, etc) so they will not affect your nutrition plan. I use them when I know that it will be extra hot and I mix the fluid with Carbopro from SportsQuest to get the carbs and other...
After 16 marathons and 1 Ironman, I still struggle with Quad cramps and it usually hits me around the 22 mile or so (on marathons and about 90 miles in on the bike)and it also depends how hot the day is.
I have taken salt supplements, drink and nutrition the all the way though but do not yet have it mastered.
I am interested in the potassium supplements - how much do you take?
I'm in for Ironman Arizona and really would like some type of guideline so I do not experience these type of cramps again.
I have long been victimized by cramps while distance cycling. After much experimentation, I have substantially mitigated the problem. I take a sodium supplement (Thermalite) which also contains potassium and it has helped greatly. But here are some other things you can do to help:
1. Hydrate before the ride.
2. Liberally consume a sports drink continuously during the ride. Cytomax is my drink of choice.
3. Eat gu, power bars or other forms of energy at regular intervals during the ride.
4. Work on your pedal stroke to make sure it's smooth, round and even. A choppy stroke will exacerbate cramping.
5. Shift your position on the seat from time to time to spread the workload to different parts of the muscles.
6. Sprinting, standing up to pedal too much or too hard, hard intervals, etc, will create muscle stress that will lead to cramping later on a long ride. Pace yourself and save it for the last 20 miles.
7. Stop occasionally. Walk around. Self-massage the affected muscles.
Hope this helps. Good luck.
I went on a diet and lost 30 pounds, but never lost energy or cramp in my riding while dieting.
As part of the diet to avoid cramps, I had to take 1tsp of Morton lite salt (1/2 the sodium than regular salt, plus potassium) with 8 oz of water, every morning. Never had a cramp, even riding 104 miles in the rainy and cold weather last December.
I used to put 3 scoops of powder Gatorade in a water bottle, but now, I put 1/2 tsp of the lite salt plus 2 scoops of the Gatorade powder, and no cramps. Maybe the additional potassium of the lite salt helps to avoid the cramps.
Endurolites are indeed the way to go. When you sweat, salt loss is the least of your worries. It isn't even water you crave
it's electrolites. Since I started using Endurolites, I have no cramping problems and my water consumption has dropped by an astounding 75%. Their power drink and recovery drink are also excellentall the good stuff of Cytomax etc without all the evil sugar.
The new Gatorades they are promoting have more sodium. They have significant amount more.
Another great source is Red Bull. One of those tiny cans has 400 mg. A mixture of non-sugar Red Bull and Gatorade is really good. The Red Bull rep showed me on a very hot day last summer.
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