Road Bike, Cycling Forums banner
1 - 20 of 35 Posts

·
So. Calif.
Joined
·
2,800 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
On about 3 separate days in the last month, I've had very painful, involuntary muscle spasms or twitches.

This typically happens about 2 hours after finishing fairly strenuous group rides of 40-45 miles and 3000-3500 ft of climbing,

The spasm is in the muscle behind right thigh (hamstring?) and/or the inside of right thigh.

The skin will visibly quiver, and D**MN, is it painful ... I've even screamed out.

Couple times, it's also happened in bed at night , same day of the ride.

What are the likely causes, and best way to prevent?

Based on some superficial reading, I'm suspecting inadequate hydration and/or electrolyte imbalance ... even though I thought I was drinking enough ... but maybe not.

For these rides, I've generally been drinking water-only, plus a couple gel pouches along the way.
When I get home, within 30 minutes I typically also drink a large glass of no-fat milk; eat a bowl of lowfat yougurt w/ banana, blueberries, walnuts, & honey; and maybe another glass of plain water. (This is also my typical breakfast 2-3 times per week, except not on my 2-3 ride days).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasciculation
A fasciculation (or "muscle twitch") is a small, local, involuntary muscle contraction (twitching) visible under the skin arising from the spontaneous discharge of a bundle of skeletal muscle fibers. ...

...Inadequate magnesium intake can cause fasciculations,...

... Over-exertion is another risk factor for magnesium loss. As 70-80% of the adult population does not consume the recommended daily amount of magnesium, inadequate intake may also be a common cause. Treatment consists of magnesium supplements or increased intake of foods rich in magnesium, such as nuts, bananas, and almonds. ...

... Fasciculation also often occurs during a rest period after sustained stress, such as that brought on by unconsciously tense muscles. ...

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,188 Posts
make sure you are not getting too much vitamin C

it can interfere with your calcium
i had lots of muscle ache and cramp issues before i started taking a calcium and magnesium and zinc supplement you can also get it without the zinc

i also suggest you google pyriformis stretch--it could be that will help the area

is you saddle possibly 1-2 mm too high?

that's all i got

jim
 

·
trying to HTFU...
Joined
·
1,875 Posts
sounds more like low electrolytes; water only for a strenuous ride
with gels and no EL replacement is a recipe for cramping.
i've tried Elete(only ok), but really like Ultima and will settle for any of the
Hammer products(Endurolytes, etc.)

usually start a 85miler with two big bottles, one with nutrition(Hammer
Perpetuem or HEED) and the other bottle water/Ultima, we stop halfway
and refill, at which point i'll refill one bottle with more Perpetuem/HEED
i've packed in a baggie, and the other bottle with more Ultima(also in
a baggie, pre-measured of course.) naturally, you still need some more
solid food for 4+ hour rides, and you can have PBJ, a bit of a Protein bar(EAS?),
some gels, a BonkBreaker, whatever. eat and drink small amounts frequently,
like every 15-20 minutes, a small gulp of liquid(alternate carbs and EL)
and have a bite every half-hour or so. your body should be telling you
what you need. never gulp down huge amounts of any liquid during your
LSD or speedwork, you'll honk for sure. if you're roasting, you are better
off drinking a little bit and dousing your head w/plain water. on the really hot
rides, i also pack my camelback so i can carry more water either for
drinking or wearing.

good luck!

edit: spelled EL powder wrong, it's Ultima, not Optima.
 

·
Batteries not required
Joined
·
1,035 Posts
tom_h said:
On about 3 separate days in the last month, I've had very painful, involuntary muscle spasms or twitches.

The skin will visibly quiver, and D**MN, is it painful ... I've even screamed out.

Couple times, it's also happened in bed at night , same day of the ride..
Been there, I know EXACTLY what you're talking about. Especially the screaming....it's not good for my image :mad:

I use Endurolytes electrolyte replenishment capsules to great success. I only need/use them if its really hot out, or on a ride longer than 60 miles with lots of climbing. You can take 1-3 before the ride, then pop one or two every per hour as needed. They work.
They cost about $20 for 120 capsules.
 

·
Batteries not required
Joined
·
1,035 Posts
cwg_at_opc said:
sounds more like low electrolytes; water only for a strenuous ride
with gels and no EL replacement is a recipe for cramping.
i've tried Elete(only ok), but really like Optima and will settle for any of the
Hammer products(Endurolytes, etc.)

usually start a 85miler with two big bottles, one with nutrition(Hammer
Perpetuem or HEED) and the other bottle water/Optima, we stop halfway
and refill, at which point i'll refill one bottle with more Perpetuem/HEED
i've packed in a baggie, and the other bottle with more Optima(also in
a baggie, pre-measured of course.) naturally, you still need some more
solid food for 4+ hour rides, and you can have PBJ, a bit of a Protein bar(EAS?),
some gels, a BonkBreaker, whatever. eat and drink small amounts frequently,
like every 15-20 minutes, a small gulp of liquid(alternate carbs and EL)
and have a bite every half-hour or so. your body should be telling you
what you need. never gulp down huge amounts of any liquid during your
LSD or speedwork, you'll honk for sure. if you're roasting, you are better
off drinking a little bit and dousing your head w/plain water. on the really hot
rides, i also pack my camelback so i can carry more water either for
drinking or wearing.

good luck!
All good information!

I'm down with the Hammer products too.
 

·
Dr. Flats a lot
Joined
·
740 Posts
you could have had a V8

Certainly sounds like you're having muscle spasm plus or minus some fitting/stretching issues. Filling your bottles with something with electrolytes will go a long way to help with this, but often not enough. By and large the most common electrolyte (but not only) associated with spasm is sodium. The perception is that low salt diets are healthy diets is really not that accurate. For some people with hypertension it can make it worse. Likewise with congestive heart failure and some other conditions, salt can be a bad thing. But for normal athletic folks there is a lot to support increased salt intake. Not only will it reduce muscle spasm and fatigue, it will also markedly improve your hydration. If you don't have enough salt in your body, you won't hold onto your water as well. There's not enough of it in electrolyte drinks and if you're doing a lot of riding, especially in hot, dry environments you'll need some salt supplementation. V8 is a really great way of getting it. For a number of NFL teams, they will have their players drink V8 at every meal for 3 days leading up to big games to make sure they have enough salt.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,250 Posts
The real reason for cramping is usually unfit legs.

You reach a point in your ride where you've stressed specific muscles, your hamstring, quads, calves.

If you were truely having cramps related to low electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, or cloride you'd expect to experience systimic cramping throughout your body and not just those muscles limited to the legs.

Even body builders will experince cramps after a heavy leg workout and yet they are performing their sets in an airconditioned gym with plenty of hydration and food. They are overloading their muscles, the muscles don't like it, they spasm and shut you down. You have to keep working out and over loading these muscles in order to gain some resistance to cramping.

Some people never cramp. They're elite cyclists that can go out and ride a race like RAAM for 500 miles at a time and never experience a single cramp. Allen Larson was one such rider that told me he has never had a cramp in his life and yet he has ridden great distances in all kinds of weather.

I'm a cramper. I cramped last night. I did about 50 fast miles the night before. I make sure I'm drinking and eating plenty of fuel the whole time. I didn't have any cramps at all during the ride, but I was having some wicked cramps for several hours while I was trying to sleep almost 8 hours later and I had to get up and walk them off. At that point I'd already eaten plenty of food that would have replaced anything I would have lost on my ride.

I take calcium supplements and have taken magnisium as well. These still don't stop the cramps. The only thing that does is constant overloading of the muscles until I build up my resistance.
 

·
So. Calif.
Joined
·
2,800 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Update

Thanks for all the comments.

I now think my quadricep & hamstring spasms were caused by something as basic as inadequate hydration and/or electrolytes. :blush2:

During Jan & Feb, due to cooler weather in So Calif, I started carying just 1 water bottle. I know where the water stops are on my typical 45 mi rides, and we would stop for bottle refills.

In hindsight, I think I was unintentionally rationing my drinking, "just in case" I were to run out before the next water stop -- even though that never happened.

net effect- I was probably not drinking enough fluid.

In last couple weeks, I started carrying 1 H2O bottle & 1 sport drink bottle (Accelerade, it's what I have on hand & I like the fruit punch taste). I made conscious efforts to take large, alternating gulps every 15 minutes.

So far , so good -- no muscle spasms or weird quivering after the rides.

Live & learn, the hard way!
 

·
The Cube
Joined
·
1,113 Posts
zoikz said:
Certainly sounds like you're having muscle spasm plus or minus some fitting/stretching issues. Filling your bottles with something with electrolytes will go a long way to help with this, but often not enough. By and large the most common electrolyte (but not only) associated with spasm is sodium. The perception is that low salt diets are healthy diets is really not that accurate. For some people with hypertension it can make it worse. Likewise with congestive heart failure and some other conditions, salt can be a bad thing. But for normal athletic folks there is a lot to support increased salt intake. Not only will it reduce muscle spasm and fatigue, it will also markedly improve your hydration. If you don't have enough salt in your body, you won't hold onto your water as well. There's not enough of it in electrolyte drinks and if you're doing a lot of riding, especially in hot, dry environments you'll need some salt supplementation. V8 is a really great way of getting it. For a number of NFL teams, they will have their players drink V8 at every meal for 3 days leading up to big games to make sure they have enough salt.
absolutely agree. try more electrolytes while riding, before and after. I've looked at all sorts of sports drinks, and none come even close to V8 for sodium and potassium, and all have way more simple sugar. if you eat while you ride, you shouldn't need the simple sugar of these expensive versions of bug juice. Also, if you don't have high blood pressure, intake of sodium won't give it to you, especially if its combined with intense exercise as it would be here. I make bottles of 2 parts V8 to 5 parts water, and it really helped me. I also got less soreness and cramping after starting to use Sportlegs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,250 Posts
tom_h said:
Thanks for all the comments.

I now think my quadricep & hamstring spasms were caused by something as basic as inadequate hydration and/or electrolytes. :blush2:
Live & learn, the hard way!
The basics of hydration tell us that you're not going to get your electrolytes out of whack with inadequate hydration.

If you over hydrate you will dilute your sodium levels even if your drink has sodium added, but that isn't very common as our bodies are able to compensate and regulate the serum sodium concentration.

Cramps are caused by abnormal responses in the nerves. Some people cramp. Some people train past the cramps. Some people are blessed without the abnormal nerves that go haywire when stimulated by hardwork.

The companies that sell sports drinks and electrolyte tablets are selling BS to fill their pockets with money in the vague promise that their products ward off cramps.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
21,638 Posts
Oh really

heathb said:
The companies that sell sports drinks and electrolyte tablets are selling BS to fill their pockets with money in the vague promise that their products ward off cramps.
I'm not a big supporter of any magic in electrolyte drinks, because they're just high priced salt/sugar water, but there is plenty of quality research supporting the fact that electrolytes help many people prevent cramps. Along with the research, there's massive anecdotal experience from every endurance sport that says the same thing. Do you have any citations to support your claims?
 

·
trying to HTFU...
Joined
·
1,875 Posts
Kerry Irons said:
I'm not a big supporter of any magic in electrolyte drinks, because they're just high priced salt/sugar water, but there is plenty of quality research supporting the fact that electrolytes help many people prevent cramps. Along with the research, there's massive anecdotal experience from every endurance sport that says the same thing. Do you have any citations to support your claims?
i think he believes that "abnormal responses of the nerves" can't be caused by
electrolyte depletion. his 'unfit legs' theory is interesting.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,250 Posts
I guarentee you if you tested most peoples electrolytes during hard efforts for long periods of time whether they drank much or not their Na+, K+, CL would be within normal range.

Your body is capable of readjusting to meet just about any situation.

The problem with the guys selling electrolyte tablets or mixes is that they are trying to tell you that your cramping is being caused by low electrolyte levels. Of course the only place that your cramping is in the muscles that are being worked hard.

Anyone knows that you will have systemic cramping all over your body and be in a world of hurt when you experience low Na+ or K+, this can even cause death.

So why does a person not cramp on say a slower 50 mile ride where they were out in the sun all day, but they do cramp on a 1 hour ride that is so fast they can't hardly keep up. Is this low electrolytes at work. No. It's the fact that your nerves are having to send signals to contract and relax at a much greater rate and this is where the nerves start going haywire.

This is why you cramp in the middle of the night, when you've had plenty of time to hydrate and refuel. Those nerves are going though an abnormal response, they're malfunctioning.

Stretching is said to rewire this response and stop it. Electrolyte solutions when your serum electrolytes are totally normal won't do anything other than put more money in the pockets of those that are being less than honest.
 

·
Dr. Flats a lot
Joined
·
740 Posts
I disagree
while stretching certainly can be an important element at reducing cramping the role of electrolytes, particularly sodium is of tremendous value.
I would condition your original statement to be those who experienced severe cramping to how may had electrolyte abnormalities. certainly in the case of ultraendurance athletes and triathletes it has been shown to be the majority. Some athletes will in fact excrete far in excess of their daily intake of sodium during prolonged exercise. Short bursts like you mention, I agree would be unlikely induce hyponatremia, but in the case of culmulative sodium losses from ongoing training, they could be starting off already depleted. even then there are some who put a fairly good case that while the serum sodium may be within the normal range, total body sodium may be depeted and this may be more reflective of the mileau that the muscles are operating. It should also be mentioned that the most common cause of hyponatremia is overdrinking. Electrolyte solutions may help a little with this, but if your sports drink had enough sodium in it to replace your losses, it would be so concentrated as to be unpalatable. Hence the V8 recommendation. You need to make sure you have enought salt to begin with, because trying to replete it on the bike is not going to be as successful. Not only will increased salt intake reduce hyponatremia, it will also assure adequate fluid intake, improve cardiovascular performance and reduce heat related illness. This of course depends on your level of activity, your environment and your individual rate of sweating.
the best source for this I found was Current Sports Medicine Reports (American College of Sports Med) July/Aug 2008. The entire issue is dedicated to sodium balance during exercise.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
21,638 Posts
Wrong measure?

heathb said:
I guarentee you if you tested most peoples electrolytes during hard efforts for long periods of time whether they drank much or not their Na+, K+, CL would be within normal range.
The added electrolytes allow you to maintain plasma volume. Yes, even a dehydrated person can have normal electrolyte levels, because they have sweated out both electrolytes and water. Taking on extra water without supplying the necessary complement of electrolytes usually means that your body will not absorb the water and you'll get that "sloshing stomach" feeling.

Your "nerves gone haywire" theory is just fine, but where are the scientific (peer reviewed journals) articles to support it?

In a 2001 article on muscle cramps comments by Nancy Clark, she noted that there are 5 theories on the cause of cramps (none proven, as science does not know the cause of cramps, and cannot cause cramps predictably): 1) hydration, 2) lack of calcium (doubted by nutritionists), 3) lack of sodium, 4) lack of potassium (not likely since the body has so much) 5) lack of pickle juice (lots of ions). Note, musicians get hand cramps, even though they are not likely experiencing any of 1-5.

In a 2003 article by Monique Ryan, she also noted that cramp causes are a mystery but most likely are due to muscular exhaustion, low fuel, bio mechanical problems, fluid losses, and mineral deficiencies. Sodium losses per liter of sweat have been measured from 115 to 2300 mg. Studies on football players have shown that players who lost more Na were more likely to cramp (3 gm/hr vs 1 gm/hr).
 

·
Reality Star
Joined
·
893 Posts
I beg to disagree with you all. Electrolytes are important for sure but will not prevent muscle spasm when a muscle with a latent trigger point is stressed. Equally important is blood flow, both bringing oxygen and removing lactate. Glycogen reserves and the production of free radicals during endurance sport efforts. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant, neutralizes free radicals and does not deplete calcium, has been proven to enhance athletic performance, so please ignore the previous post. Likewise, vitamin D3 is essential for proper muscle function and recovery, it is in the scientific journals.

The proper approach to this kind of problem is stretching the muscle involved, i.e. the hamstrings. This restores the muscle to its proper length and allows you to stress it harder and longer before triggering a spasm. When muscles are not stretched they actually will shorten this will ultimately compromise the functioning of the muscle. This predisposes the muscle to develop trigger points and spasm.

It is common for athletes to work their muscles hard but few provide the much needed maintenance activity of stretching. This decreases the potential strength, endurance and recovery potential of that muscle.
 

·
Dr. Flats a lot
Joined
·
740 Posts
I think the fact that tom_h's cramps disappeared with increased fluid intake proves us all wrong. Seems like he was just dehydrated. Emphasizes cramps can come from many places.
The idea of trigger points is an intriguing one. Neuromuscular irritation certainly should be considered. Whether simple stretching will solve this is debatable. I would emphasize fit and weight training to fully address it. If you have a soigneur, you're all set. Stretching really does have a role though. I found one study that showed an improvement in muscle strength after stretching. I'm dubious that this benefit would persist outside of the study period which was a couple minutes.
Nutrition is always a hot topic and there is reams of data on a litany of different supplements. It can be pretty hard to find consensus on any of them. The consensus of most meta analysis and position statements from organizations like the American College of Sports Medicine and WADA is that with proper diet athletes do not need additional supplementation.
I'm not sure where you got your data on Vit C. I'm guessing it was not from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; "The overwhelming consensus of the literature is that long- or short-term supple-mentation with vitamins E or C has no ergogenic effect on sub- maximal exercise performance, aerobic capacity, or muscle strength."
In terms of Vit D3, as it is synthesized via sun exposure 2 hours of sun per week will get you your RDA. There's not much a need for supplementation unless you live in a cave. If thats the case, drink milk. If you're lactose intolerant and a vampire then maybe you should use supplements.
Blood flow should not be impeded unless you have significant vascular disease or you're dehydrated. Increased salt and fluid intake are really the keys to preventing dehydration.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,250 Posts
The key to this is to listen to your body. When your thirsty drink, when your hungry eat, when you cramp.......stretch unless you're in a race and that's not possible.

You don't even have to think about this stuff. Your body has a natural reflex. The drink and suppliment companies want us to think we're too stupid to hydrate and eat.

I challenge the crampers to push themselves to the limit and then beyond that limit with maximum intensity to the point that cramping would normally occur. Try it with normal fluid and food intake and then try it with increased electrolyte solution and see if it makes any difference.

At the end of the day your fitness level is the key. If you push beyond your limits you'll cramp if your prone.
 

·
Reality Star
Joined
·
893 Posts
Zoikz

I regret that I must refer you to reliable sources of information:

Dr.Janet Travell's 2 volume textbook on Myofascial trigger points, is a must read for anyone in the health care field, and has been the reference standard for over 40 years

Information on Vitamin C can be accessed on www.vitamincfoundation.org There are literally tens of thousands available on PubMed

www.vitamindcouncil.org has a coherent and accurate summary of the medical uses of D3. Especially the part about what foods that contain vitamin D3 are incapable of reaching optimum target levels. You should read it since 75-80% of Americans are deficient and the RDA is a joke

Blood flow is most crtical in the capillaries and the microvasculature
 
1 - 20 of 35 Posts
Top