Cramped HARD - is TUMS the answer?

Had my first race of the season yesterday. Didn’t go as planned (see title :smirk:). Unfortunately, I was traveling and off the bike for 5 days, then came back and did a couple short VO2 max workouts Wednesday and Thursday where I started to notice some twinges in my calves. Fast forward to Saturday, I’m warming up and I get the same twinge in my calf. That twinge turned into full on muscle cramps 2 hours into the race. First in my calf, then in my quad 200 meters from the finish. The muscle was rippling and fully locked my knee out, where I ended up having to walk for a few meters after standing in debilitating pain.

Now I checked all the boxes for preventing cramps through nutrition, had something spicy to help out the brain, acclimatized to heat, and not a common thing for me either. I also don’t feel like fatigue was the reason as I was off the bike for 5 days and started to notice it the day I got back on, and in merely my warm-up yesterday. Or am I wrong here? What gives?!?

Now diving a little deeper, I’ve read some stuff on TUMS helping with muscle cramps. Anyone else try this?

I have a lot of trouble with cramps. I am trying not to over-analyze, that didn’t work for me.

I use Vitalyte or Nuun in the water bottle from the start. Don’t want to get behind on the water/electrolyte balance. Pickle juice also works for me for relief, you can even buy little bottles of it. For whatever reason, electrolyte designers love to put potassium in their products, but it is corrosive and can cause nausea. Which unfortunate, because I take a medication that elevates potassium levels and too much can kill you.

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It’s been my experience that cramps have nothing to do with electrolyte imbalance, hydration or anything like that. My cramps have been do almost exclusively to muscle fatigue. No amount of electrolytes, pickle juice, hot sauce, wasabi, habaneros, can alleviate my cramps. And I am never dehydrated.

Last year when finished a Climbing Road program, I experienced a significant set back on my climbing abilities and I attribute this to training on the bike while it was level and not simulating the slope of climbs I usually ride. Consequently, cramps kept on popping up during my outdoor rides. So now I raise the front wheel on my trainer setup to simulate climbs I want to do. That made a big difference.

I also noticed when cramps start to arise, that I start to pedal differently and that can cause other muscles to start cramping up because they are not used pedaling like that.

My calves used to cramp up a lot, so what I’ve done is to use a different set of shoes with my trainer and move the cleats 3-5mm FORWARD to help strengthen my calves to prevent muscular fatigue from occurring during outdoor rides.

This is just from my own experience and I do not know if any of this can apply to you…


BTW, the best way I found to get rid of my cramps was to stop and massage the area for about 2-3 minutes and then stretch. It works every time. Of course, you can’t do that when racing…

I had cramping issues since I started biking 20 years ago. I have been able to almost eliminate them entirely through the following:

#1 conditioning to the demands of the event/race - while you didn’t describe the details of the race, have you done progressive intervals (more and longer) in each of the zones required for the race (i.e. sweet spot, threhold, over/under, VO2)?

#2 electrolytes - I use Hammer Nutrition’s Endurolyte Extremes for both hard interval training rides and races. In addition, for hard events/races and ridiculously hard spirited group rides I will use Hammer’s Race Caps and Anti-fatigue capsules (you can go on their website and read the ingredients and usage).

#3 stretching and rolling - after every workout (and event/race), I do 20-30mins of stretching and rolling. It greatly improves flexibility and muscle recovery.

I’m pretty close to peak condition so cramps are now rare, but as I push myself to new limits I will inevitably have them again until I train further.

btw: On hot summer days during the training rides I mentioned, I did bring along a flask of pickle juice if cramping started and it seemed to help in the moment. What I have described above has been doing the trick during the fall/winter.

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Thanks for the input and advice! I guess I’m just confused why it started up pretty insidiously on Wednesday from a similar workout as I’ve done recently at the same ftp. Could it have been from the 6 days off, like my body wasn’t prepared? Or maybe I threw my whole system out of whack because I went back home (to the deep South) and was sedentary and shoveling delicious, not so healthy, food in my pie hole :thinking:

And yesterday’s first occurrence was during warm-up at a fairly low intensity because we were doing course recon. Still a potential for fatigue to play a factor?

Writing this as I’m foam rolling and stretch at least!

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@runriderandi. It’s just exercising beyond your current fitness. Back off and easy back into your training and racing with some of the “opener” rides, increase recovery and nutrition until that “twinge” is gone for good :+1:


All depends on the cause…if you cramped because you are over reaching your current fitness level then the answer is obvious. If you cramped due to dehydration then you should look at osmo preload or other similar product.

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I get muscle cramps because of the way I sleep. If my toes are constantly pointed down as if I am laying face down my calves get tight during the night so that adds to fatigue. What you do off the bike has just as big of an impact on muscle fatigue. If I keep moving around during sleep and during rest periods my legs recover much sooner. I have yet to read one article that addresses sleep and cramps.

Leading up to this how were you hydrating? or how hard have you been pushing to cause muscle fatigue?

I’ve dealt with cramping all too often. It sucks. It always used to hit me the hardest during hard cross country mountain bike races, so during an all out effort for 2+ hours. Sometimes I’ve dealt with cramping during longer road rides, too.

I’ve tried pre-hydrating with water, pickle juice, salty water, salt tabs (I sweat a lot and live in Texas, so…) and of course using one or all of those during events too. Can’t say I made much progress with any of those options.

However, it’s been a couple of years now since I’ve cramped during an event, and I’ve done 4 & 6 hour mountain bike races, back to back cross races, and even a 65 mile gravel race just this past Saturday with no cramping.

What finally worked for me was a combination of pre-hydrating with Heed (strawberry flavor), having Heed in a bottle during events, and taking margarita flavored (w/electrolytes) Clif Blocks before and during events. I try to take a block every 15 minutes and start onboarding them an hour before an event.

@bikedawg may be on to something. I can definitely trace my decrease in cramping to an increase in my training/riding. I ride 6-7 days/week now and routinely do longer rides, where before I was maybe on the bike 2-3 days with less frequent long rides.

as my PT said

as effectively described in the 7th chapter of the book “The Runner’s Body” the correlation between loss of liquids / electrolytes is none other than one of the numerous myths (in this case, as often happens) propelled for marketing / sales purposes. “If you are a sportsman drink and integrate (with our products)”

Last year I did Dirty Kanza 200. I was very worried about cramping because I also had issues with bad cramps earlier in the spring of 2018. But a doctor cyclist friend of mine offered me some suggestions. He said three things will really help. One, drink tonic water. Tonic water has quinine in it. That prevents cramps. Second, drink pickle juice, again it full of sodium so it helps. Third, drink Starbucks One shot energy drinks. The have protein in them, good carb to protein ratio and a ton of magnesium! One can is like eating three bananas! He also advised to stay away form the plastic foods (blocks, gells, and similar stuff). Eat real foods. Tabs or powder in your drink is fine. He likes Nuun, Hammer and similar type stuff. I took his suggestion and I never had a cramp while doing 16.5 hours in Kansas heat and wind. I finished the race and wasn’t really that soar the next day.


Your intuition about what might have caused the onset of cramping in the particular situations you describe is probably better than any guesses that any of us could provide and you would be probably right (e.g. being sedentary and then engaging in some rigorous activity). What I, and others describe, is probably more useful generally allowing you to decide what makes sense to you. And for what its worth, I have read a ton of articles over the years about cramping, (e.g. why pickle juice seems to help in the moment - the TRP gland in the back of your throat having a direct channel to your cramping muscle) and it seems they still don’t know exactly why some cramp and others don’t.

A couple of more thoughts beyond the #1, #2 and #3 above that have helped me:

#4 Quadrant training: Coach Chad has provides us drills on working the 4 quadrants and in combinations. In addition to following his drills, I practice them repeatedly during longer, tougher intervals. I have found that these drills have trained me to recruit all muscles during the pedal stroke thereby giving more dominant muscles a break - sort of evening out the work load.

#5 Strength training: I think the importance of strength training to cycling is underplayed. Lots of thoughts here, but simplifying: time at the gym working the entire body (not all on the same day) helps becoming a stronger, faster cyclist in so many ways.

Hydration and nutrition has been good, prior to my trip out of town. Completely out of whack while I was there which could have potentially put me in a susceptible position. Also, prior to my trip I’ve been following ssbmv 1 and almost done with 2 now. Never failed a workout and have never had an inkling of a muscle cramps until I came back from my trip.

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And for reference…I really was just curious about TUMS… :joy:

But peolple love to provide advice and then it sort of just turns into that than more the question. Also, folks may not have tried it, so I’ll take everything into consideration for future training and racing.

BTW, the best way I found to get rid of my cramps was to stop and massage the area for about 2-3 minutes and then stretch. It works every time. Of course, you can’t do that when racing…
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I had heard that tums helps with cramping so I bought some and put them in my saddle bag. Years later, they were still there. I have heard calcium helps with cramping, so that’s where the idea of using tums comes from.

I am not big on taking a large amount of electrolytes to ward off cramps. But it has become clear that I am really sensitive to how much water I drink relative to electrolytes. I have definitely had cramping due to drinking too much plain water. This particularly happens on the first couple of hot rides of the year. I think in the future I might stop taking electrolyte pills altogether and just have something in every bottle of water or other drink. If you need the quantity of electrolytes in a pill, you are way behind.

I was considering the weather as well. It was the first warm day for riding for me in several months, with temps close to 80F…Plus humidity, to which in SoCal I am not very accustomed.

I may have just been way off balance chemically/electrolyte-wise from my week of debauchery. Then to come back and hit it hard without really allowing my system to come back to its usual state, may have just sent me into Cramp City.

Looking at the data from the ride, I was not riding anywhere near my limit, a couple hard pushes here and there, but nothing I haven’t done recently with my local weekend group. The total ride extended beyond my longest trainer ride by a half hour, but inkling of cramps were present well before then.

Just gonna hone in on nutrition for the next couple of weeks to see if I can come out on top!