Lots of carbs, lots of sodium, still cramping

I did a long and challenging indoor workout today, and despite my best efforts to consume carbs and sodium, I started cramping near the end of the ride. It was just under 3 hours with 100 minutes of SS work, so a very tough ride for me at least. I calculated that I consumed 127g of carbs, 1,308mg sodium, and 1L of water per hour. Despite that, cramps set in at the 2:30 mark. I was able to work through it by riding out of the saddle for 10 minutes straight.

My only solution at this point is to try even more carbs and sodium. I am on the larger side, and I didn’t feel like I was at my limit with either of those. Any other advice? It would be much appreciated! I am aiming for a few longer gravel races this year, and I know that cramping will be my biggest obstacle. Last year at one long race I did, debilitating cramps set in at the 100mile mark. Trying to figure out how to avoid that disaster this year. Thanks in advance!

What was your pre ride vs post ride weight difference?

The same! I keep the room cold and have great fans, so the three kilos of water I drank seemed to replace what I lost.

cramping where? Calves, hamstrings?
Bikefit and more so, having my cleats as far back as possible and the saddle height lower helped me with tight calves.

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There’s more than likely something else behind it @patrickhill and you’ve maybe already seen a doc. But I had terrible night cramps in my late 30s/ early 40s that didn’t seem to ease no matter how much I ate and drank. It turns out I should have saw the doc earlier and although I made a full recovery I probably got closer to the edge than I should have.

I’ve listened to lots of podcasts and read articles on the topic. The general answer seems to be “we don’t know”.

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Fit is definitely something to consider. Along those lines, try getting off the bike and stretching, walking around, whatever for a few minutes either halfway through or at each hour mark. Similarly, change positions throughout each rep. When we ride outside, we’re constantly changing our positions, cadences, stopping, starting, etc., and that all goes a long way toward preventing cramps.

That’s 43 g/hr for a big honking SS workout. Regardless of cramps, you’ll feel better if you increase this.

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My experience is cramps are related to fitness. When you do longer rides with fitness that isn’t quite there, cramps will eventually show up.

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I agree with @russell.r.sage from my personal experience.

I could be wrong, but I think cramps can be overcome by natural adaptations just like increases in fitness. If you fueled exactly the same and repeated this workout, you will be less likely to cramp at the same time mark bc your body is more efficient. Sounds like your fueling is on point so not sure what to recommend besides patience

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+1

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I agree with the others on fitness. Any time I start cramping from a ride it is due to fitness. Not necessarily FTP, but long ride muscular endurance. My average rides are 20-30 miles. The first time I do 50-100 miles I am going to cramp. Getting in a couple of 100-mile rides at a decent pace usually gets me past the cramping issue. That first one really hurts, the second isn’t too bad, but by the third one I don’t experience any cramping.

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+2. Not enough carbs, water, sodium, ect. appear to be just contributing factors that may bring on cramping sooner and/or more severe . In my experience and understanding, which I very rarely cramp, cramping occurs when I exceed my fitness and ask more than my body’s currently capable of. This appears to only happen during longer duration demands/efforts, as in shorter efforts (2-ish hours) I just seem to crash and burn from exhaustion before ever reaching cramping status. However, when I’m “forced” to continue in events such as MTB 100s, cramping has occurred.

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agree with the comments above.
Too hard an effort for level of fitness. Suboptimal fueling is only adding/exacerbating the underlying cause.

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Most of my cramps happen during racing where I’m asking my body to cash checks that depletes my savings. Based on how much thought you’ve put into fueling and hydrating, the other obvious answer is workout progression and fitness.

What was the last ride that you’ve done that approached a 3hour SS workout? (that would leave me cramping too at my current fitness level!)

In the last (ufff) 20 years I had two phases were I took up racing again after longish (but active … just no racing) breaks (work, children). Each time I would cramp often in the first race season (MTB marathons; competitive). More in spring than later in the year. No issues in the following seasons. Only time I experienced cramps again was in a 12h race under brutal hot conditions where I completely died in the last hour. But these cramps were mild compared to what I experienced in my first race seasons.

It was inner thigh. On both thighs. I could feel it coming on in one calf, but it never materialized. During the race last year, it was quads and hamstrings of both legs, the entire thigh, no kidding. Brutal.

That 127g was per hour.

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This was a high level of effort for me, but cramping aside, doable for my current fitness level. I feel fine today, but am looking forward to a recovery week next week. Yes, it’s more than I’m usually used to, but that’s what we all aim for in races. I’m more concerned this will happen on race day. I think that it’s a combination of it being more than I’m currently used to and not enough carbs. Even at 127g, per hour, I was still running a substantial calorie deficit over 3 hours.

I actually did a very similar ride one week before with only 75% of the water, carbs, and salt. So I increased the intake by 33% and still had the same problem. I guess it wasn’t enough.

/thread

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