Systemic cramping during races

Hey guys!

Going to chime in here with some (hopefully :pray: ) helpful resources and to summarise what I have read in the literature on the topic.

Firstly, we’ve had Dr Andy Blow, from precision hydration, on the podcast on a couple of occasions to share his expertise on hydration and cramping. The conversations below summarise 1) the research on the topic and 2) the experiences that you guys describe.

As a few of you have mentioned, there is not much in the way of concrete answers, still. After reading through the research, here’s what I take away from it at the moment.

There are likely numerous factors that come together to elicit cramps.

Firstly, it is important to document the preventative strategies you take so that you can measure their effectiveness moving forward.

What are the possible culprits and what steps can you take to mitigate them?

  1. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
  • Dial in your hydration for all of your different race scenarios
  • Your hydration needs will vary depending on the weather conditions, elevation, heat adaptation status and menstrual cycle phase
    Consider each scenario, and perform a sweat test under different conditions.
  1. Fueling
  • Dial in your fueling for different racescenarios
  • I recommend pushing the ceiling on your carb intake to find the optimal rate of carbohydrate consumption for you, on the bike. Make sure to take note of how you respond.
  • As always, practice in training.
  • Your ability to absorb carbohydrates could also be influenced by the heat. So in training, figure out how much carbohydrate you can consume in different environmental conditions.
  • For more on this, check out this episode of the Ask A Cycling Coach Podcast with Dr Podlogar.
  1. Training
  • “Overworking” your muscles, or putting them through unusual (to you) ranges of motion can increase your susceptibility to cramping. For example, transitioning from a road bike to a time trial bike can cause cramps in the hip flexors due to the unfamiliar position.
  • Training at similar intensities and in similar environments to competition may help stave off many risk factors known to contribute to cramps.
  • Your TrainerRoad Training Plan will prepare you, but ensure to do workouts under the conditions in which you expect to be racing, if possible.
  • Strength training, especially for the muscles most susceptible to cramps could help.

Most of you are taking great steps toward reducing your susceptibility to cramping. However, I think that truly dialing in our nutrition and hydration strategies is a continuous work in progress, since there are always so many moving parts!

That is to say, don’t give up!


Yes, please just stick to one unit, either one is fine.

Do you measure fuel economy in km per gallon? Or tire pressure in newtons per square inch? I hope not :stuck_out_tongue:

Finally remembered to follow up here. Wasn’t anything we hadn’t already mentioned here outside of some specific targets. Really boiled down to me going too hard at the start (.94 IF for 45 minutes) which was easy to do with the front loaded climbing. Basically I need to pace better and have that power available later to make up the time on the more paced climbs. Knowing I’ve fueled similarly before that’s probably not the issue and it was just too much intensity.

Probably not a ton of help in your situation but just wanted to follow up.

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Thanks. It is relevant because I think I did the same thing. But how does one train for an IF of 0.94 for 45-60 minutes feeling as easy as it does on race day :joy:?

Fast group rides?

But I think the answer is to simply train to the point where today’s .94 is more like a .8 or whatever you can/should hold for the race length. Of course that still requires the discipline of pacing correctly for the event length.

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I think you train to do as much as you can, raise threshold, raise TTE / Endurance, but then on race day don’t go out and do .94 for 45-60 minutes at the beginning of a 6 hour (ish) event. That’s a pacing issue.