Author Topic: leg cramps  (Read 8942 times)

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Offline dreitman

leg cramps
« on: September 15, 2007, 10:04:30 am »

I was planning a 3 day bike trip from Portsmouth, NH to New Haven, CT.  I have done similar trips once a year.  On my first day out after 50 miles, i was getting cramps in both my legs.  This has happened in the past.  My usual response was to get off the bike and walk, until i worked the cramps out, then continue biking.  However, this time the cramps continued where i couldn't even walk.  I even felt cramp in my hand where i couldn't hold a fork (stopped in a diner to eat & rest).
After an hour the cramps stopped, bit decided to end my trip, and rent a car to get home.  Now two day later, calves of my feet are a little sore.

Has anyone had similar experience? Someone said i may have been dehydrate?  I am 57 years old.   Thanks.

Offline MichaelTheWingN

leg cramps
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2007, 06:12:59 pm »
Normally, cramps are indicative of insufficient water intake. Most people don't realize how much they sweat simply because it evaporates through convection -- air flow around the body speeds the process of evaporation -- while your riding... I would say really ramp up your water intake -- whether you're thirsty or not. Also look at upping your Potassium intake as well. With both your cramping issues will -- if not subside -- disappear completely! Also, here is an article by Sheldon Brown on cycling pain and how to correct the issues -- -- it may be useful to you as well!

Have a goos ride

Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live. Mark Twain
Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live. Mark Twain

Offline mudmin

leg cramps
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2007, 09:41:10 pm »
I concur 100000% with the water and potassium thing.  For most cyclists, I think it's usually potassium.  The FDA will not allow more than 1% of the RDA of potassium to be put in an over the counter supplement, so you would need a prescription for a big dose.  

The better choice is bananas or my personal favorite, dried apricots. My cramps usually go away and stay away when I eat a serving of wal-mart dried apricots on the ride.  

A nurse told me (probably from the Bureau of Pulling Statistics out of her Butt) that 90% of people who come into the hospital with chest pains are low on potassium.  Simply put, your heart cannot beat without it, therefore blood flow is reduced and you cramp.  Don't overlook this.  Remember, Gatorade has very little potassium.


  • Guest
leg cramps
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2007, 08:14:50 am »
The FDA will not allow more than 1% of the RDA of potassium to be put in an over the counter supplement, so you would need a prescription for a big dose.

There's a good reason to avoid that big dose. It can kill you quickly. Google "hyperkalemia" for the ugly details. Unless you have kidney disease, Mudmin's choice of diet is the way to go.

One day of exercise will not deplete a healthy person's potassium significantly. Unlike sodium, we don't lose it much in sweat; the kidneys excrete it. A typical person's body contains more than 30 times the recommended daily intake of 3,500 mg.  is a good review of the potassium story.

Cramping remains somewhat a medical mystery. We get more as we get older, and dehydration is the most commonly identified cause, but sometimes the medics can't identify one at all. If they persist, a talk with the doc is in order, just to run through the less likely possible causes.


Offline mudmin

leg cramps
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2007, 02:53:41 pm »
I totally agree, I think that's why cycle tourists who totally neglect potassium wind up getting cramps. Sometimes when I get out on the road, I lean more towards my dried apples because they taste better and then before I know it (after several days), I get the cramps.  The key is constant water and a consistent (not necessarily large) dose of potassium-rich foods like apricots and/or bananas.  Oh and, eat ice cream, because every cyclist craves it :)

Offline Kitsap_Bill

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leg cramps
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2007, 01:57:38 am »
Those cramps can be tremendously painful. I never seen to consume enough water unless I am wearing a camelback type device. I just do not remember to stay on top of it. When I do get debilitating cramps, if i consume quinine water (Schwepes mixers) then they disappear pretty quickly. I used to have a prescription for quinine but (despite its medicinal use for thousands of years)it is now deemed unsafe for some people. I still have a couple of capsules, but now they are in my emergency kit. I subscribe to the dried apricot group, but if fresh cantelope is available, cut it up and take it along. I understand that it provides douvle the potassium found in the same serving size as bananas.

Offline biker_james

leg cramps
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2007, 08:59:35 am »
A lot of riders use Tums or Rolaids when they get cramping, to deal with low calcium levels-I think Rolaids have Magnesium as well. From what I've read on cramping, there isn't a lot of hard evidence of what actually causes them, but a lot of factors can contribute. If you haven't been riding much, you may have overloaded your muscles and its their way of rebelling to doing too much too soon.

This message was edited by biker_james on 9-20-07 @ 4:18 AM

Offline Janie

leg cramps
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2007, 01:19:16 pm »
In addition to water/food solutions I would suggest making sure you have stretched adequately before starting out.

Offline driftlessregion

leg cramps
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2007, 10:20:23 pm »
Actually Janie, especially for older cyclists like dreitman and myself, stretching cold muscles can cause more problems than not stretching. The current wisdom is to warm up the muscles by riding carefully before stretching, so most of us stretch after the ride.

Offline staehpj1

leg cramps
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2007, 10:09:40 am »
I am 56, does that make me an older cyclist?  Anyway, I try to stretch during the first break of the day.  I think that works well for me, if I actually do it :)

I know I should just stretch every day, but sometimes just check to see how my flexibility is on that particular day and stretch if I feel I need it.  If my calves aren't tight and I can place my palms on the ground by bending at the waist I usually skip it.  Maybe not optimum, but so far it has worked for me.

Offline dreitman

leg cramps
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2007, 11:31:49 am »
As a follow up to my posting of 9/15/07.  My doctor did a blood check and found that the enzyme creatine kinase was very high.  700 versus normal reading of 200.  He suggested i stop taking lipitor, and have my blood checked again in 2 weeks.

Can't say lipitor was a factor, but it could have!

Offline litespeed

leg cramps
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2007, 11:15:42 am »
Living in Florida and spending most of my time outdoors doing hard work has taught me to drink LOTS of liquid. Drinking between a pint and a quart of liquid per hour will most always prevent cramps. I haven't gotten cramps in over 20 years.

I used to drink lots of Gatorade but now drink mostly water. Water has the advantage of having 0 calories - a good way to keep your weight down. I take no pills of any kind, not even vitamins. I have been ill once in the past 40+ years - appendicitis at age 64, of all things.