What Is A Cycling Cramp?
A cramp is a sudden and involuntary contraction of the muscles which causes severe pain and can make movement difficult, if not impossible. Cramps most commonly occur in the legs and feet, but can also affect the hands, torso, and even the eyelids. Cramps can occur during exercise or at rest and can be either acute or chronic. Cramps are usually caused by dehydration or electrolyte imbalance, muscle fatigue, or a lack of glucose in the bloodstream, which can be caused by eating too few carbohydrates.
When Does Cramping Happen?
Cramps that occur during or immediately after exercise are usually due to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. Exercisers who sweat heavily are especially prone to cramps caused by dehydration, as opposed to cramps caused by a lack of electrolytes. Cramps that occur after exercise, especially those that happen after you cool down, are more likely due to a lack of glucose in the bloodstream.
Why Do Muscles Cramp While Cycling?
Cramping happens when something goes wrong with the chemical process where your brain sends signals to your muscles to contract. There are various reasons why this could happen, but the most common one is a lack of fluid in your muscles. We all have fluid in our muscles, and that helps them work properly. However, if you don’t drink enough when exercising, or you sweat a lot, you can lose too much fluid from your muscles, which can cause them to cramp. When cramps happen, you need to stop exercising immediately, as if you continue exercising when you have a cramp, you could make it worse. You should also try to rehydrate yourself as soon as possible to avoid cramps from happening again.
How To Stop Cycling Cramps?
For Cramps Caused by Dehydration - The first thing you should do is rehydrate yourself by drinking water and/or sports drinks. You should also try to eat something that contains electrolytes, such as coconut water or salted peanuts. For Cramps Caused by a lack of glucose - There are some simple steps you can take to avoid cramping. For example, a good practice before your ride is to eat a small snack that contains high-glycemic sugar, such as peanuts or dried apricots. Other tips include wearing the right clothing and riding at a more moderate pace. For cramps caused by other factors - ff you have recurring cramps, you should talk to a doctor to figure out what’s causing them and if you need to do anything about them.
Conclusion and Summary
Cycling cramps can be debilitating and painful, but they are often preventable. By staying hydrated and eating before and during your ride, you can reduce the chance of cramping. You should also know what type of cramps you have so you know what to do about them. If you experience cramping, it’s important to stop immediately and rest until you feel better. You can then resume your ride once the cramps have subsided.
Your own method of avoiding and treating cramps needs to be formula based upon your own individual physiology, training load at the time, and conditions in which you're training or racing. It may require trial and error. For example, I find that by more aggressively drinking and eating earlier on the longer rides and getting ahead of dehydration and depletion, I tend to have fewer cramps.
If a cramp is bothering you, experiment with your hydration strategy, and ensure lack of fueling is not causing fatigue. Make sure you're not drastically changing your position between bikes, and that your training stimulus is in line with the stressors your events will place on your body.