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"Grand Mal" level cramping during long bicycling events. (Long)

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  • "Grand Mal" level cramping during long bicycling events. (Long)

    Hello, beginning this summer season I've developed this irritating trend of severe leg cramping on bike rides > 50 miles. I've poured through literature on the subject in order to try to address this (adding salt and electrolytes, eating/hydrating more frequently, adding additional carbs while doing the activity, target conditioning my legs through weight training, etc.). But my efforts don't seem to be making any difference, in fact they seem to be getting worse. I've even experimented with my weight training by pushing my lower body days further away from the longer weekend rides (Tuesday) or foregoing leg work altogether thinking maybe I was fatiguing the muscles. But my legs feel fine otherwise, no residual soreness after strenuous, hilly rides.

    I am hardly an untrained cyclist, riding for over 30 years (I'm 54), primarily heavy recreation/touring who enjoys long rides and going fast when the opportunity arises. I've averaged 100-200 miles per week (depending on season) and work at hill climbing (and descending!) and long spinning to (hopefully) maintain leg fitness.
    Prior cramping events involved the inner thigh, hamstring and/or calf which I was able to "spin" out of in a relatively short (but excruciating) time.

    Yesterday, however, I hit an all time low. After an organized century (see details here) ride I began cramping during mile 65 which, as before, was able to ride through, making sure to drink and eat even more (which I was doing anyway before the cramps started). Took some extra time at the rest stop at mile 75 to stretch and, again, eat/drink more (fruit, strawberry shortcake!, peanut butter/jelly (mini) sandwiches, electrolyte drink mix). I certainly wasn't hungry or thirsty. But just when I got to the finish line (after clocking 6:22 in the saddle) my left leg literally seized. I was able to unclip from the peddles before my entire thigh cramped locking my leg in an extended position making it impossible to bend at the knee for what seemed to be 5 minutes (probably more like 2) and it was all I could do from screaming in pain... I just stood there with hundreds of other participants hanging around wondering why this dude was sanding in the middle of the intersection pounding on his leg.

    My riding mates pulled up and helped me to collect and situate myself at a resting spot where I could try and stretch it out, both legs continued to spasm for > an hour, while I tried to walk it out (which was reasonably successful eventually). Today my legs feel pretty much back to normal, which given the severity of the cramping, surprises me.

    I've been eating primarily Paleo for the better part of two years now, I've dropped > 40lbs and am arguably in the best physical shape of my entire life, except for this one area. Due to my attempts at adjusting most areas/conditions normally associated with cramping issues I could think of to help this problem I have to question whether the Paleo diet has something to do with this, and possibly my style of cycling simply doesn't fit the Paleo "lifestyle".
    Last edited by karlkrass; 08-19-2013, 01:31 PM.

  • #2
    whats your potassium intake like?
    When I'd had enough of the grain and starched based 'diabetic eating for health' diet (eating for health, my ass!) my weight was 242.5 lbs. On starting primal- 18th April 2013 weight : 238.1.
    27th July 2013. weight after 100 days 136.9 weight lost 101.2lb ; that's 105.6lbs since I stopped the 'diabetic eating for health'
    new journal http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum...ml#post1264082

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    • #3
      I have pretty intense cramping issues in my legs too. Just last night during a massage as a matter of fact. I had read and tried everything but with little success. I am also a cyclist and wonder if that's the correlation. Is it a repetitive stress thing? I don't know and no one seems to be saying but I think there may be a link. I still cycle anyway.

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      • #4
        I feel your pain. literally. I'm not a cyclist, but I get horrible cramps in the inside of my thighs. Usually just one side at a time, but I've had them on both sides simultaneously, talk about screaming. They seem like they last forever and are extremely painful, some of the worst pain I've ever had and I've birthed 4 children. I can usually feel them coming, but not always. Unlike calf or foot cramps, one can't just jump up and stretch them away. Just the act of trying to stand up from a sitting position aggravates the spams.

        They seem to correlate, with me at any rate, with fatigue and dehydration. Magnesium seems to help me when I remember to take it regularly.

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        • #5
          That's normal. One reason I rarely ride my bike. Magnesium seems to help, but after a few excruciating episodes, I'm not willing to find out what happens if I go for a real ride. Ever. Again.
          Crohn's, doing SCD

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          • #6
            Just curious as to what your rest days look like and how often your taking them? In my experience in riding and racing ALOT of guys and gals overtrain.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Jittery jay View Post
              Just curious as to what your rest days look like and how often your taking them? In my experience in riding and racing ALOT of guys and gals overtrain.
              Well, I don't think it's due to overtraining. I typically use my bike to commute to work and back at least 4 days, that's 13 miles per day. I'll also add two lunch time rides of 10 miles for doing sprint work/hill repeats to add intensity training.
              Then I'll do a long ride on one of the weekend days, usually a group ride (50-100+ miles depending on availability) then take the following day off.
              So I'm not sure if 170 miles per week is necessarily over training (in fact I'm wondering if I am under training). The 6.5 miles one way on my commute trip barely builds up a sweat, though I usually ride this hard and fast to optimize the exercise.
              However add to this at least 3 workouts at the gym (cut back from 4+) per week and there could be an argument for over training, but I'm feeling great otherwise. In fact, the morning after the experience I outlined in the OP the legs felt fine, as if nothing at all happened.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Knifegill View Post
                That's normal. One reason I rarely ride my bike. Magnesium seems to help, but after a few excruciating episodes, I'm not willing to find out what happens if I go for a real ride. Ever. Again.
                Normal? I have riding buddies both older and younger who have little to no problems with this.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Lynna View Post
                  They seem to correlate, with me at any rate, with fatigue and dehydration. Magnesium seems to help me when I remember to take it regularly.
                  This is the root of my frustration. I've pretty much ran the gamut on remedies pertaining to cramping disorders. I've added magnesium to my daily supplementation (which I prefer to use food instead, but I'm desperate) as well as calcium. Ride days I'm drinking both water and electrolyte solutions on a regular schedule, rarely if ever becoming thirsty. Also added salt tabs in the oft chance I was sweating it all out... just seemed to make my sweat really salty.

                  My suspicions at this point are centered around the food I'm eating during rides and my body's ability to digest and utilize it properly. Typically on these rides you eat higher simple carb based products in order to maintain proper energy output and avoiding the evils of bonking (for example, peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, bagels, "normal" cookies, and lots of fruit). I also make a point to eat a fair amount of protein as well. And I don't bonk, I cramp. Eating Paleo, you're training your body to better utilize fat as a fuel source while minimizing the ingestion of simple sugars to aid in this metabolism adjustment and I've experienced this first hand.
                  I have to wonder if my body is out of "training" with using the simple sugar supply as it once had for long endurance events.
                  I certainly have no intention of eating junk on a regular basis ever again, but it would be a shame to lose my ability to partake in an activity that I enjoy so much.

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                  • #10
                    Normal? I have riding buddies both older and younger who have little to no problems with this.
                    Yeah, normal. Since I was 15 living on power bars, macaroni and cheese and kool-aid, through to today on Primal. It's just baseline. Cramps are the reward for "exercise".
                    Crohn's, doing SCD

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                    • #11
                      I assume you are already taking magnesium and potassium? I use a topical magnesium oil that I put on almost daily or I get pretty nasty leg cramps.

                      But, I have on occasion, heard of people whose muscle cramping would only respond to increasing their intake of calcium. Calcium can tend to be a bit low on the paleo diet so maybe try a little calcium supplementation?

                      ETA: Have you had your potassium levels checked by a physician?
                      Using low lectin/nightshade free primal to control autoimmune arthritis. (And lost 50 lbs along the way )

                      http://www.krispin.com/lectin.html

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                      • #12
                        Try SUCCEED products. I used to cramp BAD about 60 miles into a 100 mile mtb race. The SUCCEED S Caps helped alot! They offer drinks etc. but in my opinion their electrolyte caps are better than any others I've tried. Karl is the owner(ultra runner)and is very helpful. Good Luck

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