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Thread: Major cramps in quads and calfs during 70.3 IM page

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    bdfink's Avatar
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    Major cramps in quads and calfs during 70.3 IM

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    I competed in a Half IM triathlon this weekend and had major cramps in my quads and calfs on the run portion. I started out running 730s for the first 4 miles and then I ran out of my gels (not PB friendly, I know) and electrolyte pills. By mile 6, my legs were feeling really heavy and by mile 10 and on I had to walk/run the rest of the way cause of the muscle cramps finishing at 920s.

    I've never had cramps this badly in a race before. This is my first year following the PB and wanted to know if it could be the diet? Maybe there is a supplement I should consider taking? Could it have been because I was drinking too much water? I was sweating the entire run but I was covered in salt halfway through the run. Should I have been drinking more gatorade instead of water? I also had a pretty weak breakfast. I didn't plan ahead and ended up eating a few handfuls of mixed nuts and dried fruit.

    I'm thinking that maybe I need to take a supplement thats missing in my diet, bring more nutrition on the run, drink more electrolytes, eat a better breakfast or just train more next time?

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    I'm not an endurance athlete, but the basic three minerals that a deficiency can cause cramps are Potassium (yeah bet you heard the before), Sodium (yeah duh) and Calcium. Take a look at your calcium intake pre-race, might need to bump up the spinach intake.

    Regarding Gatorade I would say just cut out the sugar water.
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    Though it is somewhat plausible that mineral deficiencies would lead to cramping, the data does not support it. Two large studies have been performed on marathon runners and cramping, both of which failed to show any correlation between mineral concentrations and cramping. Here's one.

    I've also taken care of many, many folks in the hospital with extreme disturbances in mineral concentrations, and have never seen anyone with low potassium or sodium have a muscle cramp. Hypocalcemia, yes, but only at levels caused by pathological conditions (parathyroid removal being the most common scenario).

    Muscle cramping is common, however, in those with glycogen storage disorders. Based on this model, it is likely that muscle glycogen depletion is at the root of muscle cramping amongst those transitioning to primal, especially those who are very active. So first step would be make sure you're getting enough starch pre-race.

    If that alone doesn't do it, then drink a little pickle juice before the race and keep a little shot of it handy during it. The mechanism is still unclear, but it works.

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    I also strongly recommend baking soda. Even 3/4 tsp. will ward off cramping.


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    The fact that you were seeing the salt on your clothes or body means you were just fine on amount of salt. I asked a med director at Marine Corps Marathon. He said that it's nothing to be concerned about and totally normal.

    Running out of gels and using gatorade in its place is fine, as well. Gels and gatorade just gets some glycogen to your brain for clarity. It never gets to your muscles.

    I'd be curious to know how you, for lack of a better phrase, 'carbo-loaded' in the dayss before the race. I, too, am interested in what others think.

    So sorry about your bonk.

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    I kind of "bottle" up my own version of Gatorade, just green tea and honey.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ounce View Post
    The fact that you were seeing the salt on your clothes or body means you were just fine on amount of salt. I asked a med director at Marine Corps Marathon. He said that it's nothing to be concerned about and totally normal.

    Running out of gels and using gatorade in its place is fine, as well. Gels and gatorade just gets some glycogen to your brain for clarity. It never gets to your muscles.

    I'd be curious to know how you, for lack of a better phrase, 'carbo-loaded' in the dayss before the race. I, too, am interested in what others think.

    So sorry about your bonk.
    Hey I am the same person that has the thread titled Pre Race and Race Day Nutrition. Thanks for the note.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Knifegill View Post
    I also strongly recommend baking soda. Even 3/4 tsp. will ward off cramping.
    Baking soda? I've never heard of this before. Just curious how you came across this suggestion. I just did a quick google search and found this link which recommends not consuming baking soda.

    Baking soda overdose: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

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    Quote Originally Posted by jturk View Post
    Though it is somewhat plausible that mineral deficiencies would lead to cramping, the data does not support it. Two large studies have been performed on marathon runners and cramping, both of which failed to show any correlation between mineral concentrations and cramping. Here's one.

    I've also taken care of many, many folks in the hospital with extreme disturbances in mineral concentrations, and have never seen anyone with low potassium or sodium have a muscle cramp. Hypocalcemia, yes, but only at levels caused by pathological conditions (parathyroid removal being the most common scenario).

    Muscle cramping is common, however, in those with glycogen storage disorders. Based on this model, it is likely that muscle glycogen depletion is at the root of muscle cramping amongst those transitioning to primal, especially those who are very active. So first step would be make sure you're getting enough starch pre-race.

    If that alone doesn't do it, then drink a little pickle juice before the race and keep a little shot of it handy during it. The mechanism is still unclear, but it works.
    Thanks for the input. I plan on eating more carbs from fruits and sweet potatoes leading up to and the morning of race day. I may have to give the pickle juice a try. Shouldn't be a big deal to bring a little squeeze bottle with me on the run.

    Last year, pre primal diet, my go to pre race meal for the day before was Chicken Pad Thai. Never had any cramping issues on race day last year so I may try that again. I'll test it out one weekend, the night before a long workout and see if there are negative consequences.

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    The max dosage per day is three teaspoons. It is safe for infrequent use. Remember how efficient the body is at balancing blood chemistry! You'd have to take two to three teaspoons for at least several days on end to cause any problems. I just save it for bicycle days, or heavy squatting days, etc.


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