Cause of leg cramps?

kelsorat

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#1
The last two enduro events I participated in took a turn for the worse as the mid parts of the events approached. Both times my legs starting cramping to the point where I either had to ride standing or stretch my leg out in front of the bike for a time. Unfortunately in an enduro, riding in a standing position cannot always be done and certainly sticking my leg straight in front of bike is asking for trouble. But the cramping gets so bad that I've had to stop, stand, & stretch for awhile before it goes away.

Both Events: Temps in the 90's, but I was well hydrated,had a Camel-Back..
One event I rode a bike with an E-start, the other was with a kickstart bike

Can leg cramps be prevented?
 

kelsorat

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#3
Mostly lower calf, but left or right or both legs at the same time can cramp.
 

CaptainObvious

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#4
Cramping is usually caused by dehydration or loss of electrolytes. You’d be surprised as to how much fluid you need to consume for 30 minutes of exercise. Up to ½ a gallon for full out performance.

Eat bananas too. Potassium helps to metabolize electrolytes/salt.
 
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kelsorat

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#5
Thanks.
You know I hate to be graphic, but I always thought that you could tell your hydration level by looking at your urine color. During race day and sometimes even a day or 2 before I'll check the color and basically think that if I am going to the restroom every second and my urine is not yellow then I am hydrated.
My last 2 races I consumed about 1 litre of water from my camelback on each 16-19 mile loop, or about an hour to hour and fifteen minute loop. Maybe I'm not replacing enough fluid during the race.?
 

CaptainObvious

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#6
You are correct about using your urine as a gauge. Clear is good, yellow is a sign of too little fluids (but not neceasarly dehydration).
 

WaltCMoto

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#7
If you start the race well hydrated, then drink a liter, your probely OK after 1 hour, but then it would be down hill from there. On a hot day (90) Ill lose 3 pounds an hour jogging. Water is about 1 pound for 20oz. After the first loop, have some gatorade or other sports drink to replace electrolites.
Do you run, bike or do other leg exercises? If you dont, that might help.
 

CPT Jack

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#8
The last long ride I did I was cramping & feeling like crap in general (prob the altitude). Kiwi gave me an aspirin & a quinine (sp?) pill. It definitely helped out.

I get calf cramps too. Especially from overstretching & the weight of the bike when I need to get a foot down fast (think side of hill).

I'm going to have to score some of those quinine pills for the Enduros. I'll hook you up on race day!
 

bbbom

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#9
I have experienced cramps in my calves for most of my life - when I was a senior in HS (llllooonnnggg time ago) I was growing extremely fast and would get horrendous cramps nearly every night. I was also very active so that aggravated the condition. I outgrew most of that but I still get them quite often when riding. I get them when I try to put my foot down quickly or sometimes in the leg I'm using to hold my bike up while starting it. I've even had them after crashing with the bike on top of my leg - that's always a fun one.

The reason I asked where you were cramping was because several years ago I would get cramps in my thigh (now THAT hurts) and found it was stemming from my lower back - made for some exciting drives when the right leg was in a knot!!

I agree potassium, hydration, electrolytes, etc. are important and I've heard that an anti-inflammatory works well, but be careful they can thin the blood too.

Magnesium deficiency is probably more to blame for cramps than Potassium though. Magnesium deficiency is very common since carbonated beverages remove Magnesium from your body. Magnesium helps make the muscles relax, as opposed to Calcium which helps them to contract. The link between Calcium and Magnesium is important - you need both in a fairly specific ratio in order for the body to properly utilize the minerals.

A good Calcium supplement that includes Magnesium is an easy way to get the right ratio plus eating your veggies. I take a multi-vitamin regularly, try to eat well with lots of veggies and fruit (and beer - oops there goes the Mg), workout regularly and try to stretch but I still get cramps. I find that if I warm up a bit & stretch my calves early in a ride then try to stretch them throughout the ride it helps.

Just recently, (yesterday at lunch) I came across an interesting article on hydration though, in Runner's World. The link is here: http://www.runnersworld.com/home/0,1300,2-48-116-5382,00.html

Essentially it points out the dangers of overhydration (hyponatremia) which is a factor for marathon runners (to the point of death due to drinking too much fluid). It's an interesting article but didn't really correlate much to my concerns for dirtbiking BUT then I came across this article: http://www.drskantze.com/health/legcramps.htm again not too significant for my concerns except for this statement:

There is little knowledge of the exact nature of leg cramps and as an effect of this there is no primary cure. I will mention a few of which magnesium have been of help for me.
Water intoxication and hyponatremia (low concentration of sodium (salt) in the blood) can cause cramps.
Leg cramps can in a few cases be a result of a reduction of thyroid glandular activity (hypothyroidism). Hypoglycemia, hypocalcemia, hypo- and hypernatremia can produce cramps. Cramps is common with hypoparathyroidism.

Hypomagnesemia (low concentration of magnesium in the blood) causes neuromuscular hyperexcitability. NMDA (N-methyl-D-Aspartate) receptors are involved in generating the locomotor pattern. NMDA receptor-channel's voltage-dependent blockade by Mg2+ is responsible for the inhibition by magnesium. Too low Mg2+ will make the inhibition too small.
Magnesium is necessary for the release of PTH (Para Thyroid Hormone) and for the action of the hormone on its target tissues. The most common clinical presentations of hypomagnesemia are caused by associated hypocalcemia (due to interference with the secretion and action of PTH) and hypokalemia (low potassium, due to an inability of the kidney to preserve potassium).
Magnesium inhibit calcium entry into nerve terminal. Severe magnesium depletion leads to tonic-clonic convulsions. Restless legs are often caused by a deficiency of magnesium, try 250 - 500 mg before bedtime."
I feel like Nephron now!! ;)


So, it all seems to correlate. Maybe we are drinking too much water. Like the Runner's World article says, drink sports drinks with electolytes because the water is thinning out the necessary minerals.

Or maybe you are pregnant since leg cramps seem to be a side effect of that also (I'm not I just get leg cramps for fun)!!
 
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kelsorat

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#10
Wow, now that's some helpful info. bbboom, the enduro started at 8am, so we all camped out the night before to avoid a super early morning drive/departure. Anyway, I got up at 6am and decided to drink 2 cokes instead of making coffee--maybe there's a problem there(magnesium). Also like a fool I forgot to stretch before the race. And lastly the night before the race I sat around the campfire and consumed 3 beers. So basically I did everything wrong and was asking for trouble.

I will take everybodys advice, prepare properly, and see what happens.
Thanks everyone.
 

CaptainObvious

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#11
Originally posted by kelsorat
I got up at 6am and decided to drink 2 cokes instead of making coffee--maybe there's a problem there(magnesium). 
Caffine CAUSES cramps. This is exacerbated by dehydration.