CRAMPING! WHAT A PAIN (AND HOW TO AVOID IT)
BY STEVE BORN (Edited by Neil Vallence)
Science has provided a number of theories as to why muscle cramps occur; however, no definitive answer has been given. That’s a real drag because, of the potential performance-inhibiting issues involved in endurance sports, arguably nothing can stop you in your tracks quicker than a full-fledged muscle cramp.
Potential Causes Dr. Bill Misner writes: “The general origin of muscle cramps as defined by sport scientists in human performance laboratories is not well investigated and is therefore not well understood.”
Clinically, Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps, or EAMCs, have several theoretical causes:
- Inherited abnormalities of substrate metabolism (metabolic theory)
- Abnormalities of fluid balance (dehydration theory)
- Abnormalities of serum electrolyte concentrations (electrolyte theory)
- Extreme environmental conditions from heat or cold (environmental theory)
- Or, they simply (and without plausible explanation) “just happened.”
- Too much, too strenuous, too soon. Simply put, if the muscles are not ready to take on the workload being asked of them, cramping is oftentimes one of the by-products.
- Improper fluid intake. If you don’t drink enough water/fluid throughout your workout and throughout the day, you will find yourself in a state of dehydration, with cramping as one of the potential unpleasant side effects. Conversely, if you overhydrate you will most likely suffer the same fate by overly diluting your blood level of electrolytes (aka dilutional hyponatremia).
One caveat: If you have not been consuming this much fluid consistently, don’t start “cold turkey;” instead, increase gradually, similar to your training.
- Insufficient or improper electrolyte intake Athletes who don’t bother with electrolyte replenishment, or who think that salt tablets or salty foods resolve the problem, will almost always suffer from cramping. Electrolytes are analogous to the motor oil in your car—they don’t make the engine run, but they’re absolutely necessary to keep everything running smoothly.
Additionally, salt tablets and salty foods are an unacceptable choice for electrolyte replenishment for two reasons:
- They provide only two of the electrolytes your body requires: sodium and chloride.
- They can oversupply sodium, thereby overwhelming the body’s complex mechanism for regulating sodium.
Dr. Bill Misner writes, “When a balance of electrolytes of cations (positively charged ions) to anions (negatively charged ions) are managed in the energy producing cell—assuming the cell has adequate fuel and fluid—such a cell will produce energy at a higher rate than one overdosed by a single cation mixed with an irrational list of anions.” In other words, electrolytes perform numerous functions synergistically, which is why it’s important to use a balanced, full spectrum blend of electrolytic minerals versus just one or two.
SOLUTION: Replenishment of electrolytes—prior to, during and after your training session—is as important a part of your fuelling as hydration or calories for energy production. Make sure you don’t neglect this all-important component of athletic fuelling!
Hammer Nutrition has a number of products that will fulfill electrolyte replenishment ideally:
1. Endurolytes Extreme – The supreme electrolyte support product in capsule form, with a balanced blend of all the necessary electrolytic minerals—sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and potassium—along with beneficial co-factors vitamin B6, manganese and tyrosine.
2. Endurolytes Powder – The same electrolyte profile as the encapsulated version of Endurolytes, but in a powdered form and 50% of the strength of Endurolytes Extreme. Designed primarily for athletes who have difficulties swallowing capsules. Endurolytes Powder also contains the amino acid glycine, which has a naturally sweet taste to help take the edge off the slightly salty, bitter taste of the mineral content.
3. Endurolytes Fizz – Hammer Nutrition’s newest form of Endurolytes, an effervescent tablet form in a number of pleasant tasting flavours. Each Endurolytes Fizz tablet is equivalent to one Endurolytes Extreme capsule or two scoops of Endurolytes Powder.
4. HEED – Hammer Nutrition’s sports drink not only provides complex carbohydrates for high-quality energy, but also the same exact electrolyte profile as Endurolytes. Each scoop of HEED contains 100 calories and the equivalent of one-half of an Endurolytes Extrem capsule or one-half tablet of Endurolytes Fizz. Because so many variables come into play when determining how much electrolytic mineral support endurance athletes need—biological predisposition in terms of minerals lost via perspiration, the differences in an athlete’s size and fitness, as well as the pace of exercise, the humidity and heat and how well or poorly the athlete is acclimated to the weather conditions—there is no “set in stone” amount in terms of dosing.
That said, we suggest a starting dose of one Endurolytes Extreme capsule, 2 scoops of Endurolytes Powder, or one tablet of Endurolytes Fizz per 45kg of body weight hourly, with the understanding that regular testing in training under a variety of conditions—adjusting your dose as needed, when needed—is essential for maximum benefits.
Making sure your training is appropriate for your fitness level is vital to help stave off cramping. So too is consuming proper amounts of fluid, both during your workouts and throughout the day. Taking a dose of one of the various forms of Endurolytes prior to, during and after your workouts is a great way to not only avoid the royal pain that is cramping, it’ll also help you get the most out of every minute you put into your training sessions. Supplying the body with ample amounts of electrolytes is important all year round and especially during the hottest months of the year.