We all tremble in horror at just the thought of them!! Well, you don’t need to be a victim to them and can take control!
First let’s find the problem and then address it with the solution. While the exact cause of the cramps can vary, we will look at three common triggers. We will also going to go in order of the most likely cause of cramps to the least likely cause.
Problem: Cramps can come from doing too much of a movement or effort you don’t normally do. This can be riding in a zone you don’t normally train enough in, to pedaling in a body position you don’t use in training.
Solution: Train the zones, movements, and body positions in the ways in which you will need to use them in for your target event. The most common problem cyclist run into is that in training they do mostly steady efforts, but in their races there is so many surges and pace changes. By simply training the pace changes they can reduce the risk of cramps in the event.
Problem: Cramps come from depletion of fuel, specifically from depletion of glycogen.
Solution: Properly fuel with enough carbohydrates to support your effort’s needs. Most people eat way too little carbohydrates before and on the bike. Figure out what zones and how much time you will be in them before your event. Then make sure your composition and timing of your nutrition is on point with that.
Problem: Cramps come from dehydration. Even though this is where everyone focuses their attention, I believe this is probably the least likely place their cramps are coming from.
Solution: Eat your electrolytes and drink your fluids. Go into the days before your event by loading your salts on your foods. Also load your hydration the day before, not just the morning before. Relying on electrolyte drinks is very risky as the amount of sodium is low as well as the drinks actually interfere with you ability to take on enough fluids because of gut distress. You should drink at minimum one bottle each hour including the first hour of your event.