Electrolytes, salt tabs, cramping

Hola,

I’m wondering what people use to prevent cramping?

I’m definitely a heavy sweater and one of those people whose clothes and face ends up crusted in salt.

I’ve tried Hammer Endurolytes with varying success.

  1. Anyone have good luck with other electrolyte supplements? I picked up some Saltstick Fastchews the other day to try.

  2. Is there such a thing as getting too many electrolytes?

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  1. I did a sweat test with Levelen but get electrolyte tablets from Precision Hydration that replaces what I lose during a workout. I haven’t gotten cramps since I started taking these.

  2. No idea although I have heard of a pro cyclist whose performance suffered on an overload of sodium because they guessed required intake versus using a sweat test. This was discussed on a Flo cycling podcast.

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Hydration is a tricky one since there are so many factors at play, such as the type of exercise/sport, duration, intensity, body composition/genetic factors, temperature, humidity, sweat rate, etc.

I think the general consensus in the literature is to drink ad libitum , or as desired in general, and to replace fluid with electrolyte containing drinks like sodium and potassium with a bit of carbohydrate. There’s also not great evidence supporting the link between dehydration and cramping, but instead that it’s linked to extreme muscle fatigue and breakdown of muscle fiber crossbridges.

For me, I’m always self experimenting with what I’m drinking on the bike and how much. I’ve found a pretty good sweet spot with Skratch on hot days and long rides, but self experimentation is critical! Just don’t drink plain water all the time…

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Hi JakeL
Hope you well and safe
Just wondering what is the sequence and how do you taking the PH, please?

I am trying to figure out the best way to be used the PH SweatSalts and the Tablets.
I know it can be quite individual but just to use it as a guideline

Many thanks
Lucsi

Hey Lucsi,

Based on a sweat test (that I should do again since it’s been a couple of years) I just add one of these tablets to about 24 oz of water every morning as well as one more to about that much water that I will drink during and after my ride for the shorter workouts. Normally I start a workout between 12-3 pm depending on the length and day of week, about an hour after I drink that first bottle with a tablet in it. I can carry up to four bottles on my bike for outdoor rides with a saddle mounted holder you may see triathletes with. I will drop one tablet in at least two of the bottles with the third being straight water or Gatorade depending on how long the ride is and the temperature. If I carry a fourth bottle, it has a PH tablet in it generally. I’ll drink one with a tablet, one without, then one (or two) with a tablet. This approach seems to work well for me after trying different ways. It’s hard to know exactly how well they work because we can have wild temperature swings where I live but the RPE is lower with them at the end of rides. If it’s really warm outside I may drink 45-50 oz with 2 tablets before a workout, say over 85 F or 30 C. I try to finish those an hour before any workout.

There is a taste to them but I’ve never thought or heard it was bad one, it’s actually not a very strong one either. The tablets mix very well with the water so I cannot look at the water bottles and tell the difference although I can taste to know quickly. I prefer it over only water actually.

I think having a test done first is very helpful versus guessing. I’m far from a doctor or GP but a physiologist that works with a lot of triathletes was a little shocked at my sweat test. Prior to giving them my test results, they were really worried about the amount of sodium I was taking in due to it’s possible negative affect on blood pressure. In theory it made sense because too much can thicken the blood but again, I have no training in that field. Once they saw the test they relaxed their stance on what I was doing.

Dear Jake,
I am grateful and thank you for the detailed response you provided.

Indeed, I have not done a sweat test but judging the “pool” below the bicycle and the high level of stinging sweat in the eyes and a constant cramp like a clockwork within the 2HR training.

I decided to change to the PH1500

I had many months of different electrolytes trials and exercises, stretching nothing worked. Maybe my physical not up to it, not capable to hold the water/sault in the body I am not sure, but for sure that it is extremely painful when it is keeping me off the bike for several days.

Again, I am very much appreciating your help and response

Have a great riding season and I hope I will e-see you in the future.

Best Regards

Lucsi

I am curious about this one. What type of cramps are you talking about? Do you cramp in the same place on a regular basis? I ask because we often overlook bike fit and good old muscle fatigue when it comes to cramping.

Ed K

No problem trying to help!

Just something else based on your response that I’ve heard on a Fast Talk podcast whether you meant to go that direction or not. If you have sweat hitting the floor or ground your body is wasting extra energy trying to cool itself. Get some better fans or more to help improve the airflow across your skin. I have some sweat that runs down to my handlebars but that’s more the tight space I workout in not allowing better fan placement. Cool air temperature does far less for cooling than air moving over your skin.

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Hi Edward,

Many thanks for your interest. I indeed did 2 professional fittings here in Ireland. The first one was quite an aggressive setup because of racing.
Today I am practicing endurance cycling. I am also aware that I am overweight but that issue was there even before my weight gain. I am a short 162 Cm with 78KG so I should really lose a mare of 5KG As soon as possible.
My Hydration is on 2.9L to 3.5L water during the day. (Ireland is not a warm country :slight_smile: )

The cramping positions are represented in this picture bellow easier to show than explain :slight_smile:

I hope you can see clearly if not I apologize and I will send a different one

Many thanks
Lucsi

I’ll just share some personal experience, I don’t know if it will be of much use though …
I used to have regular issues with cramping on rides over 2.5hrs, and actually used to also have issues bonking as well now that I think of it. Back then I was an unstructured rider, and just rode 2-3 times per week as long and as hard as I could. I didn’t eat enough, and just drank water. After a while I tried adding salt tablets when riding longer than 2hrs and that seemed to help but not always.

All that became a distant memory in 2020, and I no longer think about cramp or the risk of bonking. What changed?

  • greatly improved general diet
  • started structured training (got benefits of periodization and gradual build in volume/intensity, and recovery)
  • using skratch labs hydration mix in all water bottles (electrolytes + carbs). In summer (hot and humid here) I go through a 1 liter bottle/hour, and so actually get a good deal of carbs through the water.
  • eating a lot more and a lot more regularly through-out a ride (dates, granola bars and gels)
  • added in recovery fueling immediately after a ride
  • try to recover as best I can between rides

I suspect not having cramp issues and avoiding bonking, can’t really be put down to any one thing on this list, I suspect the entire program plays into it.

Oh yeah, and the resistance training plan, and extra muscle strength probably helps too.

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From my own experience, I haven’t had calf cramps like you but I did suffer regularly from cramps on the inside of my quads like you picture, they’d come on about 40minutes into a ride and if I pushed through my quads would be sore for a day or two after. I’m also a heavy sweater and assumed it was electrolyte related.

After a bunch of trial and error I figured out it was caused by tight hip flexors and lower back. If I stay on top of some light stretching, planks and a few other things I don’t have cramps. But if I get busy with work where I sit a lot and don’t stay on top of my core work they’ll come back pretty quickly on my next rides.

Just wanted to give you another perspective to consider.

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Dear James
Many thanks for your response and of course very good of you to provide to me your experience as I can learn from it and use your experience for my advantage.

I am doing some yoga and some daily stretching

But I have no major success as yet
As I explained as a clock work 2Hr and I’m done

What kind of exercise you recommend for the hip flexor please ? I will also now browse for it on the internet

Much a appreciate to all for any recommendations

Best regards
Lucsi

Dear Paul
I appreciate and thank you for your informations
I really trying to pickup all informations and I also share all informations possible to help others.
This what makes my cycling days a worthwhile.
Thank you again

Best regards
Lucsi

You’re welcome Lucsi.

Regarding calf cramps, and racking my brains some more, I also recall that years ago I had issues with the calfs burning up during rides, and that ended up being due to a bad bike fit.

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James also pointed out some good information regarding his cramps. I would also look at what the intensity factor of the rides where you cramping. If these are rides of longer duration and higher intensity, cramping can happen. Also, if you are training inside, fans are key. I use 3 fans when I am inside riding with any intensity. That cooling effect is big.

Ed

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Just to chime in here, because I love to nerd out on this kind of stuff.

Ultimately, the research is inconclusive on what causes cramping (e.g. whether electrolyte imbalances play a significant role).

However similar to like others above have noted, the most likely cause is altered neuron activity within the muscles as a result of fatigue in that muscle group. Thus one of the best ways to prevent it is by building up fitness and doing race/event specific training (so @edward.krasnai noted you may be jumping into too high of an intensity too quickly).

Electrolytes (primarily sodium) though ARE extremely important for enhancing the body’s ability to absorb both carbohydrates and to retain water – without either of those performance will suffer. Hence why people who use drink mixes with carbs and sodium in events say >60 min see improved performance.

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Hello Lacey

I much appreciate your response and the responses from the other fellow riders.
I am on a strict stretching exercise now on a daily basis and picked up the recommended Precision Hydration 1500 Tablets. Also, one of the comments to add further Fans for the indoor training to balance the cooling during the exercise.

As maybe you can see I am active on the forum as it is full of very smart and dedicated people with vast knowledge. And I truly appreciate it all.

Best Regards
Lucsi

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