A 5 min video on when to replace your running shoes. A tip I did not also mention in the video is that is is a good idea to keep a log on your shoes through apps like Strava or Garmin that will let you know how far you have ran in them. Also if you have a few pairs of shoes and alternate them between each run, then it gives more time for the foam in the sole of the shoe to get it's foam density back & prolong the life of your shoes.
My favorite running warm up drills to help improve running form, build speed, and correct technique for all runners. Do these easy drills before speed sessions and tempo runs to develop your running and get faster with less injury.
Why do you need to know your training zones?
In order to train the correct energy production systems within your body you need to know either your heart rate zones for general training, or pace zones for flat interval training.
Tip: If you train via perceived exertion, you are just guessing. Get yourself a HR monitor.
Determine your max heart rate
You first need to find your max heart rate (HR) within your chosen endurance sport (it will change depending on the muscles you use). The fastest way to do this is to subtract your age from 220 for males & 226 minus your age for females. The result is an age-predicted maximum beats per minute.
This method does not take into account your fitness level or inherited genes, which can make your true maximum heart rate 10 to 20 beats per minute higher or lower than the age-predicted number.
A second method to calculate your maximum heart rate is to have an exercise tolerance or stress test. This usually is supervised by a physician or sports scientist and performed in a hospital or clinical setting in three-minute stages, during which the speed and incline continue to increase in an effort to elevate your heart rate until it climbs to its highest level.
Tip: It is ideal to have your VO2 max & HR measured simultaneously.
Determine your resting heart rate
As soon as you wake up in the morning, feel for your corroded pulse & count the beats per minute. You should do this over several days to get the mean.
Tip: If this reading is higher than normal in the future it may be that you are over-training or are becoming sick.
Calculating intensity levels using the Karvonen Method
Measured resting HR (MRHR) _______
Estimated max HR (EMHR) _______
Heart rate reserve (HRR): EMHR - MRHR = HRR _______
I am not a qualified as a dietitian so the information provided here is just a guide line but if you need more information, we are more than happy to answer any of your questions & point you in the right direction.
What is The Best Fuel?
You will read a lot of information on the best diet to fuel your body in an endurance event, some will Say Carbohydrates, some swear by Protein & others will say Fats. They are the main energy sources your body will use for fuel & what works best for one person does not always work for another for what ever the reason.
It is said that athletes should be on a diet of 60% CHO, 20% Proteins & 20% Fats.
Some Nutrition Tips for Endurance Athletes
*Don't experiment nutrition just before a race. The gastrointestinal channel can be trained to digest food during exercise.
*Eat & drink regularly during exercise, if you are hungry or thirsty during exercise, you are to late.
*Ensure full glycogen reserves for endurance events longer than 60-90 min.
*Last meal should be eaten 2 hours before.
*Biggest mistake is drinking to little.
*Glycogen stores are depleted after 60-90 min of sub-maximal performance.
*Liquid food digests faster than solid food.
*Carbohydrate (CHO) may double CHO reserves.
*Consume large amounts of glucose or sugar especially liquid form if less than one hour before your race start.
*Liquid sugar after an event aids in recovery.
Generally fats are used for energy when you are working at a low intensity e/g. heart rate under 70% Max & will often come into play toward the end of a long endurance event when you are getting tired & can no longer push your body back up to the speeds it is capable of. What you do not use in carbs will be stored in your body as fat to be used when needed, such as toward the end of a race or when all things have gone wrong & you are in survival mode "lets hope you don't get to that stage, it's not pretty".
By training at low intensities for long periods of time, what you are doing is training your body to utilize these fat stores in your body, something that a lot of athletes don't understand when they train at hard intensity most of the time & that is why 70% of your training should be at a low intensity.
Protein is a great source of energy but is typically used to repair rather than fuel the muscles & for that reason I do think it should be used as a main energy source.
The correct amount of protein is needed for muscle growth & tissue maintenance. Food high in protein are generally from animals, although some vegetables & grains are good sources of protein. E/g. beans, brown rice, corn, wheat products. The best protein for strength training comes from eggs, fish, low fat milk products, chicken & lean beef.
Dangers associated with excessive protein intake
According to present-day experience, sports nutritionists believe that ingesting up to 2 g of protein per kg of body weight per day should not cause any negative effects in healthy athletes (those who do not suffer from raised blood fat levels or diabetes, or have kidney problems). Intakes exceeding this amount can, however, be potentially dangerous for the following reasons:
Carbs are used at a high intensity heart rate, a heart rate that you would typically use in a race situation & a medium to hard intensity training session.
Types of Carbohydrates
Did you know there are three main types of carbohydrate in food? There are
No wonder knowing what kind and how much carbohydrate to eat can be confusing!
On the nutrition label, the term "total carbohydrate" includes all three types of carbohydrates. This is the number you should pay attention to if you are carbohydrate counting.
Foods high in starch include:
A grain contains three parts:
The germ is the next layer and is packed with nutrients including essential fatty acids and vitamin E.
The endosperm is the soft part in the center of the grain. It contains the starch. Whole grain means that the entire grain kernel is in the food.
If you eat a whole grain food, it contains the bran, germ, and endosperm so you get all of the nutrients that whole grains have to offer. If you eat a refined grain food, it contains only the endosperm or the starchy part so you miss out on a lot of vitamins and minerals. Because whole grains contain the entire grain, they are much more nutritious than refined grains.
Sugar is another type of carbohydrate. You may also hear sugar referred to as simple or fast-acting carbohydrate.
There are two main types of sugar:
There are many different names for sugar. Examples of common names are table sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, beet sugar, cane sugar, confectioner's sugar, powdered sugar, raw sugar, turbinado, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar and sugar cane syrup.
You may also see table sugar listed by its chemical name, sucrose. Fruit sugar is also known as fructose and the sugar in milk is called lactose. You can recognize other sugars on labels because their chemical names also end in "-ose." For example glucose (also called dextrose), fructose (also called levulose), lactose and maltose.
Fiber comes from plant foods so there is no fiber in animal products such as milk, eggs, meat, poultry, and fish.
Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. When you consume dietary fiber, most of it passes through the intestines and is not digested.
For good health, adults need to try to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day. Most Americans do not consume nearly enough fiber in their diet, so while it is wise to aim for this goal, any increase in fiber in your diet can be beneficial. Most of us only get about half of what is recommended.
Fiber contributes to digestive health, helps to keep you regular, and helps to make you feel full and satisfied after eating.
Additional health benefits, of a diet high in fiber — such as a reduction in cholesterol levels — have been suggested by some so may be an additional benefit.
Good sources of dietary fiber include:
It is best to get your fiber from food rather than taking a supplement. In addition to the fiber, these foods have a wealth of nutrition, containing many important vitamins and minerals. In fact, they may contain nutrients that haven't even been discovered yet!
It is also important that you increase your fiber intake gradually, to prevent stomach irritation, and that you increase your intake of water and other liquids, to prevent constipation.
Exercising with Diabetes
How Does Exercise Affect Blood Sugar?
When you exercise, your body needs extra energy from blood sugar, also called glucose.
When you do something quickly, like a sprint , your muscles and liver release glucose for fuel.
The big payoff comes when you do moderate exercise for a longer time, like a hike. Your muscles take up much more glucose when you do that. This helps lower your blood sugar levels.
If you're doing intense exercise, your blood sugar levels may rise, temporarily, after you stop.
Type 2 Diabetes
When you look for information on endurance activities with diabetes, there is not a lot out there to give you a definitive answer. Although we are getting better at finding type 2 diabetes earlier, the condition is often present for several years before the diagnosis is made. It is important to have an evaluation with your physician before you take on higher level exercise like training for a half marathon to make sure you do not have cardiovascular disease or other problems associated with diabetes and that your medications are the best for more intense physical activity.
Type 2 diabetes involves insulin resistance and inability to get glucose into the cells. The treatments are geared to improve the cell responses and glucose utilization pathways. Exercise increases glucose uptake into the muscle and generally improves type 2 diabetes. Eating a well-balanced diet aimed at attaining and maintaining ideal body weight for your height will likely serve you well during your training and racing. A mix of complex carbohydrate, protein, and healthy fats (from nuts, avocado, and fish) should be good for you. An increase in your carbohydrate load the day prior to your race should be adequate to fuel your race.
The mainstay of medical treatment for type 2 diabetes is metformin when diet and exercise alone have failed. Metformin works by enhancing peripheral glucose uptake, decreasing glucose production in the liver, and increasing insulin sensitivity. This medication rarely causes hypoglycemia so it is a good one for those who exercise, but do not have adequate control from diet and exercise alone. You will likely develop your race day nutrition strategy during your long runs as your prepare for the race. You might try different carbohydrate loads the evening before your longer training runs, although the most important part of your plan will be how you replace carbohydrate during your runs that last longer than 60-90 minutes. Sports drinks during your runs may help level your carbohydrate levels available to the muscle while you are racing. Some of the gels made for racing can keep your glucose levels up to allow muscle utilization and have the advantage of a small volume. For your usual shorter duration training days, you probably do not have to do anything different. If you are on medications that augment insulin secretion, like a sulfonylureas, you will be at more risk of hypoglycemia during your runs and you may need a different strategy.
It is prudent to carry a glucose gel tube or glucose tablets when you are on training runs and when you race to cover yourself if you become hypoglycemic. You may have to check your glucose a few times to see how the level correlates with how you feel. It will be important for you to discuss your exercise plans with your physician and maybe you would benefit from a session or two with a nutritionist who focuses on diabetes and exercise. I also recommend that you wear a medical alert tag in case something happens to you during an endurance activity.
Bottom line, there will not be a huge benefit from carbohydrate loading, but you will need to focus on your intake during endurance activity.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to produce insulin. Without insulin, the body's ability to use glucose as a fuel source is impaired. Does this mean that people with Type 1 diabetes have to give up dreams of a successful sports career? Swimmer Gary Hall Jnr. is just one of the elite athletes with Type 1 diabetes who has competed at the highest level of demanding sports. Clearly, with good management, it is possible to participate in sporting activities, even at an elite level, with this condition.
This fact sheet examines sports nutrition issues for people with Type 1 diabetes. The needs of each individual with diabetes varies - the information in this fact sheet should not replace the advice of your diabetes specialist.
How does Type 1 diabetes affect metabolism?
Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. It has a number of important functions in the body, including a regulatory effect on carbohydrate metabolism. Insulin stimulates glucose to be taken up by body cells and used for fuel. It inhibits the release of glucose from glycogen in the liver and stimulates the synthesis of muscle glycogen after exercise. In the absence of diabetes, insulin is released according to the body's needs and the concentration of glucose in the blood is kept within a tight range. People with Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin. The body is therefore unable to use glucose properly as a fuel source and starts to rely on fat and protein as fuel. This causes blood glucose levels to rise excessively and toxic byproducts from fat breakdown (ketones) to build up in the blood. If untreated, this can be fatal.
How is Type 1 diabetes treated?
Type 1 diabetes requires regular insulin injections. The amount and timing of insulin administration needs to be matched to factors such as food intake, individual metabolism and activity level. Blood glucose levels must be monitored regularly to ensure an appropriate amount of insulin is given. Poor use of insulin will result in abnormal blood glucose levels:
Hypoglycaemia - low blood glucose
Occurs when too much insulin is present causing too much glucose to be taken up by the body's cells and too little glucose to be released from the liver. Symptoms include sweating, rapid heart rate, drowsiness, shaking, confusion, poor coordination and nausea. If untreated, hypoglycaemic coma occurs. This is a potentially fatal condition that requires rapid medical assistance.
Hyperglycaemia - high blood glucose
Occurs when too little insulin is present. Too much glucose is released from the liver and cells cannot take up glucose adequately. Symptoms include restlessness, poor concentration, fatigue, thirst, muscle cramps, drowsiness and nausea. In the long term, regular periods of hyperglycaemia increase the risk of complications related to diabetes including cardiovascular, kidney and eye problems.
How does exercise affect diabetes management?
Factors such as muscle contraction, increased blood flow and increased body temperature cause the body to be more responsive or 'sensitive' to insulin during and soon after exercise. In addition, when muscles contract, they can take up glucose from the bloodstream independently of insulin. Therefore, in people who do not have diabetes, insulin release decreases during exercise. People with Type 1 diabetes usually need to adjust their insulin dose to account for a reduced requirement for insulin during exercise. Management of diabetes varies for each individual. Regular monitoring of blood glucose concentrations and trial and error (under the supervision of your diabetes specialist) is needed to understand and manage each individual's response to exercise. However, in general, the following factors need to be considered:
How does Type 1 diabetes affect dietary requirements?
In general, people with Type 1 diabetes have the same dietary requirements as the general population - a varied diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, legumes, bread and cereals, moderate amounts of fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products and smaller amounts of foods high in fat, refined sugar and alcohol.
Including foods with a low glycaemic index (GI) is thought to assist with blood glucose control. Glycaemic index is a tool used to rank foods according to their immediate effect on blood glucose concentrations. Carbohydrate-containing foods that are broken down quickly, releasing glucose rapidly into the blood stream, are known as high GI foods. Conversely, carbohydrate-containing foods that break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the blood stream, are known as low GI foods. People with diabetes (and the general population) are encouraged to consume a variety of low GI foods each day.
Examples of low GI foods include:
Blood glucose control is usually better when a consistent eating pattern is adopted with regular meals and snacks. People with Type 1 diabetes are encouraged to adjust their insulin regime according to food intake and activity levels rather than distorting their food intake to suit the insulin dose.
How does Type 1 diabetes affect sport nutrition strategies?
General sports nutrition strategies are similar whether or not you have diabetes. Managing Type 1 diabetes and competing successfully requires a commitment to trialing different food and fluid combinations in and around exercise. It is impossible to provide a single set of guidelines that will suit all people with Type 1 diabetes. This fact sheet outlines some issues to consider. You will need to work with your diabetes specialist and sports dietitian and use trial and error to find the best approach for you.
Eating Before Training and Competition
As for all athletes, a carbohydrate-based pre-exercise meal 1-3 hours before exercise is recommended. This may need to be followed up with a small snack closer to exercise. Theoretically, it may help to include a low GI food in the pre-exercise meal. However, research on non-diabetic athletes has not been able to indicate a clear benefit of having a low GI pre-exercise meal, provided sufficient total carbohydrate is consumed, and research on diabetic athletes has not been conducted.
It is important for people with Type 1 diabetes to ensure blood glucose concentrations are at an appropriate level before commencing exercise - ideally between 4-8 mmol/L. Exercising with high blood glucose concentrations disrupts normal metabolic control and will elevate levels even further. Apart from being dangerous, this will result in poor performance. In general, exercise should be postponed if blood glucose concentrations are above 10-14 mmol/L, especially if ketones are present in the urine.
Blood glucose concentrations should be monitored closely before exercise. It may be necessary to consume extra carbohydrate before commencing exercise if blood glucose is low. Blood glucose control is easier if you have a consistent training routine. It becomes more difficult in competition situations when the start time is unknown (e.g. athletics) or the length of the event varies (e.g. tennis). Being attuned to the symptoms of hypo- and hyperglycaemia and regular monitoring is necessary in these situations.
Eating During Training and Competition
The Eating Before Exercise fact sheet on the AIS Sports Nutrition website provides general information. Eating during exercise depends on the duration and intensity of exercise. In general, additional carbohydrate should be considered as exercise exceeds one hour or more or moderate to high intensity. Research suggests 30-60 g of carbohydrate per hour will aid performance in these situations. Usually it is not necessary to have extra insulin if you eat during exercise. Choices such as sports drinks that provide fluid and carbohydrate are a convenient option for most exercise situations. Other options such as carbohydrate gels, fruit and sports bars may also be tolerated. If additional carbohydrate is required during exercise, it is better to consume small amounts frequently rather than leave it until the last minute. Try any new strategies during training sessions when it is easier to monitor the effects on blood glucose control.
Eating After Training and Competition
General sports nutrition recovery strategies are the same as for non-diabetic athletes. Fuel and fluid used during exercise needs to be replaced. The increased insulin sensitivity caused by exercise lasts for several hours after exercise. Therefore the risk of hypoglycaemia persists for some time. Delayed hypoglycaemia can occur 4-48 hours after exercise. Preventing delayed hypoglycaemia involves making sure you consume sufficient carbohydrate before, during and after exercise. It may also be necessary to reduce the next insulin dose after exercise. It is helpful to monitor your blood glucose levels frequently after exercise. Inconveniently, delayed hypoglycaemia often occurs during the night. If this occurs regularly, it can exacerbate fatigue in athletes. Waking up feeling very tired and groggy in the morning may indicate you have experienced a 'hypo' during the night. This is a sign that you need to increase blood glucose monitoring after similar exercise sessions in the future.
Alcohol inhibits the release of glucose from the liver therefore increases the risk of hypoglycaemia. Consuming excessive alcohol also impairs the ability to recognise the symptoms of hypoglycaemia. Sensible use of alcohol should be discussed with your diabetes specialist. All athletes are encouraged to moderate alcohol intake after exercise and ensure recovery needs are taken care of first.
Little research is available directly on athletes with diabetes. However, it is possible that people with Type 1 diabetes have a reduced ability to store glycogen after exercise. This may be an issue when strenuous training sessions are held within a short period of time (less than 24 hours apart).
Is carbohydrate loading safe for people with diabetes?
The Carbohydrate Loading fact sheet above provides general information. Carbohydrate loading is dependent on insulin availability and therefore requires good diabetic control. It is necessary to adjust insulin administration to account for the increased carbohydrate intake and the effects of an exercise taper. Regular blood glucose monitoring is essential when carbohydrate loading. Carbohydrate loading should not be attempted if blood glucose control is poor. Seek advice from your diabetes specialist and sports dietitian if you wish to use this method.
Controlling Blood Glucose Levels During Competition
Excitement and nerves surrounding competition are almost inevitable. A side effect of excitement is the release of hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. These hormones stimulate the release of glucose from the liver and reduce the effectiveness of insulin. This can result in fluctuating blood glucose levels. Ways to avoid or cope with this include:
intensive insulin routine (i.e. frequent and small doses of short acting insulin). This should be practiced and planned in conjunction with your diabetes specialist.
Carbohydrate intake on competition day should not be sacrificed to try and reduce blood glucose concentrations. The result could be insufficient energy for competition - there is no benefit to doing this! Forward planning and practice will help avoid this situation.
Blood Glucose Levels and Strength Training
Strength-oriented exercise (e.g. lifting weights or even sports like taekwondo) generally requires short, repetitive and intensive bursts of movement. This type of exercise can provoke a hormone response known as the 'fight or flight' or 'adrenalin' response that can temporarily raise blood glucose levels. Currently, it is not known whether this temporary hyperglycemia from weight training has any long-term effect and management of this response is difficult and still controversial.
Decreasing carbohydrate intake in an attempt to avoid the anticipated hyperglycemia might jeopardise performance during exercise and increase the risk of delayed hypoglycemia after exercise. Increasing your insulin dose after exercise to reduce blood glucose concentrations may increase the risk of delayed hypoglycemia once the 'adrenalin' response has worn off. Regular blood glucose monitoring is important so that you are aware of how your body responds to strength exercise. You should consult your diabetes specialist if you are concerned about your blood glucose response to weight training and seek guidance on the best way for you to respond.
Supplements and Type 1 Diabetes
Before considering use of any dietary supplement, you are strongly advised to see your diabetes specialist or sports dietitian. Even supplements entrenched in sports such as sports drinks can be misused and contribute to poor sports performance. Learning how to use dietary supplements properly is a skill and seeking advice from a sports dietitian can help you to get it right. Most sports supplements are poorly researched and little, if any, research is conducted on athletes with diabetes. It is important to discuss the potential effects of any product with a knowledgeable person before using any supplement.
Weight loss and Body Fat Loss with Type 1 Diabetes
Achieving a weight goal, reducing body fat or just maintaining weight should be a planned and realistic process in order to avoid the temptation for fad diets or radical weight loss or gain. This is very important in diabetes as rapid weight loss can lead to severe hypoglycemia, fatigue, and poor exercise performance. These negative consequences of rapid weight loss defeat the purpose of reducing weight or body fat in the first place. As a person with Type 1 diabetes, it is important to consider the impact of what you eat in relation to your blood glucose concentrations as a priority rather than how it immediately affects your weight. Rapid fluctuations in weight affect your health much more significantly than someone without diabetes.
The Weight Loss fact sheet in the AIS Sports Nutrition website provides general information. A sports dietitian can help you to plan your nutrition requirements if weight loss is an issue for your sport.
Insulin and Anti-Doping Policies
Insulin promotes protein synthesis and inhibits protein breakdown. It has therefore been misused as an anabolic agent. This is a dangerous and illegal practice. WADA anti-doping policies allow people with diabetes to use insulin and compete in official competitions. However formal approval for therapeutic use must be obtained. ASADA can advise on the procedure for obtaining therapeutic approval.
Nutrition for Travelling Athletes outlines general strategies. Athletes with diabetes need to pack ample supplies of insulin and testing equipment. Supplies need to be packaged in a container that protects from heat stress and physical damage. Consider packing half your supplies in your hand luggage and the rest in your checked in luggage.
Maintaining good diabetic control will maximise the benefits from training. It is important to persevere to understand your own metabolic response and develop a management strategy. Regular consultation with your diabetes specialist is important. Athletes with diabetes need to plan for the management of hypoglycaemia. It is important to train with a partner who is aware of the problems and knows how to treat hypoglycaemia. Coaches of athletes with diabetes need to understand the effects of diabetes on athletic performance and be familiar with their athlete's management plans. They should also be prepared to treat hypoglycaemia.
Thinking about starting a sport?
If you are contemplating getting into sport then you should first seek a medical assessment (complications screening) by your diabetes specialist. A sports physician can also offer an assessment based on the requirements of your chosen sport/s and help guide the pace at which you get into your sport.
Want to improve your performance in your current sport?
There are many factors related to diabetes that can influence physical performance as well as all the factors unrelated to diabetes that influence performance. You may need to adopt a team approach so you manage your diabetes and your exercise performance simultaneously. Be sure to involve your diabetes specialist, sports physician, sports dietitian and coach to help maximise your sports performance and manage your diabetes.
Monitoring Diet and Training
A training diary is probably the most important and useful tool you can embrace as an athlete. Consider combining your diabetes-monitoring tool with your training diary in order to monitor both diabetes and non-related diabetes factors simultaneously. There are a number of commercial sports training diary programs available through the internet. Alternatively, you could create your own in a spreadsheet using the suggested headings below.
Your diary can be shown to your sports physician, sports dietitian, diabetes specialist or coach. This network of specialists can help you achieve your sporting goals while managing your diabetes. Not only are they objective, they may also have some great ideas and offer support in the good and bad times.
Often you see riders on the side of the track not able to move due to muscle cramps or you will see a rider after a race watching there muscles twitch on the border line of cramping.
A muscle cramp or muscle spasm is an extremely common occurrence that almost 95% of the population will experience at one point or another, albeit for a vast array of different causes. We will be talking about skeletal muscle cramps & ways you can prevent them. Keeping in mind that everyone is different & cramps for a different reason, so we will try and cover the most common ways of cramping & prevention & leave it upto you to decide what works best for you.
There are three primary types of muscles found in the human body:
* Skeletal muscle - voluntary muscle, such as the bicep, that can be consciously controlled.
* Smooth muscle - involuntary muscle that is found in the walls of organs and other structures such as the bladder and stomach. Smooth muscle isn’t under conscious control.
* Cardiac muscle - Found in the heart and is involuntary in that it isn’t under conscious control, but is structurally akin to skeletal muscle.
What Are Muscle Cramps And Spasms?
Voluntary muscle contraction occurs from a persons’ conscious effort to make a specific movement. This is a natural process of alternatively contracting and relaxing to produce movement.
A muscle spasm occurs when muscles involuntarily contract momentarily, without the person willing it to do so. The person looses the ability to relax or control the muscle for a few seconds.
When the spasm is sustained or is forceful, it’s called a cramp. The sustained contraction, depending on the muscle involved, can often be seen or felt from the skin surface as the involve muscle hardens from the violent and prolonged contraction. The cramp can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur multiple times before dissipating.
Spasms and cramps may affect grouped muscles, a single muscle, or a portion of a single muscle. Cramping may also occur in some involuntary muscles, such as the uterus, bronchial tree, and intestinal tract.
Symptoms Of Skeletal Muscle Cramps
* pain, often severe, over the affected muscle
* pain that may cause debilitation until the cramp subsides
* local swelling, tenderness, and soreness over the affected area that may last a few days after the cramping
* a firm knot atop the affected muscle that may be felt or seen externally
Types And Causes Of Skeletal Muscle Cramps
When it comes to skeletal muscle cramps, there are innumerable causative agents - muscle overuse; muscle injury; muscle wasting diseases; dehydration; B vitamin deficiencies; circulation, blood, and nerve diseases; metabolic conditions; pregnancy; side effects of certain medications, such as Aricept, Evista, Tolcapone; and so forth. That said, skeletal muscle cramps are generally categorized into four distinct groups:
1. True cramps
This is the most common type of skeletal cramp and can involve part of one muscle, all of one muscle, or an entire muscle group. Most often caused as nerves becoming overly excitable and stimulate a corresponding muscle(s). True cramps may occur from any of the following:
* as a protective mechanism to stabilize an area of injury, such as after a sprain, strain, or broken bone, or as a direct result of the an injuring blow to a muscle.
* during or after a vigorous activity, after long period of being stationary, or during a repetitive moment.
* cramping may frequently occur at night, a type of cramp commonly referred to as rest cramps or nocturnal cramps.
* chronic dehydration, such as from taking diuretic medications, or acute dehydration, such as excessive sweating.
* any other acute or chronic shifting of bodily fluids, such as in dialysis.
* sodium depletion (usually associated with dehydration or fluid volume shifts)
* low blood levels of magnesium, potassium, or calcium can cause nerve excitability
2. Tetany Cramp
Tetany causes the nerve cell in the body to become “activated,” thus stimulating the muscles and causing widespread spasms and cramps to various muscles. The name tetany cramp is based on the toxic effect tetanus has on the nerves, but a tetany cramp can also be caused from calcium and magnesium deficiency.
Contractures occur if a muscle is unable to relax for an extended period of time, beyond that of a cramp. The constant spasm activity is due to a lack of the energy chemical, ATP, in the muscle cells preventing muscle fiber relaxation.
4. Dystonic cramps
This type of cramp stems from muscles being stimulated in a movement that they weren’t needed in making. Common locations are the jaw and eyelid. The arms and hands may also have dystonic cramps from repetitive movement - commonly referred to as writer’s cramp, typist cramp, or pianist cramp.
Ways to prevent cramping
Muscular fatigue is currently touted as the most likely cause of cramping. Pushing your muscles in a different way from how they have been trained by using a different movement pattern can cause cramping. Pushing harder, longer and faster than before can cause cramping. For mountain bike racers riding 100km or more, harder and longer is the most likely cramping culprit.
Prevention: There are two ways to prevent cramping from fatigue: pacing and training. Pace your race to accurately reflect the level at which you have trained. Out-pacing your training is an almost certain recipe for cramping. Hold back in the first half of your race to prevent cramping. In training, push harder and longer to adapt to the pace you want to maintain during the race. This is a tough one to accomplish for a endurance mountain bike race that takes on average 6+ hours to complete.
There is anecdotal evidence that muscle cramping can be prevented by strength training.
I myself have also had great success with doing a hard hill session or weights before going out on my regular training rides over fatiguing the muscles to simulate a race situation. It comes down to simulating your race situation as closely as possible without over training your muscles and teaching them to fire repetitively under fatigue.
LOW ELECTROLYTE THEORY
Muscle cramping may be brought on by loss of sodium, chloride, calcium, potassium or magnesium in sweat during exercise. This is the oldest cramping theory and recent evidence suggests it also the most unlikely cause of muscle cramping. However, as athletes it is also an easy one to cheaply and safely cover during a race.
Prevention: Before the race add extra salt to your meals to top-up electrolyte supplies. Avoid over-drinking fluids the day before the race as that will dilute your blood electrolyte concentration. During the race supplement with a solution such as Elete or capsules such as Endurolytes to replace electrolytes lost in sweat.
Hyper-hydration is linked to the low electrolyte theory as drinking too much will dilute the electrolyte concentration in the blood.
Prevention: Drink just the right amount and not too much water or better still drink electrolytes instead leading up to a race.
Dehydration may or may not cause muscle cramps. Avoiding dehydrations is a no-brainer for racers, as dehydration negatively affects race performance in multiple ways.
Prevention: Maintain hydration status by drinking when you are thirsty.
Some people are simply crampers, while others are not. If you have read this far, then you probably are a cramper. There is evidence that cramping susceptibility increases with age.
Prevention: Regular stretching may help reduce the incidence of cramping. If you are a cramper you should become a regular stretcher. If you have a pill or tonic that prevents your cramping, keep taking it. The Placebo effect might be working nicely for you. Some athletes swear by pickle juice!
Once your legs do cramp in a race, your best option is to drop the pedal force and spin your way through them or if your not concerned about loosing then get off and walk for a bit. If your cramps are too intense to keep the pedals moving, gently stretch the affected muscle.
I am currently studying exercise & sports science at CSU & have had life long experiences in most endurance sports. You may not believe in all that I talk about, but it has all come from my experiences & past on information from teachers & coaches along with scientific research. You can read more about my achievements here. Cheers, Jamie.