Cramping is no fun, and the causes of cramping are not as simple as just hydration and electrolytes. Here is a good overview of what we truly currently know.
There are many take homes points, but the ones that yield action items the most with me are:
The bottom line is a balance of the nervous systems inputs to the muscle.
Hydration and Nutrition are important, but only part of the picture.
Certain foods can play a very important role. Which may explain part of the magic of the ginger and salt heavy formulation on my favorite rice bar event fuel. Look for more recipes that work in the capsicum, cinnamon, ginger and cider vinegar profiles (since I love all of these flavors anyway).
“There a few products on the market targeting the exact theory that a strong orally ingested TRP agonist will help to prevent or abate cramps once they start. Some of these products … are both formulated with apple-cider vinegar (acetic acid), garlic, and ginger. And more … which includes the TRP agonists capsaicin, ginger, and cinnamon.”
Adding ‘nervous system and muscle length tension micro-breaks’ into activity can have a tangible benefits. Actively stretch of the legs, lengthen strides, stand on the bike, etc. (A good topic for a future post).
Recurring cramps in the same area of the body are warning signs of stress imbalances / mechanical inefficiencies that can be addressed and changed. Particularly if they occur on one side or only one major muscle group.
Cramping throughout the whole body or multiple areas simultaneously is still a serious sign of whole body metabolic imbalance. It should be taken seriously and immediately addressed, it is not something to ‘gut through’.