Whether you are primarily into mountain biking, long distance free riding or e short marathon sprint rides, you are probably already aware of just how serious these muscle contractions can be. Not only can cycling leg cramps completely stop you in your tracks and prevent you from pedaling even the slightest bit, it can also be very dangerous if your legs begin to spasm on you during an inopportune time. One of the most frustrating aspects of these unexpected muscle pains is the fact that doctors and scientists are still unsure as to their exact cause, and it is quite difficult to sort through all the remedies or techniques out there to find one that really works. The following article will cover all the information we now have on leg cramps and what causes them, as well as a ton of techniques and remedies specifically for bicyclists of all sorts - this is one read that you can't afford to miss.
What Causes Leg Cramps During Long Bike Rides?
Leg cramps and muscle spasms are a huge topic among bicyclists and many other athletic communities. Everyone has their own reason as to their cause, and you can't walk through any sort of athletic store or website without finding various remedies or solutions for the dreaded cramping. Some say it has to do with improper hydration or electrolytes, others feel that a lack of certain vitamins and minerals - specifically potassium and magnesium - is what causes cycling leg cramps to occur. Some cramps are caused by improper nutrition or hydration, but it is much more likely for an athlete to push their muscles beyond their limits than it is for them to fail to provide their bodies with what it needs on a daily basis, and this is also one of the more agreed upon factors in causing leg cramps.
If you haven't even sat on a bike in years, it is only to be expected that your muscles will begin to cramp up and ache during a difficult ride. Riders must always slowly advance themselves in terms of difficulty and length or duration of ride, and proper stretching and warm-up exercises must be done before any serious ride. There are many tools available online to help pace yourself in terms of advancement, and you can find websites that have these resources geared towards long distance rides, mountain biking and marathons of all lengths.
The cramping of your muscles is essentially a way of your body telling you that it is being pushed too hard. If you feel as if cramps are occurring during rides that you should be able to handle, it may have something to do with your equipment. An improperly positioned seat or handlebar will likely cause your muscles to begin cramping up on you, and you may also need to check in to the positioning of your pedals. The cleats on the bottom of your biking shoes need to be positioned to fit your specific bone and muscle structure, so you may also want to have these looked at by a professional if you feel as if this might be the cause.
Various Leg Cramp Remedies and Prevention Techniques
Since the humidity and heat or cold can greatly alter your muscle's ability to function, it is important that you dress properly during and after your ride. Compression pants are great for this, and it would probably be a good idea to toss them on after a strenuous uphill or long-distance ride. It's always a good idea to have something wrapped around your calf and leg muscles while bicycling, and you also want to avoid allowing your legs to become directly susceptible to the weather and environment by wearing shorts on a hot or cold day.
Any sort of prescription drug is likely to hinder your physical abilities, especially if you are an athlete who relies on them to a higher degree than most. Pain pills like ibuprofen can sometimes help with the strain left on your muscles after having a severe cramp, but this is something that you will want to generally avoid if you plan on continuing any sort of physical exercise, and the reaction time of these pills is always very slow. To top it off, these drugs almost always come with a list of potential side effects and health risks that you become susceptible to as soon as you take them.
All that aside, Quinine bisulphate has been prescribed in the past for leg cramping with some positive results, but the drug has more recently become outlawed in many countries for this purpose due to potential side effects that can arise. The reasons behind the effectiveness of quinine is completely unknown, and this has been administered only as an empirical treatment for severe or chronic muscle spasms and leg cramps.
Natural Leg Cramp Remedies
If you've read this far, you should already know that it is probably a bad idea to resort to prescription drugs or pain pills when you are dealing with leg cramps caused from bicycling. If you strongly feel as if your cramps are not caused by a lack of muscle strength or training, but rather some sort of strange occurrence within your muscles, natural and organic remedies are probably the best way to go. The most simple of these natural remedies actually involves drinking either water or a sports drink and possibly eating a good energy snack - not an energy bar, but rather some carbs or something salty, etc. This technique does work in many instances, but this is not the most practical solution if you are participating in marathon races or long-distance biking excursions.
Another remedy that has recently hit the market is actually credited to the Amish people, and was first developed over 100 years ago to deal with leg cramps at night and similar cases. This product is known as Stops Leg Cramps and relies on a completely organic combination of raw apple cider vinegar, garlic and ginger prepared using a certain process of liquidation and blending. This remedy actually stops the leg, hand or foot cramps in under a minute with just a sip or two, and you can even use it before any long ride to prevent the cramps from occurring altogether. Keep in mind that this is not a miracle cure and you will still need to be aware of the limits of your own muscles, but it does great when dealing with an unexpected leg cramp while out on the road and the completely organic ingredients ensure that it will do you no harm.
Muscle rubs might be efficient for dealing with a randomly occurring muscle contraction in the middle of the night or the pain thereafter, but these alternatives will usually provide very little help if the cramp itself was caused by some sort of activity you are engaging in. It is also a good idea to try to pick up your stretching and warm-up activities to a level that coincides with your riding level, as a lackluster stretch will likely lead to some terrible cramps further down the road.