“Flippin’ heck this is bad news” I thought as yet again I got cramp in my right foot while I was cycling to work yesterday. What made it even worse was my left foot followed a few seconds later in exactly the same place. What’s happening to me? Would I make the 22 miles?
What made this disconcerting was whizzing down a hill at the time AND my feet were locked in with the Shimano SPD clippy pedals. Believe me, getting cramp in both feet while cycling down hill is seriously bad news. This has happened to me in one foot or another quite a few times over the past few years but rarely both together like yesterday. I have had leg cramps quite a bit lately as well: these are either in my feet, calf muscles or rarely quads (upper leg muscles). These cramps most commonly happen at night while I’m asleep and cause me to wake up in a dramatic way. Even more dramatic is Rachel’s reaction as I leap out of bed shouting in agony but that’s another story and not for this blog.
What causes cramp?
On surfing around, there doesn’t seem to be any one single explanation for what is happening. Medical opinion seems to be inconclusive and it could be a case of simply accepting it as it is. It appears it could be a case of Exercise Associated Muscle Cramp (EAMC) but that doesn’t explain the night time occurances. So there could be a few broad reasons why this may happen to me or anyone else for that matter.
If occurring during exercise EAMC may apply. This explanation could be because of a lack of glycogen. It is easy to dismiss that because I am a seasoned runner and I have never experienced cramp while running. My muscles, especially waist down, seem quite efficient in terms of using their various fuels.
It has been suggested that too much dairy products can cause cramp. Thats’s faintly possible but I would doubt it. While I am a vegetarian, I’m not a vegan. Each day I have milk in coffee and tea throughout the day, plus the odd bit of cheese but nothing excessive.
Other dietary gaps are possibilities. Suggestions of a magnesium shortage have been suggested as a cause of cramp. While I think we only need small amounts, I have a few nuts most days – little and often. Lately I have been working my way through a huge bag of broken Brazil nuts as eventually they will go ‘off’ (natural oils going rancid). So, I reckon I am unlikely to be short of magnesium.
I don’t use electrolyte drinks unless they have been given to me. Sometimes you can pick a few of these up at races etc. This could be an issue because when we exercise, we sweat. We turn our clothing into soggy smelly rags and some people go further and allow their clothing to dry with drying stains on. You get the drift. But while I sweat, I don’t sweat that much. Nevertheless it’s a possibility but I can tell you I potentially get cramp throughout the year, through the different seasons.
Anecdotally people often say adding some simple salt to food or drink is a good cure, or perhaps a packet of salty crisps. As unscientific as this sounds, this is the most plausible for me. We get bombarded and urged to cut down on our salt intake and perhaps I have gone too far? I am under the impression we should get salt naturally through our normal foods and we shouldn’t need to add anything to our food. Rachel adds a little salt to our home made bread which I love scoffing every day. My intake of “processed” food is minimal and this is where those immoral manufacturers turn out rubbish to make fat unhealthy people even worse.
So there y’go. Out of those possibilities, a bag of crisps – junk food laden with salt and loads of disgusting rubbish might be the cure. I think I’ll skip that and simply have a pinch of salt on tonight’s fish and chips.