/ Bad Leg Cramp, Cure needed!

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fergoid6 on 21 Nov 2016
Hi folks, I am a keen climber/walker and am getting out quite regular, however, I am suffering from really bad leg cramps while walking, this has been happening frequently when on any grade of walk ( but in deep snow it's worse, it can be from the slightest thing, i.e. lifting my leg out a snow hole! any ideas how to combat this? I always drink loads before and also carry a 3L camelback, that I normally finish when out? Thanks folks Graeme
SenzuBean - on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to fergoid6:

Standard answer is that you need to look at your diet. Cramps are almost always caused by some of your minerals being unbalanced (sodium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, etc). For my dad, a blood test found he was low on zinc and once he supplemented that he was fine. I used to get cramps while asleep (waking up with the feeling of my leg inexorably tightening, nothing to do except brace for the pain supernova), and found that it was just because I was a stupid student eating shite food every meal. Once I started eating a variety of vegetables, problem went away (haven't had a cramp in ages, maybe had one last year after a 50km+ walk?)
The other answer is that if you're exercising extremely hard, and sweating buckets - you need to top up your electrolytes that are lost through sweat. An isotonic sports drink is one way, making one of your hill snacks salty instead of sweet is another.
rgold - on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to fergoid6:

You might want to have a look at http://www.teamhotshot.com/ . I'm not making any claims, but the idea seems interesting. I've used them and no cramps, but this might be like the highly effective procedure of snapping your fingers to keep elephants off the trails.
pass and peak - on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to fergoid6:

What's a doc say, because I'm not one? Failing that what Senzubean says.
3L of water on a walk seams a hell of a lot to me, especially if you've hydrated before hand. Drinking to much can be as bad as drinking to little leading to dilution of salts ect in the body. At this time of year I never take more than a liter for say a 4hr walk. Also if your sweating at this time of year (UK based I assume) you've got your clothing system wrong, adjust your clothing as you walk to avoid sweating!
Also if you've had cramps while walking to need to lay off and give the muscle time to repair, even if it feels alright after a few days, still give it the same amount of rest time again, otherwise you'll just get them again and again.
Rob Naylor - on 29 Nov 2016
In reply to fergoid6:

I'll add a "plus 1" to the salt imbalance suggestions.

I used to get terrible cramps towards the end of a hill day, brought on by next to nothing. I tried taking "sports drinks" on the hill in addition to water but they didn't help.

I always craved salty snacks at the end of a day, and slowly realised that if I "gave in to temptation" the cramps subsided rather quickly. Since then I've started making up "hill fluid" with 50/50 apple juice and water, with about half a teaspoon of salt per litre added. "Sports drinks" usually contain very little, if any, salt.

The cramps seem to have gone for good. Now it may be in my case that it's the sodium and/or chloride imbalance that bring on the cramps, and in your case it might be a different element. I may also be better off sticking to water and taking very salty snacks with me, but this method works for me very well indeed.
nniff - on 29 Nov 2016
In reply to fergoid6:

As far as I'm aware, no-one has really worked out the answer to why muscles will suddenly contract and not let go, despite the fervent wishes of their owner.

My considered opinion is that you need to eat and drink enough - that is to say that drinking gallons is not the answer. 3 litres sounds too much unless you're dripping.

I get cramp if I've been for a tough cycle ride - say 4 hours at close to maximum sustainable effort, finishing with 10 minutes to failure. Typically, I then go and flop on the sofa in front of the rugby: when I try and get up, one of my legs will cramp up with a vengeance. Correcting the food and drink defecit before relaxing seems to help considerably, as does better general conditioning. (I have determined that a beer corrects both the food and the drink defecit - conveniently).

Make sure you're properly fed and watered before you go, and top both up as you go. There's no magic cure.
Andy Nisbet - on 29 Nov 2016
In reply to fergoid6:

It could be due to nerve damage somewhere, possibly in your back (sciatica). Depends which muscles are cramping. Also how old you are, what your lifestyle has been, and a number of other things which prove that diagnosis with limited info is not reliable.
hokkyokusei - on 29 Nov 2016
In reply to fergoid6:
Have you tried bananas? I used to suffer from cramp on any run (OK, I know that's not walking!) of more than about 17k, which was very inconvenient on half marathons. I would get the odd twinge as I ran, then a few much more painful attacks unless I used a very odd, stiff-legged, running style, followed by a full on rolling around on the floor in agony afterwards. I was advised to try bananas but resisted as I don't like them. Ultimately a running mate force fed me a couple as I rolled around in agony, after the whatfedale half this year and I became a convert. Now, I always have a banana before a race and one after. Works for me.
Post edited at 17:34
In reply to fergoid6:

Almost certainly due to altered sodium (essentially salt) or calcium or potassium levels in blood. Bananas are good source of potassium. Our body has lots of mechanisms to keep our blood levels these within a tight range (not too much, not too little); sweating loads or diluting with loads of water can push it out of the required levels. This may then lead to muscle problems as sodium and potassium and calcium play a crucial role in the nervous system's control of muscle contraction.
steelbru - on 30 Nov 2016
In reply to fergoid6:

Some US guy who is an endurance athlete, and also a neuro-scientist thinks he's cracked it, and has released his "magic potion" on the market. Not tried it myself, so not recommending, but may be worth some research.

Basically, he says that although it's the muscles that are cramping, the problem is not the muscles themselves, it's the nerves.

See http://www.teamhotshot.com/our-science/

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