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Fast Talk podcast, ep. 26: Cramping myths debunked

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best advice and most interesting insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews columnist Trevor Connor and editor Caley Fretz discuss a range of topics, including training, physiology, technology, and more.

For decades (almost a century, in fact), we’ve been told that cramping is caused by electrolyte imbalance or bad hydration. But new science suggests that this probably isn’t why you cramp during exercise.

So why do you cramp? It all comes down to something called altered neuromuscular control. And how do you stop it? Well, that’s where things get even trickier. We called up the world’s leading athletic cramping expert to find out.

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References

Hutton, R. S., & Nelson, D. L. (1986). STRETCH SENSITIVITY OF GOLGI TENDON ORGANS IN FATIGUED GASTROCNEMIUS-MUSCLE. [Article]. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 18(1), 69-74.
Miller, K. C., Mack, G. W., Knight, K. L., Hopkins, J. T., Draper, D. O., Fields, P. J., et al. (2010). Three percent hypohydration does not affect threshold frequency of electrically induced cramps. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 42(11), 2056-2063. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181dd5e3a
Nelson, D. L., & Hutton, R. S. (1985). DYNAMIC AND STATIC STRETCH RESPONSES IN MUSCLE-SPINDLE RECEPTORS IN FATIGUED MUSCLE. [Article]. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 17(4), 445-450. doi: 10.1249/00005768-198508000-00007
Nelson, N. L., & Churilla, J. R. (2016). A narrative review of exercise-associated muscle cramps: Factors that contribute to neuromuscular fatigue and management implications. Muscle Nerve, 54(2), 177-185. doi: 10.1002/mus.25176
Schwellnus, M. P. (2009). Cause of exercise associated muscle cramps (EAMC)–altered neuromuscular control, dehydration or electrolyte depletion? Br J Sports Med, 43(6), 401-408. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.050401
Schwellnus, M. P., Allie, S., Derman, W., & Collins, M. (2011). Increased running speed and pre-race muscle damage as risk factors for exercise-associated muscle cramps in a 56 km ultra-marathon: a prospective cohort study. Br J Sports Med, 45(14), 1132-1136. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2010.082677
Schwellnus, M. P., Derman, E. W., & Noakes, T. D. (1997). Aetiology of skeletal muscle ‘cramps’ during exercise: a novel hypothesis. J Sports Sci, 15(3), 277-285. doi: 10.1080/026404197367281
Schwellnus, M. P., Drew, N., & Collins, M. (2011). Increased running speed and previous cramps rather than dehydration or serum sodium changes predict exercise-associated muscle cramping: a prospective cohort study in 210 Ironman triathletes. Br J Sports Med, 45(8), 650-656. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2010.078535
Shang, G., Collins, M., & Schwellnus, M. P. (2011). Factors associated with a self-reported history of exercise-associated muscle cramps in Ironman triathletes: a case-control study. Clin J Sport Med, 21(3), 204-210. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31820bcbfd
Wagner, T., Behnia, N., Ancheta, W. K., Shen, R., Farrokhi, S., & Powers, C. M. (2010). Strengthening and neuromuscular reeducation of the gluteus maximus in a triathlete with exercise-associated cramping of the hamstrings. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, 40(2), 112-119. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2010.3110

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