Although cramp is simply a muscle contracting or going into spasm and refusing to relax, there’s still no known definitive cause. Having said that, there are several factors that may be implicated.
Common cited causes include altered neuromuscular control, dehydration, electrolyte depletion or imbalance, a general lack of fitness for the chosen activity and muscle fatigue.
Dehydration and electrolyte depletion has long been thought to be the most common cause, although some scientists disagree. It’s still worth addressing your hydration and ensuring you’re fuelling properly prior to and during a race, though. Try adding an electrolyte tablet, such as Nuun, to your water, and eat a good, easy-to-digest mineral-rich breakfast three hours prior to racing. Oats, a banana and some seeds would be ideal.
Altered neuromuscular control is also thought to be a major cause and is often related to muscle fatigue, resulting in poor muscle co-ordination and control. Poor flexibility is another possibility, so make sure you warm up and stretch, both for racing and as part of your training regimen.
Aside from that, within your general diet eat plenty of mineral-rich vegetables and fresh fruits, and swap to wholegrain carbohydrates such as quinoa, brown rice and wild rice – all nutrient and mineral-rich.
For lots more swim/bike/run advice head to our Training section