Monday, June 27, 2011

My Endurolytes Experiment... 100 km Later

Since I received a number of suggestions via Twitter and this blog concerning my issue with cramping up on the bike, I thought I’d follow up with a little report on my ride yesterday. After posting a number of theories last week as to why I might be cramping up so much, the general consensus seemed to be that the underlying causes were an imbalance in my electrolytes levels and hydration. One of the answers to my request for help that I received specifically suggested I try a product called Endurolytes.

Endurolytes, if you’re not familiar, are an electrolyte replacement supplement that comes in a capsule form, although I think you can also get it in a drink mix powder form. Anyway, I could only find the capsules at my LBS so I picked up a supply of those. The supposed benefits of Endurolytes is outlined nicely on the product website, and I quote:

Cramping is your body's final warning signal that you're on empty electrolyte wise. However, your performance is deteriorating and you are slowing down long before you feel the slightest twinge of a cramp. To keep your body's muscular, digestive, nervous, and cardiac systems firing on all cylinders you need a consistent supply of all electrolytic minerals, not just sodium and potassium. Plus, in many instances, you require greater volumes of electrolytes than any sports drink or gel can provide. That is why Endurolytes fulfills such a crucial component of your fueling by supplying your body with a perfectly balanced, full-spectrum, rapidly assimilated electrolyte source, allowing you to meet your widely variable electrolyte needs with tremendous precision, hour after hour, no matter what the weather throws at you.

Extra Benefits:
Taking two or more Endurolytes before bed may help prevent night cramps and nighttime muscle twitching.

Usage directions suggest 1-3 capsules before exercise, 1-6 during and 1-3 after. I decided to experiment the low end of the suggested dosage to start and took 1 about a half hour before I started my ride and 2 while I was on the road… 1 at the 50km mark (2 hours) in and 1 at the 75km mark (3 hours in).

I’m happy to report that early test results are positive. I made it well past my normal cramping wall of 50-60km, and actually finished out my ride at 100km even with only minimal cramping. While I didn’t completely lock up like usual though, I did feel like I was riding on the ragged edge of cramping and that if I pushed just a tiny bit harder, I would have indeed felt the full effect of the leg cramps again.

I also made a special effort to hydrate just a bit more with lots of water the day/night before and in the morning before I started. On the ride though, I think my consumption was still a bit low. I had in total about 750ml of water, 750 of Gatorade and a 500ml bottle of Coke (for the liquid carbs). I also stopped at a coffee place and asked for a bottle refill, but couldn’t drink that. I took one mouthful of what tasted more like sewage than water and spit that out immediately.

All in all, I’d have to say that the Endurolytes did their job. Just need to find the optimal dosage and balance with hydration now. The only real problem was that the cramps in my thighs were replaced with straight-up pain. By the time I finished my legs were screaming for mercy and I had to take some Tylenol to settle that down. My left knee has been bothering me a bit this year and that really radiated up into my thigh. I’m chalking the knee problem/pain up to my new bike and new gearing ratio (relative to my old bike) and lack of distance endurance. Could be the set-up too I suppose, but I was measured up at the shop when I bought this one.

Outside of the cramping, other 2 other items of note. I thought my whole experiment might be in jeopardy at only the 10k mark when I rode past a work crew cutting down an old utility pole. As luck and wind direction would have it, I passed just as they had finished chain-sawing off a section of the pole about 30 feet up. As I glanced up, I was hit square in the face with an invisible cloud of sawdust, a piece of which got stuck in my eye, despite my glasses. I spent the next 20 minutes blinking, poking and prodding my eye to try to get it out without much success. I thought I’d have to turn and head for home, but carried on anyway and soon enough it seemed to clear out on its own.

Then with only 5km to go, I geared up on my front derailleur and [SNAP] my derailleur cable let go. Fortunately an easy post ride fix and a short enough distance to go that it didn’t really matter. Just glad it didn’t happen 50km sooner.