Many athletes have been fooled into thinking that somehow they hydrate themselves into improved cooling, cramp prevention, and overall improved performance. However, as I, like many others, have argued this myth has been perpetuated by companies with a vested interest in the myth, like Gatorade. Like exercise in the heat, you can train to help prevent cramps. How?
I will assume you’re no longer falling for that nonsense that dehydration and electrolyte imbalances are the leading cause of cramps; you still believe this, here’s a good starter EAMC with refererences. If you cramp in races, but never in training you ARE NOT TRAINING HARD ENOUGH. We all know that good hard training leads to improvement, just like resistance training grows muscles. It is also believe that cramps are likely neurological in nature and related to fatigue. Few people push themselves as hard in training as they do in races. However, when they cramp in races it’s often seen as a unpreventable tragedy, or, the dehydration or anything else other than the real cause, lack of preparation.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure sure you train hard enough to develop your energy and cardiovascular systems, but it takes multiple stimuli to stress the muscles to cramp. Obviously, the longer the workout the easier this can be, but if time is of the essence, nothing does a better job than HIT plus SIT (checkout this recent workout where’s he first part of the workout is designed to target your energy systems, while the second is designed to target the neuromuscular system, and get you close or past the point of cramping. If you cramp transitioning or in your runs, then you need to do a similar workout as a brick. Bottom line, if you don’t train close to the intensity of a race, you won’t ever prevent your cramps.
While I cannot guarantee that such workouts will induce cramps or prevent them completely, they will reduce the likelihood, because I tend to cramp at the end of the bike and transition and I have seen some benefit. That said, I also race several times, which is a good stressor too. However, if you race only a handful of times a year, don’t leave cramping to chance, train to prevent it!