It’s the middle of the workout - you’re killing it, feeling strong, and staying right on pace for a smooth yet challenging workout. After pushing new limits, you start to notice the warning signs of fatigue setting in. You feel your pace tensing followed by muscles flaring up quickly. Next thing you know, you’re doing everything mentally and physically to maintain energy and not allow cramping to take you out of the session or race altogether. This acute cramp eventually subsides, but often at the expense of your best performance.
One of the most notable muscle cramp detriments occurred in 2014 when Miami’s Lebron James suffered such intense cramping and energy loss, he had to leave Game 1 against the Spurs in the Finals. There was no question Lebron’s absence in that game was a major factor to the 110-95 loss for Miami and a Spurs 1-0 lead in the playoffs. No one would dare to imagine what that situation would have meant for them if it had been in Game 7. Most high performing athletes can attest to severe cramping and energy loss at one point or another.
What is really causing cramping during intense sessions?
Cramping: Dehydration v. Fatigue
In recent years, scientists have conducted research to correlate the direct causes of cramping for athletes. Traditionally, “cramps” were associated with a loss of electrolytes and dehydration however, recent research says this hypothesis has changed.
According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, two hypotheses were tested for the cause of Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps (EAMC). Hypothesis (1) stated, “electrolyte depletion” and “dehydration” as the cause for EAMC vs. Hypothesis (2) “altered neuromuscular control/fatigue” as the cause for EAMC. Based on this study, it was found that there was no significant research indicating “electrolyte depletion” and “dehydration” as plausible pathophysiological mechanisms with supporting scientific evidence to adequately explain the clinical presentation and management of EAMC. Although more scientific evidence would be required to prove Hypothesis #2, it seems to be more likely of an explanation to point to altered neuromuscular fatigue and exhaustion being the cause for EAMC.
Similarly, research conducted by NCBI, the neuromuscular theory of EAMC proposes that muscle overload and neuromuscular fatigue cause an imbalance between excitatory impulses and impulses from the Golgi tendon organs (GTOs). These localized EAMC tend to occur when the muscle is contracting in an already-shortened position. The reduced tension in the muscle tendon likely reduces the feedback from GTOs, thereby predisposing the muscle to cramp from the imbalance and producing a localized muscle cramp. Evidence more strongly supports endurance training as an effective means for preventing EAMC and delaying neuromuscular fatigue than by electrolyte and hydration alone. The same study by NCBI showed when "carbohydrate-electrolyte fluids were ingested at a rate that matched sweat loss, EAMC still occurred in 69% of athletes and athletes who develop EAMC often ingest similar amounts of fluid during exercise as do their non-cramping counterparts.” Although hydration is still key for every athlete, electrolytes and sodium intake should not be the only concern for athletes in regards to EAMC.
What about energy deficiency?
Energy Loss: The Truth About Mass Market ‘Intra Workout Products’
For many athletes, cramps are only half the battle during the peak of training. Energy deficiency is a second major concern during intense sessions. Several mass market products are targeted towards athletes as intra-workout products and promised to be magic lifesavers in the moment of energy failure. Many of these products are hardly effective for more than a few minutes and certainly not sustainable for consistent performance and health.
Most energy shots are caffeine and chemical based “shot” formulas of 2-3 ounces each. The intent of each energy shot is to aid in energy, fatigue, and serve as a fast-acting solution to cramping during intense physical exertion. Common ingredients used for shot solutions are a combination of artificial sugars, B vitamins, and caffeine. To no surprise, the sugar and caffeine spike work momentarily before you crash. Most energy shots function as a temporary mask to the symptoms rather than a remedy to your performance and long-term health.
According to LiveStrong’s article, ‘The Hazards of Drinking Energy Drinks and Exercising’, a habitual high dose of vitamin B6 may cause nerve damage and can lead to B12 deficiency. Additionally, ingredients like taurene, gingko and biloba have not been extensively tested. WebMD states,"A lot of these products contain multiple amounts of ingredients such as taurine and tyrosine and phenylalanine, and of course caffeine and guarana," Jim White, RD, a national spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says. "There’s not enough research on how they’re going to react together, especially down the road."
So what can I do to combat cramps, fatigue, and energy deficiency?
Bioavailability: Black Pepper Extract, Curcumin, Ginger, Panax Notoginseng
Remember, you are what you absorb. Without a chance for proper nutrient absorption, no product will aid in addressing issues for intra-workout needs. First, Curcumin Extract and Panax Notoginseng and Astragalus Membranaceus Extract work together to ensure all nutrients are absorbed into your system as quickly as possible, becoming more bioavailable. According to Food Scientist, Bim Dema-ala, “bioavailability” is the the process by which the body can most efficiently absorb nutrients introduced to the system immediately and completely. Bioavailability is drastically increased when whole food ingredients are “cold-pressed” in their most natural form as well as most nutrient rich absorption. Imagine the soil of a healthy plant - the best soil is rich, hydrated, and smooth in its prime state. Over watered soil is just as inefficient as dried out soil because in neither circumstance are the nutrients fully absorbed.
Bioavailability of Curcumin (2000 mg) when co-administered with Black Pepper Extract (20 mg) are enhanced by 2000% compared to bioavailability of Curcumin alone. And, while you may not feel it, ingredients in the shot also help generally support your immune system, increase joint and heart health, and overall cognition, ensuring that you feel better during and after your workout.
The next component to consider the great impact Curcumin and Ginger have on fighting inflammation. When muscles are fatigued, inflammation is increasing. Using artificial or “masking” elements to treat the fatigue may allow an athlete to complete the session, but it will only delay or even worse inflammation in specific muscle areas such as hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps.
Other common “energy shots” completely disregard the importance of combining ingredients based on its most effective interaction and absorption. NCBI found 69% of athletes fluids and electrolytes were not absorbed immediately after ingestion and required at least 13 minutes to be absorbed into the circulatory system.
Nutrition is an art meant to interact together rather than have independent factors seated next to each other in one product. To give you an idea of what ingredients are contained in common energy shots, we have compiled a breakdown of the MODe Mango + Ginger shot against other products.
Next time you’re prepping for an intense session, remember these key points and thank yourself for fighting fatigue in the best way you can:
- You are what you absorb. Bioavailability of nutrition is crucial for top performance. It doesn’t matter what you put into the tank if it never makes it to the engine.
- Evidence seems to indicate that preventing neurological misfires with flavorful and spicy nutrition, coupled with more nutrient dense and anti-inflammatory components may help more to re-energize and avoid cramping than electrolytes and hydration alone.
- Cramps or muscle fatigue can completely kill a workout, race or competition. Finding a product that works for you, gives you peace of mind and let’s you focus on your performance not cramping.
After extensive research and development, MODe food scientists formulated the Mango + Ginger Muscle Re-Energizer Shot to combat Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps (EAMC) and energy deficiency. Nothing can be more mentally, physically, or emotionally painful for an athlete than when they are on the brink of an extraordinary performance only to be climatically destroyed by unexpected muscle fatigue and energy loss. We know what separates good athletes from great athletes is being able to perform when it matters most. Join Team MODe on our mission to providing cold-pressed and nutrient dense products into our bodies and sustained health. Because kicking butt is so much better than getting kicked out.