Today I Bought Bananas

It’s a mild summer in Austin. Here we are in August, and today will be our first 100-degree day of the year. That’s way different from last year, when we had 69 100-degree days — nearly every day during the summer. What do you do when it’s that hot? You go for a bike ride.

I was feeling pretty good this morning. Yesterday, I rode 33 miles and felt strong throughout the whole ride. No reason that shouldn’t be the case again today. I ate my usual big breakfast, got the bike in order, and went out to meet the club for the start of the ride.

They were taking a route I didn’t want to ride, so four miles in, I broke off and went my own way. My route took me through a hilly residential area, then out to a four-lane highway with a nice shoulder. Lots of other cyclists rode the same road, so there was plenty of opportunity to chat while passing and being passed.

I took a break at the turnaround point, about 17 miles out. A big tree at the edge of a parking lot provided plenty of shade. I ate a Clif Bar, and drank from a water bottle with Nuun added, as well as plain water.

Did I mention all the rolling hills on this route? I could feel them on the return leg, when I was pedaling directly into the late morning sun. I leapfrogged with a young woman, who stood on the pedals to power away on the uphills, but gave way when my heavier mass passed her on the downhills.

Finally, I was within eight miles of home, going up a bridge along an expressway. Suddenly, it hit. A cramp in the right thigh! I eased back on the pedals, shifted into an easier gear, and slowly climbed the rest of the bridge.

A decent hotel stands at the top of the bridge, and I took advantage of its cool lobby to relax and refill the water bottles. The air conditioning helped revitalize me, and the cramp wasn’t a problem anymore.

But the rest of the way home was slow going. Every so often, I’d get a twinge in my thigh, but made sure it didn’t hit me like before. A mile from home, one of the club riders caught up to me. I’d gone 35 miles. He’d gone 50. We talked about my cramps.

“Do you have a potassium supplement?” he asked. “Like a banana?”

“I’ve got a water bottle with Nuun,” I replied.

Then it hit me. Yesterday, I had capped off my breakfast with a banana. That was the only difference between then and now. I shoulda hadda banana this morning, too!

After a cold shower and a nap, I made a run to the grocery. During the upcoming spate of hot weather that’s coming, I’ll be eating a banana every day.

What’s your favorite cramp preventer?


  1. harry says

    i dont have a “preventer,” but drinking water helps me with preventing cramps. also, i try not to do anything unusual. sometimes, i get really excited and ride with really high rpm and gear, and i end up getting a charley horse.

  2. says

    If you are riding relatively hard on consecutive days, what you eat right after the ride to refuel is the most important meal you will eat. You don’t need to eat a ton of calories but you need to top off your muscles with carbs within an hour of stopping and eat some lean protein to help rebuild the muscles. A sports drink that has five essential salts in it (such as Gu2O or Accellerade (which also has protein)) is better than Gatorade, which has only sodium and potassium.

    If you are short on potassium the easiest way is to eat a banana at breakfast, and a banana within an hour after the ride. I prefer a banana on cereal for breakfast, and then make a smoothie post-ride, with a banana, a handful of berries, tablespoon of honey, two tablespoons of ground flax seed (optional), a small lowfat yogurt, cup of skim milk, and a handful of ice cubes. Works like a charm.

  3. Robert says

    I’m blessed with having never had a cramp in my 55 years on earth. After a long ride my legs just get a bit sore.

  4. says

    Eating bananas on a frequent basis helps me too. Avocados have lots of potassium (more than bananas) as well. Several times a week I try to drink a glass of black cherry juice (550mg of K per 8oz glass) before bedtime. All of the above help keep cramps under control and will also go a long way in keeping gout flare ups at bay.

  5. says

    I’m a noob in the bike game, so I haven’t experienced a cramp (hopefully I never do), although I do know a little bit about pre and post-workout dieting. One thing I’ve done is avoid the Gatorade and used coconut water instead, which has a high source of potassium (Zico is one brand, but there are several others to choose from).

    I can honestly say that the taste is not that great after a ride, so I tend to mix it with some form of juice, or by the time I get home throw it in the blender with a heap of other fruits and maybe some protein depending on my activity level. There are flavored coconut waters though, such as mango, or pomegranate, which does tastes a little better, but thats up to every person to decide.

    I’m not sure if this is a myth or not, but I’ve heard and read that coconut water is relatively close to blood consistency, so the absorption rate is better.

    Here’s an example of a power punch smoothie recipe with loads of potassium:
    – 1-2 whole peaches sliced
    – 1 cup of cut watermelon
    – 1 banana
    – 1/2 bottle of coconut water
    – 1/2 scoop of vanilla protein
    – 1/3 cup of orange juice
    – a pinch or two of ground flax seeds
    — some notes:
    – I use soy protein with spirulina
    – I freeze most of my fruits because I buy in bulk and it’s just little old me
    – I use just a half a banana because they’re too sweet for me, and an effective banana is a yellow one, not a green one
    – sometimes I portion in some pineapple for extra sweetness
    – the watermelon is soooo good after a couple hours of pouring sweat in this austin heat
    – avoid too much watermelon as it can make your smoothie more of a juice instead

  6. says

    I’ve never had a problem with cramping, so I’m lucky. I’ve heard people use something called Pickle Juice. I’m not sure exactly what it’s best used for, but I think it is intended for cramping. Has anyone tried it?


    • says

      There is a commercial product called Pickle Juice Sport, frequently seen on organized rides. Or, real pickle juice from jars of pickles. Joe Friel says it works, and cites studies, or a study. It’s an acquired taste, though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *