Good point Jess about deficiency vs. diet. I eat a healthy diet but probably not enough raw veggies and fruits. I also sweat out huge amounts of minerals as is evident in the salt crust left on my camelback and helmet after riding. Additionally I have found that my body appears to be pretty acidic which requires more electrolytes to buffer this acidic condition resulting in a "deficiency" when riding. I put deficiency in quotes because I feel that if I wasn't pushing my body so hard I would never notice the relatively low levels of electrolytes. You do have to be careful with some supplements though and I encourage any one considering supplemental additions to their diet to look at the following web site for more information:
All I can say is that I went from cramping badly and consistently on harder rides at around the 8 mile mark up until mid July. I started taking supplements and trying to be better diet wise and one month later I was able to ride longer at the same effort without cramping. A month after that and I'm riding with more strength and less fatigue I ever have. Could it be I am just finally conditioned for this level of riding? Maybe, but I strongly feel the extra electrolytes helped me to not cramp which allowed me to push through my lower level of fitness.
Here is some info about good food sources for said supplements:
An abundant source of calcium in the American diet is dairy products – two glasses of milk per day provide 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium. If you choose to get your calcium via dairy products – and this is not essential, as there are many other sources of calcium – make sure you use only hormone-free, organic dairy products to reduce your exposure to the antibiotics and hormones found in many dairy products. Non-dairy foods rich in calcium include: greens such as collards, mustard, kale, and bok choy; canned salmon (with bones) and sardines; tofu that has been coagulated with a calcium compound; calcium-fortified soy milk, fruit juice and cereals; blackstrap molasses; and broccoli.
How do you get enough magnesium from foods?
Good dietary sources of magnesium include whole grains, leafy green vegetables (spinach is a great source) as well as almonds, cashews and other nuts, avocados, beans, soybeans and halibut. Be aware that a diet high in fat may cause less magnesium to be absorbed, and cooking may decrease the magnesium content of food.
How do you get enough potassium from foods?
People usually get adequate potassium through their diet. Most fruits are good sources of potassium, especially bananas, as are dark leafy greens, potatoes and legumes.
How do you get enough vitamin D from foods?
It isn't easy to get enough vitamin D from your diet. While fortified foods such as milk and cereals are available, most provide vitamin D2, a form that is much less well utilized by the body than D3. Good dietary sources include fortified foods, eggs, salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. Since sunlight causes our bodies to make vitamin D, daily exposure is helpful.