UK fitness consultancy company TORQ, have kindly sent Go Venture a detailed article on cramping, hydration and fuelling. Ideal for any athlete looking to conqueror these problems when racing or training hard throughout the season. This article really offers a great insight into how your body works and how you need to manage it. Plus we have a great freebie at the end of the article, check it out!

Cramp ‘over-exertion’

The most commonly overlooked cause of cramp is actually ‘over-exertion’. You could be doing absolutely everything right from a hydration perspective, but it’s just that you’ve asked your body to do more than it’s used to doing. It makes sense really doesn’t it? If you’re calling upon your body to do stuff it’s just not used to doing, it’s going to say ”Look mate, you’re having a laugh. You tootle around the forest all day with your mates stopping at every tree to urinate and chat about bike components and now you want me to do something continuous and hard core. You must be joking, I’m going to punish you thus…” (queue titanic contraction of hamstrings and calves). I thought it might make it easier to understand if I made it into a little play!

The solution is simply to introduce some harder, more focussed riding into your week.  The more riding you do, the higher your cramp threshold will become, so in short, you need to build up your fitness. Bizarrely, if you fuel and hydrate yourself properly (which will be discussed later on in this article), this will allow you to maintain a higher power output on the bike for longer, which in turn will put your muscles under more strain, which can then lead to cramping! I do think it’s very important not to get ‘cramp hang ups’ though, because cramping due to over exertion has to be a good thing. It’s a clear indicator that you’re overloading your muscles and causing adaptation. When I get to the point in my ride/race that I’m getting little twinges of cramp, I know that I’m breaking into new territory and pushing the boundaries. Once I’ve rested up afterwards, I’ll be stronger for it, so the rewards will be sweet. The diagram below shows how short term over-exertion will bring rewards in fitness providing you give your body sufficient time to recover.

Remember that over-exertion comes in two forms, duration-based and intensity-based. If you can ride for hours, but cramp up on climbs or in races, you need some more intensity in your training, so think about doing some intervals or shorter harder rides. On the flip side, if you’re good at the fast stuff, but cramp on longer rides, you need more endurance, so try to get out and ride for longer.


Dehydration can’t be ignored as a cause of cramp and quite simply, if fluid and electrolyte intake doesn’t equal fluid and electrolyte loss, you will start to dehydrate, so you need to address high perspiration rates by putting more fluid and electrolytes back in to your body (electrolytes are the posh name for ‘salts’). Normal table salt is made up of Sodium and Chloride (2 of the electrolytes), but you will also need Magnesium, Potassium and Calcium, so there are 5 electrolytes all together. Electrolytes are necessary elements for muscular contraction, so it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you start to lose these valuable salts, your hardware’s going to start coughing and spluttering.

The diagram below demonstrates the potentially catastrophic effects of dehydration.  For every 1% of bodyweight you lose through dehydration, you get a corresponding 5% drop in performance.  This is a huge performance loss and by way of putting some figures to it, a slightly dehydrated individual who usually kicks out 300 watts at threshold (time trial effort) will drop off to around 285 watts.  Suffice to say that races are won or lost by much smaller differences in power than this.  If dehydration reaches 4-5% of bodyweight, performance drops a whopping 20-30% and a fluid loss of 9-12% can be fatal.


Diagram supplied courtesy of TORQ. Adapted from Wilmore & Costill (1999) ‘Physiology of Sport & Exercise’. Human Kinetics.

The physiological effects of dehydration are interesting. The fluid losses cause blood volume to drop and as your blood plasma loses water, it becomes thicker. This decreases blood pressure, which then reduces blood flow to the muscles and skin. As less blood reaches the skin, thermoregulatory efficiency (the control of body temperature) is reduced and heat is retained within the body. The worse the dehydration gets, the more pronounced this cycle becomes.

So if that’s what happens when you dehydrate, what’s the best way to prevent it?  Drinking fluid seems like the obvious answer, but it’s a bit more complex than that, because hydration isn’t the only variable you need to consider when you’re exercising, there’s also fuelling. During prolonged endurance exercise, an incorrect fuelling strategy WILL spell disaster. As your carbohydrate stores start to run low, you’ll start to feel faint and you’ll have trouble concentrating. Once your carbohydrate stores are empty, you will rapidly and spectacularly lose power and it’ll be one of those unique times in your adult life that you’ll be crying for your mummy, because it really is rather unpleasant.

Although some sports nutrition products are better than others at delivering energy, the basic rule of thumb is that you need to consume 1 gram of carbohydrate per Kg of bodyweight per hour.  Any more than this and you won’t use it.  Any less and you’re selling yourself short (and you’ll run out of stored carbohydrate more quickly).  So, a 70Kg individual needs to feed on 70 grams of carbohydrate per hour.

So, let’s get back to hydration. In order to prevent dehydration, you’ll need to consume fluid.  How much fluid you take on board will depend entirely on the environmental conditions that you’re exercising in. If you’re exercising indoors or in dry or hot conditions, you’re going to lose more fluid than in cooler or more humid conditions. The paradox is that you actually feel like you’re losing more fluid in humid conditions when actually you’re not. Sweat drips off you, but because evaporation rates are lower, you won’t actually perspire as much and your thermoregulation systems will be much less efficient at driving heat away from your body.So as not to confuse the matter though, let’s make this assumption: You will perspire more and have greater fluid losses in hot than cold environmental conditions: You will perspire more at higher than lower exercise intensities and finally: You will perspire more in dry than humid environmental conditions.

When perspiration rates are high, you should aim to consume as much fluid as possible. Pure unadulterated water will not hydrate you as quickly as an energy drink mixed at a 6% concentration though because of the osmolality (potential to diffuse) in the gut. Sports drinks that are marketed as ‘Isotonic’ are designed for this use, but providing your energy drink is mixed at 6% (60 grams of carbohydrate per litre) it will be in balance with your body fluids and will hydrate you fairly rapidly. This 6% carbohydrate content also has another benefit though, because it supplies you with 60 grams of carbohydrate per litre, so based on my fuelling comments earlier on, our 70Kg individual would need to consume approximately a litre and a quarter of 6% energy drink per hour to satisfy his/her fuelling requirements. At the same time, this is probably about the limit in terms of fluid intake that a person of this body weight would be able to handle. In short, the key to hydration and fuelling in hot environmental conditions is to drink as much 6% solution as you possibly can and if this means exceeding your fuelling needs, well done for drinking so much.


When perspiration rates are low, you will need to drink less to remain hydrated. It is still important to remain hydrated however, because the same basic rules apply.  If you don’t drink enough, you will dehydrate and you WILL suffer a performance loss. In this situation however, a 6% carbohydrate drink on its own isn’t going to be your best solution, because you’ll just end up filling your bladder if you try to drink enough to satisfy your fuelling requirements. You therefore have a couple of cooler weather hydration/fuelling options:

1) Mix a stronger energy drink. If you mix your energy drink at 9%, you’ll get 90 grams of carbohydrate per litre from it. For the 70Kg rider, this would mean drinking just over 750ml of drink per hour. A stronger mix of energy drink would mean that that the rider would need to drink even less. Effectively you’re satisfying your energy needs without the need to consume so much fluid.

2) Consume gels or bars. This would be my recommendation, because it gives you so much more flexibility. If it were possible to devise a reliable system whereby the strength of your energy drink was gauged by flinging open the window to your bedroom, sticking your finger outside and waving it briskly through the air, it would be splendid. “Ah, it’s a 6% day, I shall fill my bottles like thus”. Real life dictates that every situation is different and even if you did get it right for the first hour, the weather could change in the second hour and you’re stuck with the decision you made during the earlier finger-waving thing. To this end, a much more sensible approach would be to mix your drinks at 6% anyway. If it turns out to be a high perspiration day, just drink as much of this solution as possible and you’ll be fuelling/hydrating under the principles described earlier. If however it’s cooler, you can drink enough of your 6% drink to keep hydrated and then take the shortfall of fuel in through bars or gels. For instance, if we take our 70 Kg individual and he/she consumes 500ml of 6% solution per hour to maintain hydration, the total fuel intake will have been 30 grams of carbs. This person is therefore fully hydrated, but is missing 40 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Work out how much carbohydrate your energy bars or gels contain in grams and work these into the equation. It might be that you need an energy bar per hour or two gels per hour in order to maintain your fuelling requirements? This shouldn’t faze you. It’s not a mobile maths exam, because with a little practice and logic, you should very quickly be able to figure out whether you’re drinking enough to satisfy your fuelling requirements. Then you can decide roughly at what rate to consume your bars or gels.

As an aside, it’s a little known fact that we are actually self-hydrating organisms. Through our metabolism (oxidative phosphorylation), we actually produce water as a bi-product and according to Wilmore & Costill, authors of ‘Physiology of Sport & Exercise,’ during rest we actually produce 150 to 250ml per day. In addition to this, our 70Kg cyclist will also produce about 150ml of water per hour during intense exercise. During very cool weather, this would help to explain why one has to get off the bike to have a pee every now and then. It’s a combination of this canny self-hydrating mechanism and perhaps drinking a little too much for the environmental conditions.


Last and by no means least, there’s the issue of electrolytes. These are dissolved salts that are capable of conducting electricity, so are vital for muscle and neural (nerve) function. They also play a major roll in maintaining fluid balance within the body.  There are 5 electrolytes: Sodium, Chloride, Potassium, Magnesium and Calcium. The last one is less important than the other four and by far the most important are the first two. Having electrolytes in your energy drink has the following benefits:

1) They help to replace electrolytes lost through sweating (in case you hadn’t noticed, sweat is salty). Sodium and Chloride help to maintain the volume of the blood and also help to transport nutrients into cells so that they can be used for energy production, tissue growth and repair. Potassium is present in much higher concentrations in the muscle cells than in the blood, so losses through sweating are much lower than with Sodium or Chloride. Potassium deficiency would typically be symbolised by muscle cramping. Low magnesium levels are linked to muscle fatigue and cramping too, but again losses through perspiration are less substantial than with Sodium and Chloride.

2) They prevent hyponatraemia. This is a rare condition that affects ultra endurance athletes and is also referred to as ‘water intoxication’. If you consume water-only or an energy drink without electrolytes over a long period of time, the combination of sodium chloride loss through sweating and the dilution of the remaining salts in the blood steam with the fluid you’re taking in can cause headaches, cramping, loss of strength and nausea. If left unchecked, this could become quite a serious condition.

To summarise, Ed Burkes’s book ‘Serious Cycling’ makes the following recommendations with regard to the amounts of electrolytes that should be present per litre in an energy drink, so check yours:

Sodium: 400-1,100mg/l

Chloride: 500-1,500mg/l

Magnesium: 10-100mg/l

Potassium: 120-225mg/l

So, in summary, when perspiration rates are high, do not consume bars or gels, just drink an electrolyte-containing energy drink mixed at 6% carbohydrate – and drink as much as you can.  This is the quickest way to hydrate and you’ll be fuelling yourself adequately by virtue of the fact that you’re consuming significant quantities of this 6% solution. When perspiration rates are low, drink less or you’ll be taking numerous comfort breaks and satisfy your energy needs through more concentrated ‘dryer’ forms of energy like gels and bars.

Before we finish, I’d like to revert back to the subject of cramping. For some people, the solution can be more complex than the steps we’ve discussed in this article and if you’re one of these folk, you’ve probably been hunting for years for a miracle cure. I would suggest that you look at the points explained in this article first of all, but if you still have an ongoing problem, you might want to try one of these supplements? Your GP would prescribe ‘Quinine’ if your cramp was causing you major issues. This is actually the bitter ingredient in tonic water or bitter lemon, so you could try consuming about 1 litre of either of these beverages about an hour before you exercise. The other supplement that we’ve had a huge amount of success with at TORQ is ‘Ribose’ or ‘D-Ribose’ if you want its full name. This could sound like a sales pitch and I’ll have difficulty explaining otherwise, but it’s an ingredient we’ve included in many of our own performance nutrition products and we also sell it in its raw form. It has ‘recovery’ properties, but research has also demonstrated that it can help with a muscle enzyme deficiency that causes regular cramping in people who have tried absolutely everything else! So, if none of the above work for you and you continue to get problems, give us a call/e-mail and we’ll explain what to do. The whole point of these articles is to remain independent and give the best possible advice. In this case, the best possible advice involves appearing not to be independent, because this is quite a rare nutrient.  Suffice to say, you can do an internet search to find alternative retailers, but just make sure you purchase pharmaceutical-grade pure D-Ribose, not L-Ribose or anything else.

Free 52-page Performance Resource

If you have found this subject interesting and would like some more comprehensive information on this subject and others relating to training and nutrition, TORQ have a special offer for Go Venture readers. We have a 52-page Performance Resource worth £5, which we will e-mail to you as an electronic copy FREE OF CHARGE if you send us an email to quoting “Free TORQ Performance Resource”.  If you would like a hard copy of this brochure, this can be ordered direct from the TORQ website.

TORQ supply a great range of energy products and sport consultancy services, for more information

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Go Venture Featured Photographer

We recently saw the work of André Callewaert and couldn’t help but take notice. His beautiful images instantly speak a thousand words and just made us want to pick up a camera and start shooting.

Go Venture asked him a few questions about his work and were kindly allowed to showcase a selection of his photos at the end of this article. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself…

I was born in Belgium in April 1946. I was the President of a French chemicals distribution company that I owned and sold, and have since been retired.

I now live in a village north of Lyon. It’s nice and I get to enjoy the countryside, beautiful lakes, the Alps, the Mediterranean Sea and the facilities of this big and close city.

Why did you become a photographer?

Like everyone, I started taking family pictures with a “one button” camera.
In 2003, two months after selling my company, I went for a month walking on the road to Compostella. I took a small compact Sony camera with me and it did pretty well, I liked it. When I got back, I started diving courses and some of the divers were keen photographers. After that I brought new equipment (Canon compact camera and housing, Ikelite flashgun) and started with underwater photography. And…. I loved it.

What kind of equipment do you use and what did you start with?

I started with a Nikon D300 with Sea & Sea housing. 
Now I have a Nikon D700, a range of Nikon lenses, a Seacam housing and two flashguns.

1506 Dombes 5601_1

What are the most challenging things when travelling the world and taking photos?

Meeting people and sharing experiences with them. Seeing and doing things that are out of the “ordinary”. And when I start to travel less, being able to avoid saying to myself  “aahh, If only I had known…”

Do you have a favourite photographer?

Underwater: Amar Guillen, David Doubilet, Martin Edge, Alexander Mustard. And, especially Marc Riboud, Robert Doisneau, Philip Plisson.

Favourite thing or place to shoot?

I like shooting real life more than landscapes; Children, women and underwater wildlife especially. So colourful and splendid. 1506 Cappadoce 1708

Is there a photographer you admire or aspire to?

Aspire to? No, let us keep humble.

Best piece of advice you have been given?

Take your time, look and decide, keep concentrated.
And three important parameters: light, light, light.

What advice would you give a photographer getting started?

Read topics relating to photography. Watch and analyze photographs and paintings that you like. Ask yourself why you like them. Take training and advice from other photographers.

Did you attend photography school/classes or are you self-taught?

I read a lot and I am part of a group of underwater photographers who meet once a month in Lyon.
We analyze and exchange criticism and advice.
I did take some courses with the Nikon School in Paris.

Additional Information & Links

We would just like to thank André Callewaert for his time and premission to use his images and allow us to showcase them. To see more of his work you can visit these sites below:

André Callewaert on Flickr


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Best Tips For Duck Hunting

If уоu’rе a huntеr уоu spent a lоt оf mоnеу gеttіng your gun gеttіng thе арраrеl аnd уоu’vе gone out thеrе аnd spend mоnеу оn trірѕ аnd уоu’rе no ttaking home thе prizes уоu really wаnt уоu might wаnt tо соnѕіdеr іnvеѕtіng in decoys. Here wе have a selection frоm Final Aррrоасh we hаvе Cаnаdіаn Gееѕе аnd the Grееn-wіngеd Tеаlѕ. These guys соmе ѕіx іn a box ѕо six Cаnаdіаn Gееѕе wе hаvе thrее represented here and six Green-winged Teals. These аrе going tо bе three mаlе аnd thrее fеmаlе. Thеѕе аrе grеаt іf уоu’rе a waterfowl ѕhооtеr.

What thеу’rе gоnnа do – уоu саn lау them оut you саn thrоw thеm іn thе wаtеr thеу’rе gоnnа thrоw thеm оn landans wіth gееѕе and duck аnd аll kinds оf waterfowl flуіng аll аrоund уоu thеу’rе gоnnа see these dесоуѕ dоwn thеrе thеу’rе gonna ѕее a ѕаfе fасtоr thаt thеу ѕау уоu knоw “thеrе’ѕ ѕоmе оthеr birds down thеrе thеу’rе. . . ” gоіng tо wаnt tо lаnd. Gееѕе and ducks аll waterfowl thеу’rе extremely іntеllіgеnt аnd thеу have good eyesight ѕо thеу will ѕее thіѕ frоm a long dіѕtаnсе аwау thеу’rе gоіng tо feel ѕаfе thеу are going to flу оvеr аnd уоu аrе going tо get a bеttеr ѕhоt. Geese lіkе tо fly hіgh аnd уоu’rе gоіng to need to gеt thеm сlоѕе tо gеt a good shotducks are еxtrеmеlу fast you know whаt a lаrgе numbеr аnd аlѕо a сlоѕе ѕhоt tо really you know narrow down thе сhаnсе оf bagging some ducks аnd some wаtеrfоwl іn gеnеrаl. So wе hаvе thе Grееn-wіngеd Tеаl by Fіnаl Aррrоасh and thе Cаnаdіаn Gееѕе by Final Approach. Thеу’rе great аnd a реrfесt іnvеѕtmеnt if уоu аrе a wаtеrfоwl ѕhооtеr.

Alrіght wе’vе tаlkеd a little аbоut dесоуѕ nоw it is time to tаlk аbоut blinds. Thеrе’ѕ a lоt оf dіffеrеnt blinds out there thе ѕtаnd аlоnе blindsyou hаvе dug in the ground blіndѕ and уоu hаvе what’s оn mу bасk rіght nоw thіѕ іѕ a grеаtblіnd bу Fіnаl Aррrоасh аnd ѕресіfісаllу why I chose іt іѕ іt’ѕ bасk-расkаblе. You саn ѕее thе whоlе blіnd – a lay dоwn blіnd іѕ оn mу bасk right nоw аnd I’m going tо set іt uр fоr уоu. Wе’rе all ѕеt up hеrе this is the Fіnаl Approach Pack-and-Go blind. Yоu saw mе wаlk іn with іt аѕ a bасkрасk I set іt up in аbоut three mіnutеѕ hаd thе whоlе thіng set up.

Now соmе tаkе a lооk аt the іnѕіdе and I’ll show you how I wаѕ аblе to dо thаt too. Dіzzу аt night аnd lіghtwеіght aluminum іntеrnаl structure hеrе ѕо іt’ѕ еxtrеmеlу ѕtrоng aluminum but still light weight. Lооkіng аt аll thе hinges rіght hеrе, nice еаѕу рор-іn and рор-оut one of thе finer dеtаіlѕ I really lіkе аbоut Fіnаl аррrоасh is just thеѕе lіttlе tеthеrѕ rіght hеrе. I’m not going tо lose this ріс bесаuѕе they through that оn thеrе. Just a nісе ѕmаll dеtаіl thаt Final Aррrоасh іѕ rеаllу good at.

Lооkіng аt thе раddіng system right here you hаvе a ventilated раd – you are gоіng to bе ѕіttіng іn thеѕе blinds fоr a while so іt’ѕ nісе tо hаvе padding lеt аlоnе thе ventilated раddіng аѕ wеll. Nісе headrest rіght hеrе уоu ае gоіng tо be lооkіng uр fоr a while watching the ѕkу for thоѕе bіrdѕ tоflу on оvеr. It’s аlѕо gоt a nісе Mоѕѕу Oak соvеrіng аll аrоund. Mossy Oаk is grеаt for any tуре оf wаtеrfоwl ѕhооtіng. Sо thіѕ blіnd іѕ ready tо gо аll thаt’ѕ lеft is for mе tо jumр on in. Alrіght wе’rе аll ѕеt uр in thе blіnd right hеrе уоu can іmаgіnе there’s a pond out hereI have decoys аll set uр аrоund. I’vе gоt my blіnd ѕеt uр аll thаt’ѕ lеft іѕ fоr mе tо lay back and watch thе sky.

Kееріng mу еуеѕ оn thе ѕkу, I see a flосk соmіng оvеr. . . Bam! Take thе ѕhоt. Nоw wе’vе talked аbоut hоw duсkѕ аnd gееѕе, waterfowl thеу hаvе good eyesight thеу want tо feel ѕаfе ѕо that’s whу уоu want tо invest an nісе dесоуѕ, ѕеt ’em оut thеrе, уоu wаnt to get a nісе blind. If you rеаllу wаnt tо up your game wіth wаtеrfоwl hunting уоu wаnt іnvеѕt in blіndѕ аnd dесоуѕ.

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