The Day I Had Enough of Cramping
Joseph Robertson was a Captain in the US Air Force, and served in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He is a proud father and husband, a fitness enthusiast and founder of Crampless Paleo LLC.
The sight is increasingly familiar at obstacle course races. Contestants fall to the side, clutching their calves in pain. I had always thought that if it happened when exercising, it just meant that you pushed yourself over your limit. So when it happened to me for the second time in a row, despite being in great shape and being well-prepared, I was puzzled. Why do I keep cramping, when I’m in good shape? I really had not considered that diet could have anything to do with it. But it did.
I had only cramped as a teenager, usually at night, which I had always attributed to growing bones. Since then I had never cramped. Not playing football, or during long grueling wrestling practices. Despite the fact that, like most teenagers, my diet was horrible. Since I started a Paleo diet in my 20’s, I have felt stronger and healthier, and never had another thought about cramps. Until I lay there on the side of the road, frustrated.
It was my birthday, I had invited a group of friends to join me on an 8K obstacle course race, hoping to inspire them that though we were all around our 30’s, we could still compete with the “young-uns.”
I had assumed that this race wouldn’t be problem since it wasn’t supposed to be much harder than a typical workout for me. But yet here I was, on the side of the road, only half way through the race, while one after another, the rest of the racers passed by me. One asked if he should call a doctor, and my friends explained that it was just cramps. By that time I was in such pain that I could not even bend my leg. But I knew it would go away if I rested long enough, and it did. I walked the rest of the race, cramping occasionally when jumping over an obstacle. I finished about an hour behind the rest of our friends.
Not only did I feel really embarrassed to be that guy that needed help, but I also felt like I missed out on what should have been a really fun experience.
I spent hours researching the causes of cramping after that incident to ensure that I didn’t have to go through such embarrassment again.
One of the first interesting facts I found was that the amount of potassium you excrete in urine is used as a good indicator of how much carbs you ate (more potassium excretion equals fewer carbs consumed). In fact, this test is used by scientists to determine how well test subjects stick to a Paleo diet.
Next, I found out that our bodies need to have a balance of essential minerals. So, when potassium levels decrease (e.g., through peeing), the body increases its storage of sodium and gets rid of more calcium. Since muscle cramping is linked to imbalances in essential minerals, I decided to formulate my own supplement to correct for any deficiencies resulting from eating a Paleo diet and therefore helping decrease cramping for Paleo dieters. We decided to call this supplement, Crampless Paleo.
I wish I had known about the need to supplement with essential minerals earlier. I had started Paleo many years ago when I was in the US Air Force. CrossFit and the Paleo diet swept the squadrons like the flu. Of course it had a much better effect than the flu does, inspiring people to become stronger, healthier and part of a community. I started doing even better in the physical fitness tests, which active duty military personnel have to pass several times a year, and I became faster, could lift more and had more energy. The same happened to my fellow Airmen. However, despite being in this community for six or so years, I had no idea about the need for supplementing with essential minerals until I started researching into cramping.
Now, four years after I leaving the Air Force, I am doing my best to get that information out to everyone in the Paleo community so that no one has to go through that frustration of lying on the side of the road, clutching your leg calf, and screaming in pain.
For more information, please visit CramplessPaleo.com.
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