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While I'm slowly becoming obsessed with taking ultra long (by my previous standard) 70+ km bike rides, I'm waking up in the middle of the night with agonizing 30 to 60-minute calf muscle cramps.

The standard thinking is that muscular cramps result from a deficiency in Magnesium, Potassium, and Calcium (perhaps in that order). My diet was presumably already deficient in these three minerals. It's just that long rides unmask the problem.

Since I also need to eat a starch-rich snack halfway through increasingly longer rides, banana muffins seem to be ideal.

  • The bananas provide plenty of Potassium,
  • the milk provides enough Calcium,
  • and of course the flour is the starch.

This misses the target on Magnesium. I have a hard time imagining putting black beans (as the top food source for Magnesium) in banana muffins.

How can I increase the Magnesium in banana muffins for endurance bike rides (and keep them palatable)?

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  • Pumpkin seeds? Although don't discount adding unflavored bean mash (in moderation) since it has other benefits. Personally I'd lean towards an electrolyte drink with Mg--but I'd also sanity-check my current consumption levels. Aug 23 at 23:09
  • @DaveNewton Neat idea, and it even appears to be an established item. Somebody must have been pursuing this line of thinking.
    – Sam
    Aug 23 at 23:19
  • Well-known Mg source. They're a regular in my morning smoothie :) Great in pumpkin spice stuff, which bananas can work in too. Aug 23 at 23:23
  • @DaveNewton By pumpkin spice do you mean coffees flavored with pumpkins? I always thought that referred to an actual pumpkin (which don't seem to be a good source for Mg), and in any case the accompanying caffeine could easily be excessive. Could you elaborate a bit?
    – Sam
    Aug 23 at 23:34
  • No, I mean pumpkin [pie] spice, generally cinnamon + nutmeg + clove + [misc secret ingredients] + maybe pumpkin puree. It had nothing to do with coffee (or anything other than pumpkin pie) until relatively recently. Aug 23 at 23:43
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Since you don't specify that the magnesium source must be a whole food, just adding magnesium aspartate, either purchased as a powder or in pill form and ground up and dissolved, would be the easiest way to add magnesium to your muffins.

But, that said, your question makes several assumptions, any or all of which could be wrong:

  • Your diet may not actually be deficient in any minerals.
  • Your cramps may not be caused by a mineral deficiency.
  • If you do have a deficiency, there is very likely no reason why you would need to supplement the deficient minerals specifically during your rides (as opposed to at more convenient times).

Instead of the muffins, I'd suggest that you see a doctor and get bloodwork taken to determine if you are deficient in any minerals, and then only if so, attempt to supplement your intake of those specific minerals, and to whatever degree is recommended by the doctor.

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    All good ideas. Still, if cramps arise only after a specific workout, I'd rather first skip the benediction of my physician and just bake a few muffins to see if the problem goes away. Also, since the cramps arise 6-12 hours after a specific workout, I'm guessing that this snack may be digested just in time to be effective. If for nothing else, I also need to guard against hitting the wall, and a muffin or two will do the trick quite nicely.
    – Sam
    Aug 24 at 19:24
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    Sounds like a decent plan. Just keep in mind that if the cause is a nutritional deficiency, then it might be that the amount of the deficient mineral that you can get into a muffin wouldn't be enough to resolve it, and more chronic supplementation may be the answer. But I think that's definitely when you'd want to get tested and get a doctor's recommendation for how much to supplement. Aug 25 at 0:24
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(Aggregating my comments.)

Pumpkin seeds are a great source of Mg (and other things) and great in muffins, especially pumpkin spice muffins (and zucchini bread, and apple sauce muffins, etc.)

For long-ish rides I personally trend towards electrolyte drinks with Mg; higher bio-availability. That said, I'd make sure there's actually a need for supplementation before going too crazy.

You mentioned beans-in-muffins, which I wouldn't dismiss out-of-hand. They add fiber, moisture, and protein and, depending on the beans used, turn essentially "invisible". They're not as high in Mg as pumpkin seeds, of course.

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