Here's a question for you
If you suffer from isolated quad fatigue or cramping when you ride - is it because
a) you haven't had enough electrolytes or magnesium
b) you're dehydrated
c) you're nickname is "Quadzilla"
d) you've got a lazy butt?
e) you saddle is either too low, too far forward or a combination of both
Let's run through those answers one by one
a) If you did have low serum electrolyte concentration you would have generalised skeletal muscle cramping not localised to one muscle
b) Exercise induced hyponatraemia ( dehydration) is associated with generalised skeletal muscle cramping not localised to one muscle
c) You may in fact have Quads that are so big they should have their own post code but this is not a reason for them to cramp
So my guess is either "d" or "e" and that you're what we call a "Quad dominant" Rider whose glutes maybe aren't firing properly. The poor old quads are doing all the power delivery to the pedals.... hence they are not happy by the end of the ride and may even cramp.
After a long ride you should have a general feeling of tiredness in all your big leg muscles, not just the quads.
What if I told you there is a better way? And therefore you don't need electrolytes or magnesium to solve the problem?
The altered neuromuscular control theory of cramping goes like this
A repetitive exercise with a muscle working in a shortened position (quads on a bike) with decrease muscle energy leads to the development of muscle fatigue. Throw in some decrease golgi tendon action , increase motor neuron and muscle cell membrane activity and voila you've got yourself a quad cramp.
There are two main joint actions that happen during the power phase of the pedal stroke. The quads extend the knee and the butt/glutes extend the hip. And depending on what research you look at - the glutes can contribute between 30 and 50 % of the power to your pedals. That's a heap of power you're missing out on if you are only relying on your quads.
Priority one is to make check that your saddle height is not too low or too far forward as this increases load on the quads and is a sure fire way if developing quad pain when riding
Now if you spend all of your day sitting on your butt at work you have your glutes in an elongated position. And if the glutes are in an elongated position for 40 hours a week there's a fair chance by the time you jump on your bike you can't activate them- Say hello to quad pain!
Not only will you suffer from quad pain being quad dominant with no butt action on the bike but you're also a candidate for knee pain (patello-femoral joint pain) due to excessive tractioning on the knee cap (patella) and back pain because without the glutes you will struggle to maintain pelvic position on the saddle and create over reliance on the back extensors
Get your Glutes On
Give this a go
Lying face down on your stomach, put your hands on both butt cheeks and squeeze them together. See if you can contract only the buttock muscles without the hamstrings or ‘back passage’ muscles kicking in. Then see if you can contract one side separately from the other.
Hold each contraction for 3-5 seconds and do them often!
Train Smart , Ride Strong