The exact cause of both cramps and stitches are still explored however there are hypotheses on the causes and how to avoid them.
Exercise associated muscle cramping (EAMC) is one of the most common conditions that occur during or after sports action and is most prevalent in endurance events. A cramp is defined as a painful, spasmodic and involuntary contraction of skeletal muscle that occurs typically during or after exercise.
It is thought that cramps can be the cause of tired muscles (i.e. poor fitness), exercising at high intensity, too little stretching, dehydration, low sodium concentration and the use of creatine may also cause cramping. There is not a lot of scientific support behind low blood concentrations of potassium, magnesium and calcium.
It is believed that there are “crampers” and “non-crampers”. If you are prone to cramping it is best to ensure that the muscles are well trained for the event/race. Other prevention methods include proper hydration with a sports drink that contains carbohydrate and sodium. Salty snacks e.g. pretzels, marmite toast, soup can aid in consuming enough sodium.
A stitch is defined as a localized pain usually felt on the side or just below the ribs and usually fades minutes after stopping exercise.
It is commonly believed that a full stomach may be the cause of a stitch. Eating or drinking inappropriately before a race may exacerbate a stitch. Consuming high fat foods, too high glucose concentration drinks e.g. Cola and being dehydrated are all causes of stitches.
This can easily be prevented by consuming a well-planned pre-event meal that is low in fat, low in fibre, moderate in protein and high in carbohydrates. Also ensure proper hydration by consuming enough fluids in the 24 hours leading up to the race.