Supplements & Cycling

It’s evident that when maintaining a healthy diet, you don’t necessarily need supplements to support your cycling training requirements. However, it goes without saying that professional cyclists do exert their bodies more than an average or amateur cyclist. In this case, supplements do make life a little easier.

If you use the right ones at the proper intervals, supplements can boost your overall training.

If you use the right ones at the proper intervals, supplements can boost your overall training. To help you navigate the waters of supplementation, I’ve compiled a guide with options suggested by researchers and support teams.

Do Cyclists Need Supplements?

If you get your daily dose of all the essential nutrients, you are most probably a healthy and fast cyclist; however, some supplements can help improve your endurance, and it may be worth some consideration to include them in your regular diet.

For example, aerobic exercise depletes electrolytes and carbs in your body, in which case using a supplement to maintain the balance of glycogen stores and electrolytes would be useful. If you suffer from deficiencies in your diet, you will need to get the lacking nutrients if you wish to perform well during your training; this is another situation where supplementation can help.

Aerobic exercise depletes electrolytes and carbs in your body, in which case using a supplement to maintain the balance of glycogen stores and electrolytes would be useful.

Similarly, if you’re looking to boost your performance and recovery, a supplement fulfils your training demands. As you can see, supplementation is based on various factors. Still, the primary aspect to consider is your unique diet, physiology, and health because these may vary based on the type of activity: road bikes, gravel bikes, mountain bikes etc. You may also react differently to some supplements as opposed to others, so you have to do your research or consult a dietician.

How To Choose The Right Supplements

When selecting supplements, you will want to prioritise only high-quality ones because you must be considerate of what you put in your body. Due to the lack of governmental regulations on supplements, several companies claim outrageous and exaggerated benefits of their products; you need to watch out for these.

Considering many supplements can claim anything they want and stick it on their labels, you want to avoid sketchy ones that mention “proprietary blends” in their supplement’s composition. These blends are a trick to hide certain unsafe ingredients; for example, some cheap supplements are about 90% corn starch.

However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t good supplements out there. Trusted supplement companies seek Informed Choice or NSF International to get tested for effectiveness and safety. They meet strict guidelines, which means you can see that the list of ingredients is exactly what you’re getting. So, make sure to choose one with these badges.

Muscle Building Supplements & Uses For Cycling Training Capacity

Speed, endurance, and strength are essential for cyclists, meaning performance-enhancing supplements will be the go-to. Here are the three leading supplements that affect our muscles to improve training capacity.

  1. Nitrate Supplements
  2. Our body needs higher nitric oxide levels to improve aerobic exercise capacity, and rich in nitrates, beetroot supplements ensure adequate intake of oxygen by muscle tissues by increasing blood flow.

    Research suggests that nitrate supplementation has performance-improving effects that last up to 30 minutes, which means it’s perfect for short- to medium-distance cycling. Supplements specifically containing nitrates have been shown to extend endurance among athletes as well.

    The suggested dose of nitrate is 300-600 mg/day 2-3 hours before exercise. Although you can add beetroots to your diet to achieve these, most athletes find supplementing with concentrated juice shots and powders is more convenient. Just keep in mind that adding beets and beetroot supplements to your diet sometimes causes red urine and stool, but there’s no need to worry.

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  3. Beta-Alanine
  4. High-intensity activity or exercise causes a lactic acid build-up in your muscles, which can certainly hinder your performance and bring about fatigue. That’s when Beta-alanine comes to the rescue because it’s an amino acid that reduces lactic acid build-up.

    By doing so, beta-alanine improves certain performance factors such as time exhaustion, anaerobic threshold, and muscle fatigue, especially among cyclists who do high-speed short-distance laps and older athletes.

    Available in capsule and powder form, experts recommend 4-6 g/day in two doses for sports performance. You must continue taking them for around eight weeks to see notable differences.

    Keep in mind that beta-alanine causes paresthesia (tingling sensation in fingers and toes), but it’s not harmful. It’s usually located in the upper body, lasts about 60-90 minutes, and must be taken in two doses or more to avoid discomfort.

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  5. Sodium Bicarbonate
  6. Baking soda is a household name, and this ingredient can also help improve athletic performance. Cyclists doing short-distance sprints often cause lactic acid build-up, which causes muscle soreness, and sodium bicarbonate helps alleviate it.

    So, you can take it as a capsule supplement to delay lactic acid build-up during heavy physical activity. The suggested dose to improve performance is 0.3 g/kg of body weight in a single dose. Take it 60-90 minutes before training.

    Be aware not to overconsume sodium bicarbonate because it can cause gastrointestinal distress. It is also why I use it only when training and not on race days to avoid unwanted disasters. There isn’t vast research on this supplementation’s long-term safety, so it’s best to use it intermittently.

    You will also want to use baking soda moderately because it contains high amounts of sodium, which can cause fluid retention. Aside from that, it can also increase the risk of high blood pressure and considering the long-term effects are still in the grey area, do your research beforehand.

Muscle Building Supplements & Uses For Cycling Training Recovery

Apart from performance, muscle building supplements facilitate post-cycling recovery by working on the muscles, and these five are proven to work.

  1. Protein Powder
  2. When considering your option for muscle recovery, it is scientifically proven that protein supplementation increases the production of your muscle’s energy stores through a process called glycogen synthesis.

    The recommended consumption amounts vary between 20-40 g of high-quality protein within two hours of exercise. Doing so stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which benefits future performance and recovery.

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  3. Creatine
  4. Creatine often pops up in discussions about powerlifting and bulky muscles, but endurance athletes, including cyclists, can aid their recovery with this performance supplement.

    Like protein powders, it increases muscle protein synthesis and glycogen replenishment, which delays the onset of muscle soreness, known as DOMS. Creatine reduces the risk of muscle inflammation and damage caused by exercise and works best for cyclists who regularly engage in sprint and strength sprint training.

    You must start creatine supplementation with a “loading dose” of 20 g/day for around 5-7 days. After that, you can proceed with 3-5 g/day.

  5. Glutamine (L-glutamine)
  6. Our body naturally synthesises as well as acquires glutamine through protein-rich foods and supplements. When performing high-intensity training, our strength levels drop, but research suggests that using glutamine supplements can reduce this strength loss.

    Glutamine can relieve muscle soreness most athletes feel following strenuous exercise while accelerating quick strength recovery. For this reason, experts second glutamine’s benefits for cyclists who want to speed up their recovery between rides, especially during peak training periods.

    Commonly labelled as L-glutamine on the supplement bottles, these come in capsule and powder form. The suggested dose for an effective and safe recovery is that cyclists should take anything between 0.21 – 0.42 g/kg of body weight every day.

    • Muscle Recovery: Supports efficient muscle recovery after intense workouts, reducing fatigue and promoting overall fitness.
    • Immune System Boost: Aids in strengthening the immune system, contributing to better overall health and well-being.
    • Gut Health: Supports digestive health by promoting a balanced gut environment, which may contribute to improved nutrient absorption.
    • Energy and Endurance: Enhances energy levels and endurance, making it an ideal supplement for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

  7. Omega-3s
  8. Fish and other seafood contain two essential omega-3s called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA); they’re beneficial to support brain, cardiovascular, and muscular health. If you’re wondering whether there are specific benefits for athletes, they also help heal cycling injuries and speed up recovery in your muscles.

    EPA and DHA work through their anti-inflammatory properties by reducing soreness, especially after exercises or training that damages muscles. However, if you don’t eat fish such as trout, salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc., you aren’t getting enough of these omega-3s, which means you can take fish oil supplements to make up for it.

    Experts recommend taking a 2 g/day dosage to ensure it’s safe and reduces inflammation. If you want to reduce muscle soreness, the recommended amount is 3 g/day. Although there isn’t a specific upper limit to consuming these omega-3 supplements, research suggests that up to 5 g/day appears to be safe [19].

  9. Turmeric
  10. Turmeric has been known for its anti-inflammatory properties since time unknown. The main compound found in turmeric, curcumin, is the reason behind its healing nature and may also be beneficial for recovery after cycling training.

    Researchers have seen that 150-1500 mg of turmeric daily improves recovery after exercise by reducing muscle soreness. One study even found that ingesting turmeric supplements before exercise could decrease acute inflammation, whereas post-exercise could attenuate muscle damage by facilitating quick recovery.

    Supplements that combine turmeric with black pepper can improve curcumin absorption by up to 2,000%, which in turn increases its effects.

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This comprehensive guide on these supplements should help you reap several benefits. From improving sprints and long-distance cycling to buffering lactic acid production, recovery, and injury prevention, every suggestion is research-backed and safe, but keep in mind that you’re still a unique individual and what you use will depend on that. So, don’t overdo it and enjoy you cycling.