There are tons and tons of supplements marketed towards cyclists, but here’s five of them that do actually work and have been backed up by studies
This is one for all the sprinters out there. It does work: it’s going to improve your peak power, it’s going to improve your 10-second sprints, and obviously (in turn) your 20-second sprints. It will also improve your recovery between them. You may gain some water weight from taking creatine, but it’s not something to be too concerned about – there is research to show that the added weight gain does not outweigh the added power effects.
Creatine is amazing for vegans to help improve performance in particular. It also helps to improve recovery and preserve lean muscle mass in a calorie deficit, which a lot of you might be doing for the summer.
Creatine is very inexpensive, but make sure you’re only getting creatine monohydrate.
2. Beta Alanine
Now I actually used this back when I used to race, and a teammate gave me some just before we went to breakfast before racing a tour series. I was shocked to find that it has a really weird side effect.
Well, to explain a little bit more, beta-alanine is an intracellular lactate buffer, so it helps prevent the build-up of that burn in your legs for the 1-4 minute effort range, and it’s pretty inexpensive as well and proven to work.
You need to take it for four to six weeks to load and then just go into a maintenance mode. The only side effect is paresthesia, which is a tingling, so take it with a meal and take it in smaller doses throughout the day rather than one large dose.
Nitrates gets converted into nitric oxide within the body, which is a vasodilator that helps expand all your blood vessels to get more blood through. This in turn reduces the oxygen cost of exercise, allowing you to produce more force for less cost. Typically, the more amateur or novice rider will gain more benefit compared to the elite riders – but they’ll still get a benefit as well.
If you’re at the amateur end you could probably take just one 400 milligram serving of nitrates two hours before a ride, and if you are more at the advanced end you probably want to load it for 2-3 days (up to 4 days) twice a day of 400 milligrams up until the event.
Nitates can come in a few different forms, but the supplements I’ve used are beetroot – either beetroot shots or beetroot juice. It’s definitely an acquired taste. You can also just add beet juice and a generally high intake of leafy greens in your diet.
4. Sodium Bicarbonate
I actually used this for the first time right before a race, which was probably not the best way to do it – because it’s absolutely disgusting! It is quite literally sodium bicarbonate that you can buy in the supermarket, and it’s super cheap. Put it in water and add some juice to make it a bit more palatable.
Sodium bicarbonate is an extracellular lactate buffer, and when combined with beta alanine is amazing. Once again, it helps you push harder for longer without getting the build-up and burn in your muscles.
You take about 0.2 to 0.4 grams per kilogram body weight, 60-90 minutes before your session. Generally, I recommend taking about 18 grams with around 20-40 grams of carbohydrates 90 minutes before your session. Make sure to test it at home on a turbo first, as it can cause GI distress – and if you’re particularly sensitive, you don’t to be out on your bike yourself
5. HGH Supplements
Finally, the last category on the list is also the most controversial: HGH supplements. Human growth hormone, also known as somatotropin, is a natural anabolic agent that’s secreted by the pituitary gland that stimulates cell reproduction and regeneration.
Increased HGH levels have been associated with many beneficial health benefits, including gains in lean muscle mass, a decrease in body fat, and enhanced physical performance. Obviously, these are all extremely positive benefits when it comes to cycling.
In the United States, HGH is only legally available by a doctor’s prescription, which is difficult to get, and has the potential for certain health risks. Its use has also been banned by every major sports-governing body and is classified as a performance-enhancing drug (PED).
Luckily, you can naturally increase your own body’s production of human growth hormone with HGH supplements. These products are formulated with a wide variety of legal ingredients, but will usually contain things like vitamins, amino acids, and herbal extracts, among others.
So there’s your five supplements to super-charge your cycling. These are all natural, but be sensible and consult a medical professional before trying them. Everything on this list has been proven scientifically to work. Let us know in the comments what supplements you use for cycling and if we missed any really good ones.