When you're an athlete, you want to maximize every bit of your performance through rigorous training and a religious diet.
However, sometimes you need an extra boost in the form of supplements. Though supplements may have garnered some flak in the past, many of them are actually safe to use—provided you do your research and consult with a doctor first.
Not only can supplements indeed improve your athletic functions, but they may even help support overall health. As a cyclist, here are some legal and practical supplements you can try.
Caffeine is arguably one of the most effective performance enhancers in the world, and it can be found nearly anywhere.
Caffeine's benefits run the gamut—from converting fat into energy and improving muscle contractility, to increasing alertness and more.
To add to that, studies from Coventry University show how caffeine even has potential in improving one’s cycling speed. That explains why many professional cyclists opt to take about two espresso shots before a race.
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This substance is something that’s naturally found in our bodies as an occurring amino acid.
Beta alanine itself is not what affects performance, however, but it does increase the levels of a substance called carnosine. The more carnosine you have in your muscles, the more they can stave off fatigue.
Keep in mind, though, that the effects don’t last very long, so beta alanine is better consumed for intensive yet short sprint cycles.
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Much like beta alanine, creatine is another supplement that increases the levels of another substance—this time being phosphocreatine.
Phosphocreatine is an energy-rich compound that fuels muscles during high-intensity events like mountain biking and track sprints.
Though highly effective, it does have one major drawback—weight gain—which is largely attributed to the extra water added to the muscle cells.
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While nitric oxide is typically recommended for climbers, its energy-boosting benefits make it extremely good for cyclists too.
Fitness experts on Bicycling explain how the supplement causes vessels to dilate, allowing them to direct more blood and oxygen to the parts that need them the most, like legs for cyclists.
Moreover, it enhances the muscles’ ability to contract, which allows them to produce more energy. In fact, another study from the University of Exeter found that nitric oxide can help people exercise up to 20% longer than their bodies are used to. This increase in endurance is exactly what makes it ideal for cyclists, who have to push their bodies for hours on end.
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Carbs and sugar are staples for cyclists if they want to keep their energy up throughout races, but what about after the session?
Your muscles need time to repair themselves for the next ride, and protein supplements can help them recover faster. How much protein you need typically depends on the length and intensity of your cycle. For example, Tour de France cyclist Ian Boswell likes to start his races with at least 20g of protein. For the more intense courses, he admits that he ups the dosage to 40g. As a general rule, the recommended intake is anywhere between 1.2 g to 1.4 g of protein per kg of body weight.
Sometimes, eating a balanced, healthy diet just isn’t enough to put you at the top of your game. Consuming the right amount of supplements can help you feel more energized, confident, and healthy throughout your workout.
Written by Jennifer Birch for SLS3.com