The Best Supplements for Cycling Performance

The Best Supplements for Cycling Performance

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Do you believe there are supplements out there that will help you get to the next level? Believe it or not, find out which small list of supplements can enhance your cycling performance.




Today, the small list of supplements that can enhance cycling performance. These can also be called ergogenic aids. But we will stick to supplements for now…


Although enhanced fat mobilisation and burning are often touted as being the reason for performance gains with caffeine, its main benefit, when taken in conjunction with some sugar, is to give you a neurological lift.


This can either be before a hard effort such as a time trial or kermesse when a rider would take a caffeine during their warm-up. Studies have shown…


  • Appears to benefit anaerobic cardiovascular exercise, perhaps due to combination anti-fatigue effects and increasing power output.
  • There appears to be a reliable and significant increase in power output (both weight lifting as well as cycle ergometer measurements) in both trained and sedentary persons with doses of caffeine exceeding 5mg/kg, assuming the subject is not caffeine tolerant. Tolerance, or lower doses of caffeine, are not as effective.
  • Serum catecholamines (adrenaline, noradrenaline) are increased in naive users of caffeine following acute ingestion
  • An increase in aerobic exercise capacity is noted with caffeine, possibly secondary to increased free fatty acids and adrenaline.


So there is a case for ergogenic aids in sport – I certainly wouldn’t rule them out completely. How about you – what are your thoughts on genetic aids. Do you believe there are supplements out there that will help you get to the next level? It seems it’s fairly entrenched into cycling performance culture.


An article called Doing supplements to improve performance in club cycling: a life-course analysis by B. Stewart, S. Outram and A.C.T. Smith explored the beliefs that serious club cyclists have about performance improvement, and what they think are appropriate and inappropriate ways of achieving it. 11 cyclists from suburban clubs in Melbourne, Australia, were invited to discuss their approach to training, racing, and supplementation.


The authors found that each of the 11 cyclists were not only committed to the sport but also paid a keen interest in bike technology and training regimes. In addition, they believed that supplement use was integral to meeting the physical and mental demands of their sport, even at club level. They also understood that supplement use, like training regimes, followed a sequential pathway where the accumulation of capacity, know–know, and knowledge, allowed progression to the next level of performance. And, like similar studies of club cycling in Europe, this cohort of cyclists balked at using banned substances but also believed that in order to effectively transition to the elite – that is, professional – level, some additional supplement, and drug-use was essential.


Wow – I must admit – I’ve never really gone for the supplements of any kind. It’s always seemed so superfluous to the bodies needs. Plus I was always turned off by the stories from the ‘old days’ when riders had a tackle box full of gear.


There are no shortcuts or magic bullets I can offer you I’m afraid and performance boils down to talent, smart consistent training, and sound nutrition. Legally, there are very few ergogenic aids that have any real value and, at the elite level, I’m yet to be 100% convinced of any. However, there are a few products that can potentially help at different phases of your training and racing cycle.


Before you even start to consider supplements, it’s essential that you get your day to day basic nutrition right and this starts with a healthy and balanced diet. Then the use of Sports Nutrition – The next building block of cycling performance. This is on big training and event days, ensuring that you’re taking on the right fuel at the right time.


We can categorise supplements into upcoming and established. He came up with 4 categories.

  1. Animal based studies only
  2. First tested in humans but no performance tests done
  3. Recreational athletes performing a basic physical task
  4. Real world benefits with elite athletes


“This is where real athletes (often high-level club athletes or occasionally elite athletes) are properly tested using a methodology that actually resembles the real world of competition. In cycling this usually means a time trial effort, often following a two-hour steady state (constant, moderate intensity) to simulate the pattern of effort in a road race. It is here that we finally know the answer to the question – does this supplement work for a particular type of athlete in a particular sporting situation?”




Sodium Bicarbonate buffers acid build up and might improve tolerance to heat due to plasma expansion. If you do decide to try it though, practice beforehand as the gastric side effects can be, well, explosive.


Beta Alanine buffers acid in the plasma, Beta Alanine does a similar job within the cells. It can help complete repeated hard efforts in training but needs to build up in the body for 3-5 weeks before results are noticeable and some riders find the tingling side effects of the dose necessary to be effective disconcerting.

Beta-alanine has rapidly become a very popular supplement amongst competitive athletes in a wide range of sports. In 2005 few people had heard of beta alanine and it wasn’t possible to find it on the shelves or even online. This changed after Professor Roger Harris, who was also the brain behind the supplement creatine, started to publish papers on the potential effects of beta alanine.  

Indeed follow-up studies showed improvements in high intensity exercise performance. These improvements are generally seen during all-out exercise between 1 and 4 min of duration.

If the exercise is shorter, there does not seems to be a benefit and if the exercise is longer, the results seem a little more varied. Some studies (5-15 min) show benefits, others don’t. If the exercise is much longer (1h or so) there don’t seem to be benefits. Beta-alanine does not seem to help in team sports where the nature of the activity is more intermittent either. So it appears that there is a pretty specific window around 1-4 min where beta-alanine can be effective. Cyclists may wonder if beta alanine could help them with a 1-4 min surge later in a race.

Creatine is definitely a category 4 supplement. This doesn’t mean that you should automatically take it though. It can be a help during strength and hypertrophic phases of training. On the bike and in the gym. The British track team has been using it with the Team Pursuit riders for the last ten years. It can cause a bloated feeling though so use a relatively low dose.


The type of cycling you do, as well as your age, is important. Just like strength training as a whole. It is not always beneficial to put on more muscle. But if you are older or in a highly explosive discipline like sprinting then this could be worthwhile.


There are also studies around that show a decrease in blood lactate, which means greater power at lactate threshold. And other studies that look at its effect on cycling such as taking creatine lead a reduction in oxygen consumption during submaximal exercise.


Citrulline Malate (CM) is a relative newcomer to the supplement market and looks like it could be valuable for cyclists. I mentioned it a couple of episodes ago as the watermelon extract. CM leads to greater ATP production and anecdotally makes endurance exercise seem easier due to its ability to reduce lactic acid.


There are plenty of products that contain CM as part of a formula and others that are basically pure CM products. There is not much academic literature on CM yet, but studies have shown that it promotes aerobic energy production.

  • The decrease in fatigue during exercise is thought to underlie most of the benefit seen with training capacity (work volume), although in men who self-report fatigue issues.
  • The lone study using citrulline acutely pre-workout noted a 40% reduction in muscle soreness the following two days after the workout.
  • Nitric oxide derivatives (nitrate and urinary cGMP, since nitric oxide itself is hard to measure these biomarkers are indicative of nitric oxide production) appear to be
  • The increase in work capacity seen with citrulline supplementation appears to be time dependent. While there are no inherent and immediate effect, the reduction of fatigue

Glycine Propionyl L-Carnitine (GPLC) is really promising and anecdotally I have heard good things about its benefits. I would say this is a category 3.


A study called Long-term glycine propionyl-l-carnitine supplemention and paradoxical effects on repeated anaerobic sprint performance examined the long-term effects of different dosages of GPLC supplementation on repeated high intensity stationary cycle sprint performance.


Supplementing GPLC resulted in sprint bouts three, four and five produced 3 – 6% higher values of Peak Power. GPLC is highly dose dependent. Different doses resulted in a 2-7% reduction in peak power.


In conclusion, GPLC appears to be a useful dietary supplement to enhance anaerobic work capacity and potentially sports performance, but apparently, the dosage must be determined specific to the intensity and duration of exercise.


  • Biomarkers of muscle damage including creatine kinase and muscle soreness are both fairly reliably reduced following ingestion of carnitine and pairing with exercise
  • Lactate production appears to be decreased in studies that note an increase in muscular carnitine stores, although the decrease is not overly notable
  • Carnitine appears to be somewhat effective in reducing fatigue in elderly persons with low muscular endurance and perhaps in chronic fatigue syndrome; there is insufficient evidence to support a role of carnitine in reducing exercise-induced fatigue
  • A decrease in the exercise-induced increase in MDA levels is seen with carnitine supplementation, possibly secondary to reducing damage to muscle tissue. The degree of
  • MDA reduction is not overly remarkable


Alright – so you’re keen to try some of these – here’s some general advice on things to watch out for… Efficacy and safety of ingredients found in preworkout supplements.

got to be 100% sure that it’s safe, legal and there’s no chance of contamination with anything that could cause you to fail a dope test. It’s the personal responsibility of all cyclists to ensure that any supplements they take are legal and pure. If in doubt, don’t take it, ignorance isn’t an excuse.
It found –
Although evidence exists to support the performance-enhancement efficacy of some preworkout ingredients as standalone agents, published data on combination products are scant, inconclusive, or conflicting. The safety of these products may be compromised if users consume larger-than-recommended amounts or use more than one product.



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