Cycling supplements and protein drinks for cyclists are great for those of us who are training to perform at superior levels. Casual cyclists are probably fine with a banana and a granola bar, but avid cyclists may need that extra boost to keep them operating at optimum levels. There are more cycling supplements and protein drinks for cyclists than you can imagine and each one has its own claims. It can be difficult to determine just which cycling supplements are best but we will help break it down for you.
Cycling supplements, pills, protein shakes, and various other items on the market make many claims but often there is little scientific data to back them up. If you are just comparing claims made by a nutrition shake that costs a couple bucks, you may not be too particular, but some of these supplements are quite pricey and it’s always best to know what you are ingesting!
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Beta Alanine is a beta-amino acid that is quite popular in the world of nutrition, bodybuilding, and endurance sports. It claims to increase muscle carnosine levels and increase your stamina when performing at high-intensity levels. Beta Alanine produces a distinct tingling sensation across the skin. If bothersome, you can reduce this sensation by spreading the supplement into more frequent, smaller doses. A good dose is around 3g a day for high-intensity cyclists.
Caffeine is common in the cycling world, and it’s not just because bikers enjoy a good cup of joe. Caffeine has been shown to increase alertness, improve reaction time, and allow for greater focus. During endurance exercise, it decreases your perception of fatigue and effort. An optimum dose of caffeine is about 1-3 mg/kg of body weight. Amounts of caffeine in various products and supplements vary greatly, so don’t assume that your caffeine dose is stable from cup to cup. Peak levels of caffeine will be in your system between 30 and 45 minutes after ingestion.
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Creatine supplements are popular in the bodybuilding community. Creatine, which is found naturally in meat and fish, helps to fuel muscles during high-intensity exercises, like tackling those uphill stretches. But the greatest effect is seen in sprint cyclists who produce a high power output over repeated bouts. One potential downside of creatine: it will cause weight gain due to muscular water retention and increased muscle mass.
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For best results, take 0.3g per kg of body weight for up to a week spread in four doses throughout the day. After a week, you can reduce the dose to about a tenth of the loading dose. Some people, especially those who already consume a lot of meat, may not respond to creatine supplements as the body already receives ample creatine through consumption of the meat.
Electrolytes are common in the cycling world. These salts and minerals include bicarbonate, calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, and sodium. When you sweat, you lose these vital salts and minerals, so it is important to replace them to prevent dehydration and a drop in performance levels. Most electrolyte beverages on the market contain about 200mg of sodium per serving, but this may not be enough for people who lose a lot of salt when cycling. Some higher performance electrolyte beverages have as much as 1500mg per serving, so it pays to shop around, especially if you experience a lot of cramping and fatigue.
If you experience regular fatigue, shortness of breath, or a loss of power, consider that you may be anemic. Anemia is an iron deficiency that can occur from a poor diet, menstrual periods and pregnancy in women, or for unknown reasons. You can find iron in green leafy vegetables and beans as well as iron-fortified cereals. You can also supplement iron by taking a daily tablet or a multivitamin.
Nitrate, found in beetroot juice, has been shown to improve performance and reduce the use of oxygen in exercise. In some, it also increases sprint performance. And yeah, it can turn your pee purple, too! Although nitrate is usually most effective in amateur and untrained athletes, some experienced athletes say they notice a performance enhancement. A good dose is between 300-600mg nitrate.
Vitamin D helps control the level of calcium and phosphate your bones and muscles receive. If you are low in Vitamin D, you can experience weakness in your muscles and bones. Over time it can even affect your immune system. Our bodies create Vitamin D when exposed to direct sunlight. Studies have shown that most of us do not receive enough sunlight, in the fall and winter months, to produce proper levels of Vitamin D. If you are experiencing ongoing problems with muscle fatigue or weak bones, ask your primary care physician to check your Vitamin D levels.
Whey Protein and Cycling Protein Shakes
Most protein cycling shakes are high in whey protein. When you ride your bike you mainly use carbohydrates for fuel. At intense levels, your muscle fibers break down and then are rebuilt naturally through the protein in your body in a process called muscle protein synthesis. Whey protein is a high-quality protein that you can ingest easily through shakes and smoothies. You can control the amount of protein you are ingesting and be insured your body is receiving a quality protein for muscle regeneration. Whey protein is especially important for individuals who may not be getting ample protein in their diet.
Most protein cycling shakes and supplements contain a variety of the nutritional elements detailed above. Some, however, make unfounded claims to improve performance despite little to no data to back those claims up. As a performance cyclist, you need the best and highest quality fuel for your body. The best protein powder for cyclists will contain many of these elements and will help you perform at a greater intensity or over a longer period of time.
The experienced bicycle injury attorneys at Kass & Moses have written this blog to inform cyclists of the value of appropriate supplements in exercise. For more information on what you can do if you are involved in a bicycle crash, contact Kass & Moses for a free initial consultation.