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Recover in a Jiffy

Cheating or maximising your preparation – my experience using supplements in cycling.

Open the kitchen cupboard of any keen sports person and you are likely to find a plethora of tubs of various sizes, each containing a baffling range of chemical abbreviations. Powders, pills and packets each promising to deliver specific results aligned to your goals of sporting greatness. These products are religiously taken and far from being hidden away are now becoming more and more visible. Millennials are now just as likely to be seen clutching their protein shaker as their Flat White. In any sports club or team and you will find these products are seen as essentials to perform and perhaps more prominently recover from high level sport and have been now for many years. Indeed most high level sports people will have had their whole careers supported by supplements of various types. Given cycling’s historic relationship with performance enhancing products, there appears to be significant scepticism and reluctance within the amateur ranks to look to the supplement market to help our training goals. We seem to be comfortable taking a gel or two while at the sharp end of a sportive, why do we freak out at the thought of taking Creatine to help push out a faster sprint to the 30? Has the ‘needle’ swung too far and are we missing a trick to improve our performance in a relatively cost effective way?


Culturally, we always look to the Professionals and replicate them in terms of equipment and nutrition, so why do we instinctively recoil when we hear the word supplements. Firstly, I don’t offer any advice or answers, everyone needs to look at their own situation and consider what is right for them. These are my thoughts and experiences only. Secondly, cards on the table. I came to cycling on the back of a rugby career where supplements were just gaining popular use. In my last years of my career, I supplemented with Protein and Creatine to support weight training in the off-season. At the time, the majority of research was based on use in the weightlifting world but enough existed to allow me to use the products correctly as part of the my training plan and found definite benefit. So following a break from rugby, I came to cycling and as I got more and more serious with my training, I found myself going back to my experiences on the rugby pitch and started to look tailored supplements to aid my performance and recovery during periods of training. In the world that invented marginal gains, I was amazed to find few cycling specific studies or information to assist in identifying the best supplements to use when looking to achieve my goals, mainly a better power to weight ratio. What was there seemed to hark back to a previous age or liken their use to ‘doping’ and therefore to be shunned at all costs. I personally don’t agree with this and expect that in years to come we will see nothing but an increase in use and importantly understanding of the use of supplements within amateur cycling and especially the keen Average Joes such as myself. I for one welcome this. I believe keen, amateur cyclists of all disciplines who are committed to training are missing a trick by being closed minded to the use of supplements. In my experience, they can when used properly to complement training can deliver an improved performance.

Culturally, we always look to the Proffesionals and replicate them in terms of equipment and nutrition, so why do we instinctively recoil when we hear the word supplements. Firstly, I don’t offer any advice or answers, everyone needs to look at their own situation and consider what is right for them. These are my thoughts and experiences only. Secondly, cards on the table. I came to cycling on the back of a rugby career where supplements were just gaining popular use. In my last years of my career, I supplemented with Protein and Creatine to support weight training in the off-season. At the time, the majority of research was based on use in the weightlifting world but enough existed to allow me to use the products correctly as part of the my training plan and found definite benefit. So following a break from rugby, I came to cycling and as I got more and more serious with my training, I found myself going back to my experiences on the rugby pitch and started to look tailored supplements to aid my performance and recovery during periods of training. In the world that invented marginal gains, I was amazed to find few cycling specific studies or information to assist in identifying the best supplements to use when looking to achieve my goals, mainly a better power to weight ratio. What was there seemed to hark back to a previous age or liken their use to ‘doping’ and therefore to be shunned at all costs. I personally don’t agree with this and expect that in years to come we will see nothing but an increase in use and importantly understanding of the use of supplements within amateur cycling and especially the keen Average Joes such as myself. I for one welcome this. I believe keen, amateur cyclists of all disciplines who are committed to training are missing a trick by being closed minded to the use of supplements. In my experience, they can when used properly to complement training can deliver an improved performance.




If you are considering the use of supplements consider the following tips; Know you goals – make sure you are very clear on what the goal of training plan is. Is it out and out power, endurance, speed? Knowing this will inform what supplements may be useful and in what combinations. Do your research, be informed– speak to experts, doctors, trainers, coaches etc. to understand what supplements could be useful for you and your goals. To get the best out of supplements you must have a detailed knowledge of how they work, the side effects, how much or how little you should take and when to take them. As mentioned, I have been disappointed on the level of cycling specific information available so look also to similar sports such as running and triathlon for guidance. Be holistic – supplements in isolation are useless, they must be used as part of holistic training and nutrition plan. Until you have this in place and have been following it for a sometime, don’t consider the use of supplements. You must know how your body responds to training in order to understand your baseline. Don’t believe the hype – this is a big one. Don’t believe the claims made by supplement companies or online commentators. Supplements do not make you in to an Olympic champion or a Tour de France winner. It is only the years and years of hard graft that can do that. I find supplements can help maximise my performance, and over the years of use I feel I know what to realistically expect – and it isn’t much. Read the label. – supplements vary massively in their quality and ingredients. Some are loaded with sugar or mixed with other ingredients that are of little or no benefit to you. Do not be lead by flash labels or bold claims, look in detail at the quality of the ingredients and the purity to make sure you are getting the best product for your goals. In summary, I believe that using legal supplement products, correctly is perfectly acceptable in professional and amateur sport. Taking a protein powder does not make you Lance. However in the end it comes down to the individual and what you are comfortable with. Thoughts?!


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