In Part 2 of Supplementing for cycling performance I wrote about what supplementation is and risks associated with supplementing. I will cover in this post the questions every athlete should ask them selves about Why should I supplement, When should I supplement and finally Who should supplement.
There are more wrong reasons to supplement your diet then there are good reasons. If you eat a balanced diet, eat the right amount of calories recommended for the level you train at and are healthy, some would argue that you do not need to supplement at all!
The reality of an athlete’s life shows us that supplementation will fill in gaps in nutrition, provide enough calories and vitamins and minerals not found in the food we end up eating on the run.
When to supplement?
Supplements should only be taken when approved by your doctor and based on either the doctor’s or manufacturers recommended dosages. Taking a little bit more may actually impact your performance or health adversely. Also timing can be very critical. Things to consider when taking a supplement:
- Should it be taken before or after eating?
- Should it be taken before, during and or after training?
- Should it be taken before or after sleeping?
- Should it be taken after so many days of rest or training?
Supplements are not miracle over night performance enhancing cure alls. They take time to work and my even require you to cycle them. Cycling a supplement means that you should only take the supplement for a predetermined time. Cycling may be required to keep you from having an adverse reaction or to make sure that you do not suffer a loss in performance.
A supplement may also require you to “pre-load”. Pre-loading means that you may have to take more of a particular supplement for the first few days or even weeks before you can begin a normal maintenance cycle.
Seasonal cycling is also another approach that may require an athlete to only use a supplement in the off-season. This is true especially with supplements that may provide unwanted weight gain. Other supplements are only helpful during certain times in your training cycle and could cause adverse effects when training or racing in the heat.
Who should supplement?
This is a bit of a loaded question. I am not a doctor nor am I a certified nutritionist so you will not explicitly here me say or write, that you should take any supplements. If you feel that you are missing something from your diet or that you feel that a certain aspect of your performance is lagging then go see your doctor, as it might be something serious. I also recommend strongly that you arm yourself with the following information:
- What supplements do what?
- How much money am I willing to spend?
- What supplements actually work?
I want to add that you should reach out to other athletes with more experience or hire a coach or visit a sports nutritionist after you have cleared it with your doctor. They can share with you what has worked for them and or the athletes they train.
In the final blog post on supplementation I will cover what USA Cycling considers to be illegal performance enhancing substances and what sport specific and approved supplements a cyclist might consider taking.
Remember what works for one person may make you sick. Also information is knowledge so do your homework before cracking open your wallet.
Check out the following web sites for supplement descriptions and what aspects of performance they might affect.
- Mayo Clinic
- Herb Guide
- US Pharmacopeia
- Ergogenic Aids
Have a great ride this weekend.
Here are links to all of the articles in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4