Posted by: audaxing | July 7, 2010


Some legal substances in my kitchen
It’s only natural to want to have an easier time on your leisure activities. If your leisure activity is long distance cycling then the question is, how to get quicker at cycling or find it easier going up hills? The answer of course is “training” but this runs contrary to the aim of having an easier time.

So cyclists are always wanting to find a shortcut to better performance. One possible way is with dietary additives, chemicals or supplements. If professional cyclists do “Dopeage” (and they often do) then nowadays it is seen as cheating. Jacques Anquetil famously said “You can’t ride the Tour de France on mineral water.”

Jacque Anquetil

There is a well known case of a US randonneur using EPO, Steroids and a whole cabinet of modern doping products for his PBP. Most UK randonneurs would baulk at the amount this experimenter paid his doctors to pharmacologically enhance himself.

However, there are a number of legal, everyday products that UK audaxers routinely use to make their ride easier. Here are some of the ones I’ve come across

  • Ibuprofen

    – this is an over the counter pain killer. It is especially effective on muscular pains. Some riders take it routinely to be able to ride harder without feeling the discomfort of a complaining knee or ankle. So widely used, it is known as vitamin I. I’ve only used this once during an event, on the last day of PBP

  • Caffeine

    – this is the stimulant drug found in tea and coffee. As well as giving a feeling of alertness and combating fatigue, caffeine also affects the way that the body takes up energy from fats in the blood stream in a useful way. Available in pill form as “Pro Plus”. I would usually take two “Pro Plus” tablets (which is 100mg of caffeine ) at midnight on a long event. The main problem with using caffeine tablets is what you have to to the week before. In order for the caffeine to have its maximum stimulant effect, the user has to give up tea and coffee for a few days before. That’s the difficult bit.

  • Creatine

    – this substance is produced naturally in the body from amino acids. It is involved in muscular activity. If a person takes a creatine supplement and then exercises hard the muscular adaptation seems greater if they are using a creatine supplement. However, for long distance cycling there are two problems. Firstly, the main type of muscular power that the creatine seems to help is for short bursts of effort up to a minute long. But we are cycling for hours and hours so this is not directly useful. Secondly, the additional muscle size includes quite a bit of water and puts on quite a lot of weight. Cyclists are generally not keen on weight gain, so this is not seen as a good thing. All the same it’s not unknown for some UK audax riders to use this. I haven’t used this

  • L Carnitine

    – this amino acid is involved with power generation in muscles. Apparently the body can make enough for “normal” use from foods like red meat. Vegetarians may benefit from supplements. I have never found any research that I understood that spells out how much the body might want to use per hour during cycling. My own experience using it is that if I take it ( 1 or 2 500mg tablets the day before and the morning of the event) I am more likely to have a good day. Yes, I know about the placebo effect. Research shows that L Carnitine is not effective for enhancing cycling performance

  • Energy Drinks

    – The body uses up a lot of carbohydrates during exercise. Supplies in the body last about 90 minutes. After this the body mainly switches to using fat. Trouble is, using mainly fat limits the maximum power that is available somewhat. So adding more carbohydrates is a good idea. One of the best sources is “long chain polymer glucose” which is the primary ingredient of most cycling “energy drinks” such as PSP 22 or High 5. Yes they work, yes I’ve used them. Main downside seems to be the likelyhood of stomach problems. Also can be used to aid recovery after hard riding

  • Electrolytes

    – As well as “fuel” like carbohydrates the body also needs smaller quantities of other substances to make it’s processes run efficiency. In particular sodium, potassium and magnesium are important. I favour drinking water with electrolytes in over energy drinks. Article discussing electrolyte vs energy drinks here

  • Hammer Nutrition Anti Fatigue Caps

    Hammer Nutrition Anti Fatigue Capsthis product is mainly Potassium/Magnesium Aspartate. It is supposed to have various effects which reduce fatigue. It is supposed to be more effective during “extended exercise”. I’ve used these capsules for several 400km+ brevets and those particular rides went well for not being fatigued.

  • Vitamins

    – Vitamin C is known to help with absorbing iron from food and as an “anti oxidant”. Iron is important with production of blood cells which support oxygen carrying and the immune system. Anti oxidants protect against the stresses of exercising. Vitamin E is another vitamin I’ve used. This is mainly an anti oxidant. I’ve stopped using Vitamin E however due to a US meta study that seems to show it reduces life expectancy.


  1. Interestingly a recent study concluded that using ibuprofen is a bad idea when training – from what I understood it seemed that the ibuprofen reduced swelling in the muscles, but that swelling was part of the process of growing new muscle. During non training rides I imagine that price is well worth paying, however!

    • Paul,
      When I broke my collar bone a couple of years ago they told me not to take Ibuprofen for much the same reason. The swelling process facilitated the healing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: