To keep up with the intense physical demands of cycling, many athletes turn to supplements. But with so many options out there, it can be difficult to know which supplements are truly safe and effective. From protein powder and creatine to turmeric and beetroot, here are the 11 best supplements for cyclists and the science behind how they can help take your cycling to the next level.
The best supplements for cyclists
Cycling requires strength, endurance, and determination. To perform at your best, it's essential to fuel your body with the right nutrients. While a balanced diet can provide most of the nutrients you need, certain supplements may give you a boost both on and off the bike. Whether you're a pro racer or a casual weekend rider, these supplements can help you reach your cycling goals by improving your overall performance and enhancing your recovery between rides.
Try supplements made just for you.
If you’re wondering what supplements are best for you, it’s essential to consider your own potential nutrient gaps and subsequent goals for supplementation. At Elo Health, we use a combination of biomarker testing and health coaching to select supplements tailored to your specific nutrition needs, as well as your health and performance goals.
Supplements for cycling performance
Many cyclists look to performance-enhancing supplements to help them take their speed, strength, and endurance to the next level. Here are the best supplements for cycling performance, including who they ’re suitable for and how you should take them.
is a popular supplement among all types of cyclists. From sprint training to century races, research shows that caffeine can boost athletes' performance, speed, power, and endurance [1
Pre-ride caffeine supplementation at 3 mg/kg of body weight has been shown to improve cycling performance by more than 4% compared to placebo [2
]. For endurance cyclists, consuming additional caffeine during a long ride might also extend these benefits [3
Sipping on a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea before can give you a boost, but you can also find caffeine in electrolyte drinks, chewing gum, energy bars, and gels which can be more convenient and deliver the perfect amount without adding to an athlete’s pre-race jitters.
If you’re wondering how and when to take caffeine before a ride, experts recommend consuming 3–6 mg/kg of body mass up to 60 minutes before exercise (roughly 200-400 mg for a 68 kg cyclist), though as little as 2 mg/kg can still be effective [5
]. Limiting your caffeine intake to 50 mg/day or cutting out caffeine altogether seven days before may also help you maximize caffeine’s performance-enhancing effects on race day [6
Keep in mind that, at high levels, caffeine can have a diuretic effect and cause GI distress. Caffeine tolerance also varies significantly between individuals. For these reasons, experts recommend experimenting with caffeine in training and limiting your total caffeine intake to 400 mg/day or less [7
Packed with nitrates that raise nitric oxide levels in the body, beetroot can improve aerobic exercise performance by increasing blood flow to working muscles and ensuring adequate oxygen uptake by muscle tissues [8
Nitrate supplementation seems to have the most performance-enhancing effect for exercise lasting 5-30 minutes, so short- to mid-distance cyclists will likely reap the most benefit. Some evidence does show some of beetroot’s benefits may also extend to endurance athletes as well [10
Beetroot tends to be dosed on nitrate content [11
]. A typical dose is 300-600 mg nitrate/day (or 0.1mmol/kg/day) taken 2-3 hours before exercise [8
]. You can increase your nitrate intake by adding roasted beets to a salad or blending them into a smoothie; however, you’ll need to consume about 7 ounces of beets to get the recommended amount. Many athletes find beetroot supplements (including concentrated powders and juice shots) are more convenient, less messy, and can pack a bigger punch.
One thing you should know before increasing your beet intake: Consuming beets and beetroot supplements can cause red urine and stool. Though this can be alarming, it is not harmful [11
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that appears to reduce lactic acid build-up in muscles caused by high-intensity exercise, which can significantly impair performance and worsen fatigue.
By reducing lactic acid buildup, beta-alanine can improve certain aspects of performance (such as anaerobic threshold, time to exhaustion, and muscle fatigue), particularly in cyclists covering short distances at maximum speed and older athletes [1
Beta-alanine supplements are available as a powder and in capsule form. For sports performance, experts recommend a daily intake of 4-6 g/day (taken in doses of 2 g or less) for up to 8 weeks, with notable benefits seen after four weeks of supplementation [8
One thing to note: Supplementing with beta-alanine may leave you feeling a bit, well, prickly. Tingling fingers and toes, known as paresthesia, typically occurs in the upper body and lasts 60-90 minutes. Though uncomfortable, it is not a harmful reaction and can often be avoided by taking sustained-release beta-alanine supplements or dividing doses throughout the day [8
Sodium phosphate is another popular supplement that may benefit both short- and long-distance cyclists.
It is thought to improve oxygen transport and buffer the effect of lactic acid buildup, which can enhance both aerobic and anaerobic capacity, power output, and cardiovascular response [8
]. Studies also show taking 4 g/day for three days improves the oxygen energy system in endurance athletes, such as road cyclists [8
While the impact of gender on sodium phosphate’s benefits isn’t fully understood, some research suggests male athletes may get a bigger performance boost from taking sodium phosphate than females [8
Sodium phosphate supplements for sports performance are commonly sold in capsule form.
The recommended sodium phosphate dosage for athletes is 3–5 g/day, split into four smaller doses for 3-6 days [8
Often used in baking and household cleaning, sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) might improve athletic performance in short-distance sprint cyclists that feel the muscle burn caused by lactic acid buildup [13
Also known as bicarbonate loading, taking baking soda as a supplement can effectively buffer the buildup of lactic acid in muscles during high-intensity exercise [8
]. One study showed bicarbonate supplementation in cyclists significantly improved 3 km cycling time trials [8
While you can supplement with store-bought baking soda, you may find sodium bicarbonate capsule supplements easier to take.
For performance benefits, sodium bicarbonate can be taken in a single dose of 0.3 g/kg of body weight 60-90 minutes before exercise [8
Consuming too much sodium bicarbonate too quickly is a recipe for GI distress, so approach supplementation cautiously until you know how your body will respond, and be sure to experiment with it during training to prevent a race day disaster.
Another thing you should know —baking soda contains a lot of sodium (1,259 mg/teaspoon) and can cause temporary fluid retention. High sodium intake has also been shown to increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. The long-term safety of sodium bicarbonate supplementation is unknown, so it’s best if used intermittently [1
Best recovery supplements for cyclists
Besides supplements that boost performance, studies indicate that protein powder, tart cherry, creatine, glutamine, omega-3s, and turmeric are among the most effective supplements for post-cycling recovery. Here’s more on how they work and which ones you might want to include in your after-ride regimen.
When it comes to cycling recovery, protein supplementation
has been shown to reign supreme, as research continues to show that it can boost glycogen synthesis (your muscle’s energy stores) and enhance muscle repair and recovery [15
Experts recommend consuming 20-40 g of high-quality (complete) protein within two hours of exercise, which has been shown to stimulate robust increases in muscle protein synthesis that can benefit both recovery and future performance [15
Recover better with Elo Smart Protein
While you can get protein from food sources, high-quality protein supplements for cyclists (like Elo Smart Protein)
can be a convenient and cost-efficient way to boost protein intake after a ride and optimize your recovery.
Elo Smart Protein
is the world’s most personalized protein product, offering a combination of high-quality protein, functional nutrient boosts such as super greens and turmeric (more on that below!), and real-time dosing recommendations tailored to your needs and workout.
Your unique Smart Protein blend is determined using a combination of data from wearables and activity apps, dietary preferences, goals, and blood biomarker results (if available). Your information is then matched with the latest scientific research to determine a blend of ingredients that both maximizes post-workout recovery and supports your health goals. Learn more
about how it can enhance your post-ride recovery.
(different from the sweet cherries we all love) are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory polyphenolic compounds that have recovery benefits. A growing body of research shows that tart cherry juice extract can improve performance, reduce pain, soreness, and inflammation, and accelerate strength recovery after both strength and endurance exercises [16
Tart cherry supplements can be found in various forms, including juice, capsules, and concentrate. Dosage recommendations vary depending on the preparation; however, most studies have used 8-12 oz (1 oz if in concentrate form) twice a day, 4-5 days leading up to an event, and 2-3 days after to promote recovery [17
If you want to experiment with tart cherry juice, look for a product without additives and drink 8-12 oz up to one hour before and after exercising.
is often associated with powerlifting and big, bulky muscles, endurance athletes (including cyclists) may also glean recovery benefits from this popular performance supplement.
Evidence shows creatine may have recovery benefits for both power and endurance athletes alike, from increasing muscle protein synthesis and enhancing glycogen replenishment to reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (also known as DOMS) [18
]. Creatine supplementation may also play a role in reducing exercise-related muscle damage and inflammation [18
Though it has similar muscle-building benefits to protein, creatine supplementation can cause increased water retention and slight weight gain (1-2 kg), which could hamper cycling performance [1
]. Because of this, creatine will likely be most beneficial to cyclists who regularly engage in strength or sprint training.
To supplement with creatine, experts recommend starting with a “loading dose” of 20 g/day for 5-7 days, followed by 3-5 g/day after that [1
Glutamine is an amino acid that is both synthesized by the body and consumed in protein-containing foods and supplements [1
Research shows that supplementing with glutamine can reduce strength loss and muscle soreness following strenuous exercise while accelerating strength recovery more quickly than a placebo [1
]. For this reason, glutamine may benefit cyclists looking to speed recovery between rides during peak training periods.
Glutamine supplements, also commonly labeled as L-glutamine, are available in powder and capsule form. Dosages ranging from 0.21 - 0.42 g/kg/day are safe and effective for enhancing recovery in athletes [1
contains two important omega-3s unique to fish and seafood known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3s
have numerous health benefits, from supporting brain and cardiovascular health to muscular performance and recovery from exercise and injury [19
Studies have shown EPA’s and DHA’s anti-inflammatory benefits may reduce soreness and enhance recovery from muscle-damaging exercise [18
]. If you don’t regularly consume omega-3-rich fish (like salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines) you may benefit from taking fish oil supplements.
Studies in healthy adults show that 2 g/day of omega-3s is safe and effective for reducing inflammation while taking 3 g/day can reduce muscle soreness after exercise [18
]. There are no established upper limits for omega-3s, but long-term EPA and DHA supplement consumption at combined doses of approximately 5 g/day appears safe [19
Curcumin, the main compound in turmeric
, has an array of anti-inflammatory benefits that may also be beneficial to cycling recovery.
Studies indicate that 150-1,500 mg of turmeric per day may improve post-exercise recovery and reduce muscle soreness. One study found that ingestion before exercise could attenuate acute inflammation, and after exercise, it could reduce muscle damage and facilitate faster recovery [20
Combining turmeric with black pepper, or taking supplements that contain a form of black pepper, can enhance the absorption of curcumin by up to 2,000% and increase its effectiveness [20
Other cycling and recovery-related articles you might like
According to research, certain supplements can enhance the physical performance of serious cyclists during a ride and promote faster recovery after the ride. To improve your performance, you can add caffeine, beetroot, sodium phosphate, beta-alanine, or sodium bicarbonate to their pre-ride routine.
For better recovery, supplements like Elo’s personalized protein powder
, tart cherry juice extract, creatine, glutamine, omega-3s, and turmeric can be helpful. In addition to personalized protein, Elo Health also offers smart supplements
tailored to you and your performance goals through one-on-one dietitian support.
Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose or replace personalized medical care.