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Nutrition Supplements- with Namrita Brooke, PhD

Dr. Namrita Brooke brings a wealth of knowledge to the Velocious team for coaches and athletes alike. The combination of her nutrition expertise, coaching experience, and personal training and racing offers an amazing opportunity for the competitive rec racer, category cyclist, or performance triathlete to improve overall performance. She offers cycling coaching, nutrition consulting, nutrition coaching, a flexitarian meal plan, and cycling nutrition guides.

Here are a few of her qualifications:

  • Ph.D. in applied exercise physiology

  • M.S. in sports nutrition

  • Registered dietitian nutritionist

  • USAC Level 2 coach

  • 10+ years of coaching experience

  • Background: endurance/XC mountain biking, off-road triathlon, marathon running

Bike racers are always looking for that magic supplement to help them go faster. Unfortunately I don’t know of any magic bullet, but there are a handful of things you can incorporate into your diet and training that might help. It’s important to remember, however, that if you aren’t getting enough total calories and enough total carbohydrate in your daily diet, supplements won’t help maximize your overall training and performance.

Here are a few supplements that have strong enough evidence to believe they may benefit your performance, while also being safe and legal.

Carbohydrate intake, even in small amounts, can improve performance during endurance exercise, but more seems to be better the longer or harder you go. If you’re exercising less than 45 minutes, you don’t need to take anything during the workout except water/electrolytes as needed. If you’re exercising 45-75 minutes and the workout is pretty hard, you can take in ~30 grams of carbohydrate or 120 calories during the workout, along with fluid and electrolytes as needed. If you’re exercising 1-2.5 hours at an aerobic/endurance pace with some intense efforts, you can take in between 30-60 grams of carbohydrate (120-240 calories) per hour. If you’re going ~2.5 hours or longer and the ride is pretty hard, you can take in up to 90 grams of carbohydrate (360 calories) per hour.

Caffeine is a common ergogenic aid that can reduce your perception of effort and pain, thereby increasing the time it takes for you to feel fatigued and increasing your performance, both mental and physical. Three mg of caffeine per kilogram of your body weight (up to 6 mg/kg) is effective for most people. Please note that some individuals who are not “responders” to caffeine can experience undesirable side effects and should not use it as a supplement. You can take in your caffeine 45-60 minutes prior to starting. Coffee, tea, energy drinks, and sports nutrition products all can provide a benefit, so feel free to choose your favorites!

Creatine monohydrate is becoming more widely used for maintaining and increasing strength, power, and lean body mass. Supplementing with creatine increases the phosphocreatine content in your muscle, allowing you to work at a higher intensity for a longer period of time. A supplement of 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day is sufficient, and loading phases are not typically necessary.

Beta-alanine is another supplement that can be beneficial for all types of cycling that involve some type of high intensity. It functions in the body by increasing muscle carnosine, which acts as an acid buffer inside cells, allowing for improved high-intensity exercise. Choose a slow-release form of beta-alanine to avoid the side effects of paresthesia that can otherwise occur, and spend about 4 weeks loading beta alanine at a dose of 4-6 grams per day (split into 2-3 doses) to increase your levels of muscle carnosine.

Beetroot juice and dietary nitrates can provide benefits for all types of cycling with high intensity. The dietary nitrates in beetroot juice (and other sources) increase nitric oxide in the body in order to improve your workout output at a given percentage of your VO2max. Beetroot juice is the most common dietary nitrate supplement, and spinach is another great source you can include in your regular diet.

All of these supplements are generally recognized as safe and may help boost your training and event performance, as long as your everyday nutrition is on point.

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