Are you wasting money on supplements?
Supplements for cycling seem a no-brainer right? “Buy this and you'll be faster.”
I'm here to tell you why most supplements are a waste of money. They distract your money, time and effort from activities that provide measurable improved fitness and performance.
So this isn't a case of are you wasting money on supplements? but rather “you are probably wasting money on supplements”.
The pills and powder marketing machine
Did you know that during the GFC, the supplements industry in the US grew 6.5%?
That is astonishing. During a massive recession, people not only found ways of maintaining their buying, but the industry managed to grow bigger.
This is a serious business (USD$25B – that's a B for billion) in the US and growing. That means there is a serious amount of money going into marketing to convince you to part with your money.
The problem here is threefold.
- The marketing machine of the PPI (Pills and Powder Industry) is very good at what it does.
- We love to think buying something will help shortcut the process.
- Many of these products have dubious effects on our performance.
Why we spend money on pills and powders
I discuss this in the 7 Habits of Highly Successful Fitness Programs article; it's understandable why we spend money on pills and powders.
- It’s hard to lose weight. Damn hard.
- It requires time but we don't have a lot of time.
- It’s boring.
- It takes time to manifest results.
All of that is totally understandable.
Why most supplements are a waste
The Australian Institute of Sport is a pretty good guide regarding things that probably work (probably is a low hurdle to clear). You can read more about how the AIS classifies supplements in the transcript of my interview with dietician and nutritionist Alan McCubbin of Next Level Nutrition.
Briefly, here are the things that the AIS and other research say work :
- Protein powder – WPI, WPC, soy, pea/vegetable protein
- Electrolyte and energy gels, sports bars
- Vitamin and mineral supplements – where clinically diagnosed (too much Vitamin C can inhibit performance!)
- Caffeine, bicarb
These supplements the AIS says deserve further research and are provided to AIS athletes under a testing/research protocol. (I use Beta Alanine and Carnitine and I think it works).
- Beta Alanine
- Nitrates/beetroot juice
What to look for
The solution is to look for authoritative sources and quantified/qualified proof of a supplements benefit. The AIS website is a good place to start.
So, are you wasting money on supplements?
If the a supplement isn't in the AISs Group A or B, and isn't a banned substance in Group D, it probably belongs in Group C (no meaningful proof of performance enhancement).
This means if you're using something not on that list, or amongst the bullet points above, you're probably wasting your money, time and efforts.
A list of products I use
Here's what I used in the past and have found help my performance and maintaining a pretty low body fat percentage even with a lot of treats like home made muffins.
You can read a review of SIS Gels and Clif Bars here. I use and recommend both (almost exclusively).
Clif and SIS products are available from:
You'll notice a lot of SIS products here. I love SIS; their stuff is cheap and it works.
- SIS Burner
- SIS Go Gel sachet – races, long rides
- SIS Smart Gel sachet – races, long rides
- Clif Bar – snacks, long rides
- Clif Luna – snacks, long rides
- Beta Alanine (ebay) – pre/post big ride, loading before Etape or similar
- Acetyle L Carnitine (ebay) – daily
- 180 Natural Protein Superfood (WPI and Vegan Protein) – read my 180 Natural Protein Superfood review – pre/post big ride, meal replacement
- SIS Go Electrolyte powder – water bottles on hot humid day, or long race/sportif (to prevent cramp)
- SIS Rapid Recovery powder – post race or 5hr+ ride
- Zero (or other) electrolyte tabs – for during rides of 5hrs+
- Clif Shot Bloks – long rides
- SIS Creatine – loading and heavy training (weights in particular)
A significant amount of time and effort goes into these reviews, all with the aim of helping you. As lots of readers say, I give way too much information away for nothing, and it really does take a lot of time and effort (but I do love doing it!).
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I have a cupboard full of pills and powders that my mates said work. Think I might have look through and throw some out now. Thanks for the info!
It’s true that many of us have been sucked into the pills and powders by the good marketing! Stick to the info in this post and you’ll be saving yourself time and money.