Written by Chris Tack
Ultimate Gift Guide
Do You Love Someone Who Loves Cycling?
With the holiday season approaching and everyone developing a sense of Yuletide merriness, you may be thinking about how best you can show your loved ones how much you care. Perhaps you want to surprise them with a gift which will light up their holidays and put a smile on their face; a gift which shows not only do you pay attention, but also that you care about their pursuit of health and fitness. This article is to help you choose which gifts will knock the pedals off the cyclist in your life- a present list to send straight off to the North Pole to put the elves to work. Check out our list of the ultimate gifts for cyclists to help take the strain off of you this Christmas.
A Note About Cyclists
We have to take care of the one’s we love. So it is left to me to make a short public service announcement about cyclists. They are a bit crazy. Cyclists tend to spend too long on their bikes and not enough time with their feet on the ground like normal people. They also do not eat enough food to fuel their cycling endeavours.
This means that often cyclists fail to meet their recommended amounts of both energy and nutrients from food (1). As such they become reliant on supplementation, particularly for key dietary nutrients (1-2). In fact up to 93.8% of cyclists fail to reach the requirements for essential minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc) and up to 95% do not meet the requirements of vitamins B1, B9, A and E (1). Needless to say, most cyclists need a nutritional boost!
Gift 1- MyPre
As mentioned it is highly likely that the cyclist in your life will be deficient in at least 1 or 2 key nutrients needed for health and performance. In order to combat these potential deficiencies some of the best cyclists in the world make specific nutritional and supplementation changes to ensure they can perform.
In a study evaluating the diets and nutritional regimes of ultra-endurance cyclists racing in the longest cycle race in the world (the Race Across America) the most preferred ergogenic aid for pre, during and after the race was an amino acid supplement (3).
MyPre is a stand out product which provides a huge 4g of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) in a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine. This is alongside an extra 800mg of muscle boosting leucine to facilitate optimal muscle protein synthesis. Additionally this mega supplement also gives 1.5g of l-citrulline, beta alanine and d-aspartic acid per scoop to boost your performance and recovery; as well as 24% of your daily intake of vitamin B12 and 15% of your daily intake of vitamin B6.
However, that is not all. My Pre is also a source of two other key performance aids beneficial for a cyclist. Firstly, it gives 400mg of a proprietary blend of caffeine and guarana extract which is the equivalent of 5 ½ cappuccinos). Caffeine is very beneficial for both male and female cyclists as it has been shown to significantly enhance power output by 3-4% when riding between 50-60 minutes (4).
MyPre also provides 4g of creatine in 4 different forms (including creatine monohydrate and creatine hydrochloride). This very commonly used supplement has also been seen to assist cycling performance by increasing peak power output and total work output during repeated bouts of maximal sprint cycling (5) by reducing ammonia accumulation in our blood plasma and attenuating fatigue.
It goes without saying any of these aids (amino acids, caffeine and creatine) could be worthy components of a keen cyclists daily routine- however with MyPre you can get supplement stack which is almost tailor made for those who want to power pedal to fitness. Choose from the 7 amazing flavours to meet the preferences of your chosen recipient!
Gift 2- Water Bottle
Another key dietary requirement often missed by cyclists is meeting the requirements of hydration (1). Cyclists simply do not drink enough water to sustain hydration during performance and a massive 92% choose water as their beverage of choice as soon as the get off the bike (3). This is a great reason to ensure you kit your loved ones out with the best water bottle you can get your hands on to stop them being dehydrated and failing to perform optimally.
The negative effects of dehydration are very real. One study demonstrated the negative effects of this deficiency on cycling performance (6). 6 trained cyclists were asked to ride for an hour at 70% of their VO2 max and then to exhaustion at 90% of their VO2 max to measure the effects of mild dehydration of their cycling performance. They performed this task first after a hydrating fluid solution with repetitive feedings during the trial; and then with no fluid being ingested.
The results showed that fluid intake not only reduced the amount of fluid weight lost during the exercise, but also increased the cycling time to exhaustion by a huge 3 minutes! This was alongside an increase in the rate of perceived exertion during the ride- meaning athletes dehydrated (only by 1.8%) not only got tired sooner but also felt more tired as they performed.
A Myprotein 800ml Sports Bottle is a welcome addition to any bike and allows you to keep hydrated during training and races. Constructed of a soft, squeezable material to sustain long life and a leak proof cap you will be able to save every drop whilst ensuring your beverage is safe and food tested. An added plus is that each bottle is branded with the Myprotein endurance logo letting you represent your favourite nutrition supplier where every you go.
Gift 3- Earphones
Many people enjoy listening to music. Not everyone enjoys the same music, however it is often cited that music can give us a boost during exercise when we are flagging and need a bit of extra motivation.
Whilst it is not yet firmly proven that music can always facilitate an ergogenic effect on our exercise performance, it has grown so ubiquitous as a concept that even the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences suggests in its expert statement that music may wield the power to influence our mood and reduce our rate of perceived exertion (7). Concepts which have also been supported in other research (8).
A study specifically examining cycling performance found that listening to your preferred music during a bout of continuous cycling at high intensity can both increase the distance of cycling performed (by 2.7km!) AND reduce the degree of discomfort perceived by the cyclist (9).
What a fantastic reason to treat your loved one to the special edition Myprotein Veho 360Z1 stereo noise isolating headphones so they can listen to THEIR favourite tunes whilst out on the roads. With the amazing new flat flex anti-tangle system these beauties will not get into a mess and will be compatible with your Smart phone or MP3 player- no matter which device you prefer. Again this product is branded in the Myprotein internationally respected logo.
This is one gift which belongs under the tree- if you don’t take them for yourself.
Gift 4- Yoga Ball
This gift choice may seem unusual but believe me is justified. As a musculoskeletal and sports specialist physiotherapist it is not uncommon for me to encounter individuals who have the best intentions and motivations to exercise but remain inhibited by pain.
In cyclists I often see people who have an active commute on the bike or spend weekends riding, but still they present with lower and upper back issues. My message to them is generally that in order to condition yourself to spend hours on the bike, sometimes you have to do something different off of it.
Yoga is available in a variety of forms. Bikram, Hatha, Kundalini, Vinyasa- the physical principles remain the same. Yoga assists in improving efficiency and neuromuscular control of our bodies, reduces muscle tension and the physical manifestations of stress; and improves flexibility of our tissues. With cycling a form of activity which relies on long durations of the body in a static position, it stands to reason that yoga may be helpful.
In fact a fascinating study in a group of young cyclists specifically identified that performance of yoga has a couple of key physiological benefits (10). Namely yoga practice reduces sympathetic nervous system activity and shifts our autonomic nervous system to more parasympathetic activity. This would provide not only a reduction in stress and anxiety but also the promotion of muscle relaxation and movement.
The Myprotein yoga ball is a perfect piece of exercise equipment for use at home to work on your strength, mobility and coordination as part of a yoga routine. At 65cm diameter the ball will not take up too much room and can be accessible when ever you need it. It holds the Myprotein logo so it is not only durable and functional but also looks great. No home gym should be without one!
Gift 5 – Compression Shorts
Everyone wants to look and feel like an athlete, and the wide choice of exercise apparel offered by Myprotein allows you to find gym kit for anyone’s personal preferences!
However, the Myprotein Compression Shorts are a personal favourite of mine which I would suggest any self respecting cyclist should have in their wardrobe. These shorts are a compressive fit base layer suitable for any form of exercise and the knitted wrap design really provides support of your muscles whilst simultaneously providing the needed compression to assist recovery. Additionally the isotherm technology used in their design sustains your body temperature at 37° to prevent you from overheating during a vigorous workout. They are even woven with anti-bacterial silver to stop bacteria spreading.
So why is this product such a worthy gift for a cyclist? Firstly, chafing. I shall say no more. Lets leave it there.
Additionally, the use of lower limb compression garments on endurance cycling performance during and after riding has been examined and proven to aid performance times (11). In a study of 14 male athletes the use of compression shorts and leggings improved the speed of performance in a 40km time trial by 1.2 minutes! They did this by enhancing the average power output compared to a placebo (non-compressive garment). As such the authors suggested that the use of such garments were a boost to recovery and power for endurance cyclists.
Of course, no one wants to be the guy with the gear and no idea… however for your loved one if cycling is their passion, a pair (or three) of these compression shorts will certainly keep them happy!
Gift 6 – NO2 Extreme
Research has suggested that the use of nitric oxide supplements can improve most people’s tolerance to both aerobic and anaerobic exercise (12). This product works on the well described l-arginine- nitric oxide pathway (13).
Essentially, l-arginine (an essential amino acid which can not be produced naturally in the body) can synthesise nitric oxide (NO) by a family on enzymes called the nitric oxide synthases. This occurs in the cell walls of our blood vessels and produces a dilation response in the vascular smooth muscles. This blood vessel relaxation as such leads to increased blood flow which assists our response to exercise and activity. All we have to do is consume l-arginine to gain these benefits.
The NO2 Extreme supplement contains three different forms of arginine as a source to synthesise NO; namely arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, arginine ethyl-ester HCL, and alpha ketoglutarate.
The benefit of adding these forms of l-arginine (and the subsequent increase in NO) to a cyclists dietary supplement regime has been established in research.
One study (14) investigated the effects of nitrate supplementation on power output and performance during 4km and 16km cycling time trials. They found that boosting NO had a positive impact on power output during both race distances. This includes a 2.8% increase in speed during the shorter distance, and 2.7% increase in the longer distance. However, when comparing those who supplemented versus those who did not, VO2 max values remain equal.
This would suggest that NO can boost power and performance whilst sustaining the overall cardiovascular workload. Who would not want to be more efficient, whatever their physical pursuit? This is just another reason to add NO2 Extreme to your gift list!
Gift 7 – Hydrofuel Elite
No endurance athlete can sustain optimal performance without fuel. In the case of cyclists the importance of carbohydrates as an energy source cannot be understated (15).
Research shows us that consumption of carbohydrate beverages pre, during and post cycling with the duration of exercise time to exhaustion directly correlated with the amount of carbohydrate consumed (16). In fact up to 82% of individual subjects across a number of studies show significant performance enhancement when their carbohydrate intake was sustained (16).
The reasons for this are for a couple of different mechanisms. Over shorter cycling periods (less than 1 hour) exposure of receptors on the tongue to carbohydrates enhances specific areas of the brain to provide a central nervous system facilitated performance boost. This has been proven in experiments where carbohydrate mouth washes were used to see if they could influence cycling performance.
One such study showed that a 10 second mouth rinse with a carbohydrate fluid increased total distance cycled in half an hour by 1.2km (17)! This is without even ingesting carbohydrates to be used as fuel! Additionally even just a 5 second mouth rinse led to 91% of the cyclists riding further than they did with a placebo rinse.
Over longer exercise periods (greater than 2 hours) carbohydrate consumption is required to increase rates of carbohydrate delivery to our muscles as glycogen stores are depleted (16). This allows us to sustain our levels of carbohydrate oxidation for fuel. Thus meaning a transportable form of carbohydrates which combines both glucose and fructose can boost the capacity of a cyclist to perform for longer.
Thankfully, Hydroful Elite provides just that with 7g of carbohydrates per serving. In fact it also provides key electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium to prevent dehydration, as well as 24mg of vitamin C per bottle. Finally, Myprotein have also added in a healthy dose of 3g of branched chain amino acids to assist our muscle protein synthesis post exercise.
With two amazing flavours: orange (everyone’s favourite) and acai berry (my personal favourite) everyone can enjoy this beverage whether you want to simply swill and spit, or if you want to sip and savour.
Oh, and did I mention that it is also batch tested to test for prohibited substances as part of the Informed Sport programme and the World Anti-Doping Agency? What a product!
Gift 8 Carb-Protein Cake
What is a celebration without some cake. It is not often you will be advised to dig in to some sweet treats from a nutrition article, however with the Myprotein Protein Muffins you can do so guilt free.
You see, sometimes cake is not the diet devil people may consider it to be, particularly if you are a cyclist.
A very interesting study (18) aimed to prove that this was the case and took 9 people and randomised them to be given either a special carbohydrate and protein cake or a simple carbohydrate cake and measured them following a 2 hour cycle at 60-65% VO2 max and then a 1 hour cycle at 60-65% VO2 max which was increased to 95% slowly.
They found that consuming a carbohydrate-protein cake significantly levels of pro-inflammatory protein levels in the participants’ blood between 46-50%! One such anti-inflammatory cytokine (IL-10) was increased by 118% compared to the control cake. This would indicate that recovery is dramatically enhanced when you add a bit of protein to your cake treats post exercise.
These protein muffins give you 19g of protein alongside 30.4g of carbohydrates per cake allowing easy consumption to drive recovery post ride. With a range of flavours, each box provides 6 muffins to keep you satiated all week long. This is definitely a gift which will hit the sweet spot.
So, there you have it. A range of bespoke gift ideas for the cyclist in your life which they will love and cherish not only because the products stand the test of time, but also because each will benefit the road towards health and fitness. Best wishes and enjoy your holidays.