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Cycling hurts the legs.
I don’t care if you are training for your very first-century ride, or racing the local criterium
These intense exertions start off well but slowly degrade into an aching pile of leg pain.
Just like any cyclist, I am always interested in finding ways to ride harder with less pain. I want to impress my friends. I want to win.
And I want to be able to climb the stairs at work tomorrow.
What if I could offer you a (legal) pill that would start working in one hour, and let you ride harder and with less pain?
In this article, we’re going to discuss a little bit of science (I’ll keep it straightforward and non-nerdy) and a whole lot about what athletes who have used this product have to say.
I use this product on a regular basis, so I’ll be sure to include my two cents!
Lactic Acid Is Good For Us?
A lot of sports literature has been written on lactic acid (the byproduct of lactate processing).
And now we are discovering that much of that was wrong.
The new thought is that lactic acid helps to protect and preserve those essential cellular functions that keep the muscles operating.
It does this by slowing down other chemical reactions that are harmful to your muscle’s performance.
And, when the lactic acid builds up to a certain point, it may cause us to take a break, thereby allowing our muscles time to recover. (We’re still working on the science, here)
However lactic acid is not thought to affect the next day’s soreness. That soreness is more likely a side effect of muscle damage and metabolites that are still being processed.
Although we are still working on the mechanics behind “delayed onset muscle soreness” (next day soreness).
What Does SportLegs Offer?
The main ingredient in SportLegs is lactate.
The idea is that by preloading your muscles, you can trick them into thinking that they don’t need to make as much — at least not right away.
You’ll still get a lactic acid burn on hard efforts. It’s just delayed. So you can push that little bit extra where needed to stay in contact with the peloton or leave your friends behind on the climb.
The other advantage is faster recovery after a hard effort. I can only assume that it has to do with the fact that your body is creating less lactic acid. (See our scientific research below for more)
But the marketing “promise” of this pill (the FDA doesn’t let anyone truly promise) is that you can ride harder with less pain.
Keep in mind that the Calcium and Magnesium below are delivery agents for the lactate.
(Dosage Size: 3 capsules)
- Calcium (136mg) – For cyclists bone loss is (or at least should be!) one of our top concerns. Studies have shown that we can experience measurable bone density loss in as little of a year of cycling. Additionally, calcium supplementation before a ride can help keep calcium blood levels more stable during the workout. The thought is that Calcium supplementation before a workout might help slow the bone loss. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130618125028.htm
- Magnesium (68mg) – Most of us consume diets with less than our recommended daily allowance of Magnesium. And, as athletes, we tend to sweat out even more of our Magnesium. Unfortunately, since it hasn’t yet been shown to be a performance enhancer, most of us don’t actively supplement. This is one you don’t want to take too much of since it can upset the stomach. But a little can keep your levels in a healthy range and prevent serious heart problems.
- Vitamin D (68IU) – This vitamin keeps getting more good press. If you are testosterone deficient, Vitamin D can help raise your testosterone back to normal operating levels. And in sedentary people, it’s been proven to boost their power output. Interestingly enough, testosterone is one of those factors that has been shown to increase MCT production (see discussion below). Vitamin D may also be useful for helping the body process the calcium into strong bones.
- Lactate (1115 mg) – I’m going to dive into this in deeper detail below. But this is the key ingredient of SportLegs and is designed to help prime the body for an upcoming workout.
A Quick Primer on Lactate
In case you are lost as I am on the biochemical inner workings, here’s a basic explanation.
Ideally, your body will use oxygen in an aerobic pathway for energy.
But when you exceed your bodies ability to work aerobically — climbing a hill, for example — your body will use lactate to break down glucose on an anaerobic pathway.
It’s much easier to cross into the Anaerobic Threshold than you might expect. If you are out of shape, your Anaerobic Threshold could be hit when your heart hits as low as 160 beats per minute.
This threshold is where your body needs to start supplementing the aerobic capacity with these anaerobic pathways. Your lactate levels spike and you have 5 to 6 minutes until the lactic acid ( a byproduct of lactate metabolism) and phosphate metabolites build up enough to cause you to “blow up” and have to reset to a lower pace while your legs recover.
How Is SportLegs Supposed To Work? (Science!)
The idea behind Sportlegs is that by taking some lactate ahead of time, it can reduce the amount your lactate — and therefore lactic acid — spikes, buying you more time for hard efforts.
Now, we don’t know if this correct. A lot of sports blogs dispute this claim.
However, there is some burgeoning research around Monocarboxylate transporters (MCTs). I won’t get technical here, but apparently, these little guys are what our cells need to decrease that lactic acid burn.
When you have more MCTs, the lactate gets shuttled faster into the cells.
Your muscles get energy faster.
And you recover faster.
Until now, the best way to increase MCTs has been to train more.
In fact, Abby Ruby — A Carmichael Training Systems coach — has a pretty scathing review of SportLegs on her wall.
She’s certain that the science isn’t there to support SportsLeg’s claims of faster lactate removal.
So I did my research. And I found a scientific paper published in July of 2008 — 4 months after Abby’s blog post — That demonstrated how a lactate-driven mechanism in the body signals creation of more MCT’s.
I can’t say that SportLegs’ increases the production of MCT’s because that hasn’t been studied. But this study specifically looked at how MCT production reacts to the introduction of lactate, quote “lactate incubation increased both MCT1 and CD147 transcript levels within an hour. ” (see full article “Mitochondrial Lactate Oxidation Complex and an Adaptive Role for Lactate Production“)
Interestingly enough, 1 hour is the EXACT amount of time before working out suggested for taking SportsLegs.
Is the science there? It’s currently underdeveloped. And we’ve been SportsLegs (and swearing by them) for years before the science came out.
But if these guys’ hypothesis is correct, then it might stand to reason that SportLegs functions by kick-starting the production of those MCT “lactate shuttlebugs” and giving your body a head start on your workout.
Now, this raises the question of whether SportsLegs helps on longer efforts. After all, wouldn’t your own body’s production drown out any lactate you initially ingested?
I think you could argue that. And, based on my experience in using SportLegs on century efforts, it seems to have decreasing effects towards the end of the day.
However, if you can wipe off an extra hour or two of pain on the front end, then that buys you an extra hour or two of regular pain in the middle.
There are those that recommend reloading after 2 hours of hard effort. I’ve never tried that, and it might be something worth considering to test. (let me know if you try it).
Normally around the 2-hour mark, I switch to something like Re: Play which I’ve found to be extremely effective.
Does SportLegs Work? (Effectiveness/ Review)
They offer SportLegs in a trial pack size, which makes them easy to try out. I did a trial pack on one of my training rides and thought “gosh, this sure does feel super easy.”
So I added some extra sprints and hill workouts at the end.
I kept experimenting back and forth. I’d use them every day for three days. Then I’d go a week without them.
And it seemed to make a huge difference. But I was also dealing with the same problem as every other SportLegs user: the Placebo effect.
It is impossible to know if a difference is being made. There are so many factors that go into having a “good day” or a “bad day” on the bike.
As you look for reviews online, you are going to see this theme repeated. There is this ability to go a tiny bit harder. It’s enough of a difference so that you feel pretty superhuman. And you feel pretty euphoric because there is less pain but the same endorphin rush.
And then you get done with your ride and ask “was that all in my mind?”
Pretty much every review you read is going to say the same thing.
The bottom line is, I love this supplement. I will not train seriously without it. I won’t do a big ride without them.
I’m 100% certain that SportLegs gives me an advantage.
Is Sportlegs Legal?
The concern with any supplementation that works is whether it has any doping ingredients. Right now Magnesium, Calcium, Vitamin D, and Lactate are all ingredients legal to ingested.
Furthermore, Sportlegs does not allow any of the substances banned on the World Anti-Doping Associations prohibited list to be used in their manufacturing facilities.
So there is not even a risk of something getting cross-contaminate.d
From my research, it appears that they have set a high standard for maintaining their legality.
They are also gluten and dairy free. (Lactose and Lactase/Lactate are two entirely different things. These pills do not have Lactose in them. They are Lactose-free).
It is recommended that you take one capsule for every 50 pounds of body weight, 1 hour before working out.
So for a 150-pound person, that is three capsules.
Sportlegs For Triathletes And Runners
My runner and triathlete friends tend to be more cautious of what they supplement with since gastric upset is a very real (and sometimes embarrassing) side effect of new supplements.
With that in mind, I encourage you to test it for yourself on a training run before incorporating into your daily efforts.
This product has a long line of testimonies by marathon runners and trainees. They’ve seen the same thing we cyclists have, primarily in decreased leg cramps during an event.
And when your legs don’t hurt, it makes running that much more enjoyable.
In this group, the re-dosing trend is very high. Almost everyone pops two pills every 2 hours. Once again, you want to be careful not to cause gastric upset since there is some magnesium involved.
Sportlegs For Skiing
The challenge with skiing is that many of us bounce up for a quick ski trip and then have to get back to our lives.
So many of we tourists don’t have a chance to develop the muscles needed for comfortable, all day skiing.
When we hit the slopes, our muscles are going to be hitting that Lactate threshold much more quickly. And so it stands to reason that some of the same benefits could be realized.
There are those testimonies by tourist skiers attributing less soreness to sports legs. But I wasn’t able to find an overwhelming preponderance of reviews for this sport like I can with cycling, running and triathlons.
So give it a try and let us know.
However,r for cross country skiing, it would make sense that this would be a good supplement. Anytime you are doing a large amount of Aerobic exercise; Anaerobic exercise is likely to occur as well. And this will prep your body so you can go Anaerobic without paying the penalty.
For awhile there was an alternative called “Ski Legs.” They seem to have gone out of business.
Alternatives To Sportlegs
Basically, Sportlegs is a large amount of Calcium Lactate and Magnesium Lactate.
So, in theory, you could buy some Calcium and Magnesium LACTATE pills.
And take that along with a Vitamin D pill.
And see if it works.
Notice that Sportlegs isn’t just a CalMag supplement. The reason Calcium and Magnesium are even on the ingredients list is that the lactate is bound to these chemicals.
I keep seeing forums where athletes try to compare Sportlegs to Calcium/Magnesium supplements. As if they are the same thing.
It’s the lactate we are after.
Sportlegs vs. Hammer Endurolytes
For a long time muscle cramping was thought to be a function of dehydration. Or ion depletion.
So the goal is to stay hydrated while simultaneously replenishing the electrolytes.
This means you supplement with some salt. These mixtures typically have sodium, magnesium, and potassium.
Of course, there are the commercially available ones: Gatorade and Powerade. But there is also a wide array of salt tabs.
Weirdly enough, the link between muscle cramping and electrolyte imbalance or dehydration is one that we have not been able to establish, yet.
Sportlegs does not attempt to address the issue of electrolyte imbalance.
If you perform better with electrolyte supplementation, then, by all means, continue. Just because science hasn’t kept up with your body does not mean you shouldn’t do what lets you operate at peak performance.
Just keep in mind that these products serve a different role than Sportlegs.
Sportlegs vs. Extreme Endurance
I haven’t tried this product or researched any of its mechanisms, but it seems to use papain which is a protease enzyme. Protease enzymes help our bodies digest protein.
The catechins have some cool studies on protecting the body against oxidative stress and possibly helping the body recover from a taxing workout.
The downside is that it contains Selenium and Chromium — two supplements that we had long thought fought cancer. Now it is becoming apparent that those two supplements may cause cancer .
The proof is tenuous, and the research very new. But I’ve cut these two supplements from my diet.
The bottom line is, Extreme Endurance uses a different mechanism than preloading with lactate. So, at best, it could synergize with the SportLegs and offer even more effectiveness.
At worst, you could waste your money.
(Note: I could not determine if it was WADA compliant. If you know for sure, leave me a note in the comments below).
Sportlegs vs Hammer’s Anti-fatigue caps
This is another intriguing supplement that focuses on reducing the amount of Ammonia produced during times of oxidative stress. It brings in some beet juice for boosting your nitric oxide and has Aspartic acid which may help reduce the damage from and the processing of, ammonia.
This pill looks like it works on the front end: reducing the level of toxic byproducts the muscles produce.
Sportlegs works on the backend: prepping the body to remove the harmful chemicals and byproducts produced by a hard workout.
Two different mechanisms. Could be another excellent time to synergize the two.
Sportlegs vs. Acid Zapper
Acid Zapper is super non-informative about how their pill works. So it makes it hard to research it. Best I can tell, it works on the concept of an “acidic” and “alkaline” body.
Science hasn’t fully gotten on board with that philosophy, which means that supplementation in this arena is tough to vet.
There are also very few reviews to work from, so it is challenging to get an idea of the effectiveness (placebo or otherwise) by real users.
Where To Buy SportsLegs
Pretty much any Google search will give you great places to buy from. Or you can get it at almost any local bike shop.
We also offer it here through our Amazon Affiliate link:
- Lactic Acid Is Good For Us?
- What Does SportLegs Offer?
- SportLegs Ingredients:
- A Quick Primer on Lactate
- How Is SportLegs Supposed To Work? (Science!)
- Does SportLegs Work? (Effectiveness/ Review)
- Is Sportlegs Legal?
- Sportlegs For Skiing
- Alternatives To Sportlegs
- Where To Buy SportsLegs