Whether you’re a professional obsessed with getting saddle time every day, or a weekend warrior destroying bike trails on a Saturday morning, one thing is true…
Your cycling performance is directly linked to the power and energy you have in your legs.
Sean Yates, Olympian, and former Tour De France stage winner, hit the nail on the head when he said,
“Good morale in cycling comes from good legs.”
You probably know by now that the days immediately after a race or a 20-mile mission can be excruciating. Our muscles seem to take forever to recover, making everyday tasks an absolute nuisance.
You need to give the muscle groups you use most during a good cycle the time they need to recover. This is important for the longevity of your cycling career.
As an amateur cyclist, you can expect discomfort for a few days or even a week after cycling. But professionals should be ready and able to tackle another cycling session within 24 – 48 hours of completing a long-distance race.
Let’s delve into why you experience sore legs after cycling, how you can prevent it (if that’s even possible), and look at a few practical suggestions you can take to prolong your cycling sessions.
Why Do My Legs Hurt After Cycling?
Firstly, Sore legs are a natural by-product of cycling.
During intense exercise, the body’s energy production can shift from relying primarily on oxygen to using lactate as an energy source when oxygen availability is limited.
This can lead to the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles, contributing to discomfort and fatigue.
When the production of lactic acid exceeds its clearance rate, it can result in the sensation of muscle pain and soreness, commonly referred to as “lactic acid burn.”
This is often experienced when cyclists or athletes push themselves beyond their aerobic capacity, and it’s an important physiological factor to consider in understanding muscle fatigue and recovery after exercise.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is commonly referred to in the cycling world as DOMS, this phenomenon frequently occurs after an intense exercise session – like cycling.
It’s that feeling of muscle soreness and discomfort that typically sets in 24 to 48 hours after you’ve finished your workout. DOMS is especially noticeable when you’ve pushed yourself harder or engaged in activities your muscles aren’t used to.
When cyclists experience DOMS, it means the muscles involved in cycling, such as the quadriceps (front thigh muscles), hamstrings (back thigh muscles), and even the glutes (buttock muscles), have been stressed more than usual during a ride.
This could happen if you’ve increased the intensity, duration, or resistance of your cycling session.
Muscle Groups That Often Suffer The Most
DOMS often causes a lot of discomfort, leaving you wondering if those early morning bike rides are worth it… or if lifting your leg over your bike seat again is even possible.
Here’s a closer look at some of those muscle groups that will experience the most pain after cycling
Aleksy / Getty Images
Your quads (the big muscles on the front of your femur) are the main driving force that pushes your pedal down into the ground and propels your bike forward.
Cyclists are known to have well-defined, large quads due to the repetitive nature of cycling… Especially those who train in hilly areas.
It’s in the quads that cyclists often report the first signs of DOMS
Hamstrings contribute to a smoother pedal stroke.
This is especially true for cyclists who use cleats or clip-in pedals. Your hamstring connects your hips to the back of your knees through a series of muscles and tendons.
Overworking these muscles can cause cramping and even inflammation in the tendons, making walking or standing difficult.
Your calves provide that added boost of power to the pedal and work in conjunction with your quads to drive your pedal downward.
Calves are highly susceptible to DOMS and fatigue as the microfibers in the muscle tear and break down during a hard cycling session.
This pain can make daily activities like putting on a shoe or climbing a few stairs a real challenge.
Harnessing the Power of Natural Carnosine: A Preventative Measure and Recovery Aid
If you’re looking to speed up the recovery time between rides, you really need to consider using natural aids to help you with the recovery process.
And while many supplements are on the market, some just make you feel a bit…Uneasy.
That’s especially true if you’re a professional athlete worried about doping scandals and what being caught with an unnatural substance in your bloodstream could mean for your cycling career.
One of the most important discoveries in recent years is Carnosine’s role in the natural recovery of sore muscles after exercise.
Q: What is Carnosine?
Carnosine is a naturally occurring compound that consists of two amino acids: beta-alanine and histidine. It can be described as a natural protein-building block.
It’s found in various body parts, including muscles, brain, and other tissues. Carnosine plays several important roles in the body, primarily related to buffering acidity and acting as an antioxidant.
L-carnosine is a specific type of carnosine often used as a supplement. The “L” in L-Carnosine stands for “left-handed,” a slightly modified form of regular carnosine.
Like regular carnosine, L-carnosine can also help support sore muscles during exercise and decrease fatigue.
That’s right, Carnosine already appears naturally in the human body, so why not use it to your advantage and incorporate it as an integral part of your cycling recovery process?
Why Carnosine Is Important To Cyclists
Carnosine is known to act like a buffer, which means it helps keep acidity levels in check.
This is important because when our muscles work hard, they produce acids that make them tired or fatigued. Carnosine helps prevent this and allows our muscles to keep working efficiently.
Imagine Carnosine as a dedicated teammate working alongside your muscles and brain, ensuring everything stays in perfect harmony as you pedal through the miles.
And just like a boost in a thrilling race, L-Carnosine steps in as a supercharged supplement, giving your body that extra edge during intense rides or when you’re craving added defense against cell wear and tear.
How Do You Introduce Carnosine To Your Body?
It is found in various food groups: beef, pork, chicken, and fish.
If you’re a meat eater, including a variety of these foods in your diet can provide you with a natural source of carnosine.
But keep in mind that the way these ingredients are cooked and prepared will affect how much carnosine is still prevalent when you eat these foods.
Targeting Specific Muscle Groups
Carnosine supplements can be taken orally.
The problem, though, as with taking it in through the food you eat, the benefits of Carnosine and L-carnosine won’t be concentrated on the specific areas you’re trying to help recover from fatigue – your legs.
The newly introduced way is to apply carnosine in gel form to have direct support on tendons and muscles. The leading product development of carnosine gels is made by Chemipower and Tartu University.
For sports achievement purposes their natural carnosine-rich gel is CarnoSport.
Before AND after?
Well, yes. Remember, carnosine helps with the prevention of fatigue and the build-up of lactic acid within muscle groups. Applying gel before a long ride gives your muscles the added buffer that will help them last longer during physical activity.
And applying the Carnosport gel after a bike ride will help with optimal recovery.
For pros, this means getting back to training for your next big bike race much sooner than usual. Your tendons, ligaments, and joints won’t feel as fatigued as they normally would.
And as for you weekend warriors out there, you can rest assured that you won’t be the object of office jokes every week.
What is the best way to completely avoid sore muscles caused by cycling? Quit cycling 😉
But to limit DOMS and speed up recovery time, make pre and post-ride stretches a vital ritual, ensuring your lower body muscle groups experience the care they deserve.
Of course, stretching is it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Pairing your post-ride routine with proper nutrition is equally crucial. A well-rounded diet, complete with essential nutrients like carnosine, provides your muscles with the building blocks they need to repair damaged tissues and enhance recovery.
And for those who seek an extra step, applying natural carnosine-rich gel is probably the best harmless option to target specific muscle groups for better performance and recovery.