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Menthol Supplements in Cycling – How to Use Them

By Jiri Kaloc

There’s a new way to keep cool during those sweaty indoor sessions and hot summer rides. Menthol supplements have been shown to reduce perceived effort and improve athletic performance. Let’s take a look at which form of menthol is most effective and how to best include it into your training.

What is the best delivery method?

Menthol supplements are gaining in popularity, and there’s a wide range of products you can buy. You can use menthol externally using sprays and skin gels, or internally with edible strips, drinks, or mouth rinses. Let’s explore which method is more effective and right for you.

Menthol gel
Menthol supplements can be used both internally and externally. © Profimedia

External use

There are several ways to use menthol externally. Studies trying to evaluate the effectiveness looked mainly at menthol gel applied to the face, forearms, or biceps, and menthol sprayed onto a jersey. An extensive study from 2020 that analysed available scientific literature concluded that external use of menthol was effective. But its effectiveness depends on several factors. High air flow, temperature, and BMI of the athlete all tend to increase the beneficial effects.

Internal use

Internal use includes a variety of edible products, drinks, and mouth rinses. Mouth rinsing with a menthol solution turns out to be the most effective way of getting athletic performance benefits from menthol, based on a 2019 study that reviewed current scientific literature.

Are there any risks?

Studies show that menthol could potentially reduce how much you sweat. Prolonged menthol use may not be a good idea in very hot conditions and when you don’t have enough water available. External use of menthol has an additional downside. A too strong menthol concentration, above 10%, could cause a burning sensation or skin irritation in some people.

Listerine mouth wash
Try out a mouth rinse before your training session. © Profimedia

When to use menthol mouth rinse?

Let’s focus on the most effective way to include menthol, which is the mouth rinse. It can be delivered either before a training session, ideally after a warmup or in the middle of it. Take a sip of the menthol drink, do a 5-10 second mouth rinse and spit it out afterwards, of course. You can carry the drink in your second bidon or in a small bottle in your jersey.

Keep in mind that the use of menthol supplements should be limited to situations where the core temperature can be elevated for short amounts of time or when they can be used along with another cooling strategy.

Test it out using a mouth wash

If you want to give menthol supplements a try but don’t feel like spending too much money, you might find a good solution in your bathroom – mouth wash. The effective concentration of menthol rinses is usually between 0.01% – 0.1% of menthol, and Listerine, for example, contains 0.04%. Give it a try before your next indoor session or a sunny outdoor ride and see how you feel!