I'm always afraid, when I start thinking about taking supplements, of a couple things. First, that I'll end up spending thousands every year on boxes of powders and pills that do nothing. Second, that I'll end up moving toward supplements that are known to have benefits but are illegal.
The difference between homeopathic supplements and the ones that work is simple: the ones that work require a prescription, so doctors and the pharmaceutical industry can make a killing.
I'm not so naive to think that all supplements--even illegal ones--are bad for you. I mean, if I were to train 30 hours a week and my red blood cell count dropped dangerously low, EPO would probably make me healthier. HGH might make my skin smoother and my eyesight better. Steroids might make me feel better. These drugs might even make me live longer. Hell, Suzanne Sommers shoots hormones into her vagina every day to stay young(ish). Oprah had Suzanne on her show and sat there listening with a straight face to Ms. Sommers describe her vaginal embrocation technique. Drugs kill, yeah, but sometimes they keep people alive (but without dignity).
I'm not so naive, either, to think that riding a bike 20 hours a week is a healthy thing to do. You make your bones brittle, you may damage your heart, and you may be sacrificing friends and family for a very private obsession. We don't ride, many of us, to get in shape. We're way, way beyond being in-shape, to the point of being hyper-shaped.
We're not tested, so there's no chance of ever being caught, unless we start competing at an international level or buying EPO from Joe Papp.
So what's our disincentive?
First, drugs are probably going to shorten our lives, because you and I don't know how to use them. Doctors don't even understand the long term effects.
Second, we are disrespecting our teammates and competitors. This may seem like a Victorian notion, but one of the joys of racing is to get better on equal terms with others. I like to see who falls back on a climb, and who beats me. Drugs ruin the experiment: how would I have done if I hadn't taken EPO? Landis, Papp, and Millar seem to be stuck in self-delusion on this one; not because they're deceitful, but because it's the nature of drug use.
Third, because, it costs money. Sure, you might make back that money in winnings, and upgrades, as Chodroff did, but you might not.
Fourth, there are many ways to improve without taking drugs. Drop a few pounds and save some money on food. Train smarter. And, finally...
Take the right, legal supplements. Taking the right, legal supplements is confusing enough.
Suppose you are thinking of using whey protein and creatine, which seem popular now. Consider the many different studies and results you should sort through:
Here's an article on how whey protein helps build muscle, but how whey and protein together build even more muscle. And another. Another showing that people respond differently to creatine and whey protein intake.
Here's another article on when in your day to use whey and creatine.
Here's an article about how whey protein promotes fat loss, even in caloric deficit.
Here's an article that suggests creatine loading (but not mid-effort ingestion) benefits sprints at the end of a long effort.
You get the idea. Taking creatine and whey will require knowing how much, when, in what cycle, and so forth. You don't just drop creatine down the hatch, like a tequila shot.
Even the most basic supplements are complex, so take a cautious approach. Some studies have suggested that even something as simple as whey protein can cause liver damage and possibly cancer.
What should you be on? Well, your bike. Start with that. If it ever gets to the point where you're shooting estrogen up your vagina, you might want to back off.