Feel lethargic or have a runny nose when cycling? Try this!

For the past couple of years I have suffered with exercise-induced rhinitis. Or as my wife calls it ‘cycle snot.’ I have also felt quite lethargic and lacked energy and motivation. I put it down to a time of life thing combined with having moved across the UK to a county where flat roads are rarer than a polite overtake.

However. I recently cut out dairy from my diet and now everything has changed.

As a hobbyist student of nutrition and the body, I experiment a lot with my diet. What you put in you get out and that is so very true. I did the same when I developed gluten intolerance and I’m doing the same now. It seems my body isn’t content with forcing me to give up bread and wheat, it now wants me to give up milk too. So not fair.

How did it all come about?

On my regular two hour ride I would have to blow my nose at least a dozen times, sometimes more. It wasn’t seasonal and happened just as much in winter as summer so I knew it wasn’t hay fever. I also used to wake up with a blocked nose and feeling bloated even though I hadn’t eaten anything for 7-8 hours.

The worst was always feeling tired and lethargic regardless of how much I ate, whether I carb-loaded or not or whether I had ride food with me or not. I kept cycling mainly through willpower and stubbornness alone. I knew things were bad when I would take a gel on a longer ride and not even feel it.

So I began looking at my lifestyle and my diet to see what was wrong. I had completely cut out gluten so I knew it wasn’t that causing an issue. Next I began researching lactose intolerance. Only unlike gluten intolerance, it’s an actual allergy. That got me thinking.

So a couple of Friday nights ago I took an antihistamine just before I went to bed. I awoke 8 hours later feeling refreshed, the bloating had mostly gone and for once I felt ready to tackle the hills of Cornwall. My ride was almost a record. If it wasn’t for a pesky 18 mph headwind for half the ride I would have gone faster than I ever have.

Of course, one success does not a cure make. So I repeated this on the Saturday and experienced the same thing Sunday. Sunday also provided the other benefit, namely no cycle snot. I blew my nose maybe three times instead of the dozen or so.

Next step

So if antihistamine was causing these changes, I was obviously allergic to something. So I cut out all dairy from my diet which was a bit of a shock. I was eating a yoghurt a day, having a smoothie as an afternoon snack and took milk in my tea. All that had to change.

Three weeks later, the effects are still with me. I no longer take antihistamines but have retained the energy, am now much more enthusiastic about riding in Cornwall even though climbing is 10% of the ride. I now only blow my nose once in the morning instead of all the time. On the bike I don’t blow it at all. I feel energetic, am faster, can ride for longer and can also feel the power of the gel.

There may be a placebo effect in there somewhere, but to my mind, three weeks is enough for that to have worn off. Either way, if I enjoy my time on the bike more than I did and ride faster for the same amount of energy and fitness, I’m good with that.

So if you had the same symptoms, try an antihistamine if you’re okay with them and then try looking at your diet. It might not be milk, it could be something else but it gives you a place to start!


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