Topical leg ergogenic THROW DOWN: Lactigo vs Biofreeze

In the past I’ve tried the trick where you slather one leg with Lactigo, leave the other leg untouched, workout, and compare. To me there was a clear Lactigo advantage but I’ve always been intrigued with the notion that it’s just the menthol that does the trick, not whatever else is in the mix. Seems like a reasonable hypothesis since every topical ergogenic seems to have menthol as the delivery mechanism.

So this weekend I repeated the single leg challenge but instead of using an untouched leg as the control I applied lactigo to one leg and biofreeze to the other leg. Lactigo is a 1.25% menthol gel and Biofreeze is a 4% menthol gel. I did two workouts…Saturday and Sunday…and switched legs from day-to-day.

If there is a difference between BioFreeze and Lactigo it’s less than my threshold of perception. Both workouts felt way easy so maybe there is something to the menthol/ergogenic hypothesis. The saturday workout was supposed to be a sprint workout but it was a ‘moderate’ workout which induced AT to give me a slug of ‘up’ adaptations afterwards. Sunday I added another set of intervals. But I never noticed a difference between performance of the left leg vs the right leg.

When it comes to price, however, there definitely IS a difference. BioFreeze is $16 for 4oz. Lactigo is $30 for 3.4oz. Lactigo is 1.25% menthol plus carnosine. BioFreeze is 4% menthol plus a mess of other ingredients:


Now try the, “Tiger Balm” challenge!

11% menthol!


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Have you compared either of them to a bicarb one, like amphuman?

Great stuff, especially when you’re doing hill climbs in Autumn!

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Not yet but I will. I think the topical bicarb goo is a 0.5% menthol gel so there would be a more marked difference between biofreeze and PR Lotion. As for Lactigo I am out & who knows when I will have more.

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Now I’m curious… have an unopened tube of Castelli “Warming Embro Cream”. Menthol is an ingredient as is peppermint oil, Leaf extract, camphor and a bunch of other stuff in common with biofreeze.

What’s your application protocol. I’ll try this stuff and report back. Worse case it will smell nice and feel good !!!

If it’s just the menthol, just rub some noxzema on your legs. Super cheap.

Or Vicks Vaporub. 2.6% menthol for $5 per tub.

I’ve noticed when I use embro my legs feel better. Menthol, capiscum… it just gives the legs another sensation to feel that blunts the muscular burn IMO. No need to spend $30 on 3.4oz for that…


What I don’t understand is if the mechanism of action is due to the carnosine / magnesium, why is the only active ingredient listed on the product menthol??? hmmm.

There was some discussion of this a while back, and I shared my experience and also understanding (at the time) of the role of menthol in these various training ointments. FWIW, I’ve compared my version of bicarb lotion with AmpHuman, and have had strikingly similar benefits. Mine is muuuuch cheaper to make, but a little grittier.


I think i remember coach Chad saying in a podcast that the burning feeling is due to the acidity building in the muscles. Sodium bicarbonate would make sense.

@DarthShivious I just took at tablespoon of each gel and slathered it on. So, not real rigorous but an actual ‘use case’. My basic hypothesis is that none of the topical ergogenics actually have the capacity to make the skin permeable.

** warning, grandpa simpson mode engaged **

Back in the day it was underground popular to use a chemical that really did make the dermis/epidermis permeable, grind up some ‘ergogenic pellots’, and lash them to the body with saran wrap overnight. Such behaviour caused a wave of health issues among the fitness community because making the skin permeable allows all manner of undesirable things to diffuse into the bloodstream.

I’ve not heard about any of those problems popping up recently…which makes me think the amount of ‘active ingredient’ that diffuses through the skin and into the bloodstream from a product like pr lotion or lactigo is zero. Zip. Nada. It just doesn’t behave in the same way as a product that actually makes the skin permeable.

But there is clearly some ergogenic benefit. At least in my opinion. So I think it’s all down to the menthol. And there is some support in the literature that topical menthol can improve performance.


I was going to mention DMSO and caution about skin permeabilizing agents. But decided anyone who needed to know already knew. DMSO was all the rage when I was a high school runner. Might have been connected to Salazar. Was legal at the time.

Am thinking these topicals work like kinesio tapes. No way is there enough compound getting into periphery to matter and even locally I’m doubtful. They probably provide a sensation (neuronal input) that is useful but not fully understood. I could be wrong…

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Yeah. Don’t make your skin permeable. Not a good idea. There is a reason why the world is pretty much dominated by organisms with a non-permeable skin.

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