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Protein

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Nutrition

Article posted: 10/01/2013

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The contribution of protein to energy expenditure during exercise is low, however it still plays a very important role in a cyclist’s diet - whether it is to support increases in lean body mass or to help you recover more effectively after a ride.

The Holy Grail for many cyclists is to increase their power to weight ratio. One way of achieving this is to increase your lean body mass (muscle mass). If we want to increase our muscle mass then the production of new muscle protein must exceed the breakdown of old proteins. Your daily protein intake in conjunction with your training will determine this response.

Protein requirements for cyclists are higher than that of a sedentary person due to the increased protein turnover that occurs during and after exercise. You should aim to consume roughly 1.3 to 1.8 grams of protein per kg of your body mass per day. This can be met through a healthy balanced diet and doesn’t necessarily need to be supplemented with protein shakes, although they do provide a convenient source of high-quality protein for immediately after exercise.

If we take the example of a 70kg cyclist then they should look to consume approximately 100 to 130 grams of protein per day. This can be met by having 4 equally spaced meals throughout the day, each containing 20-25 grams of protein per serving. To give you an idea, here are some foods that contain 20-25 grams of protein:

  • 3 medium eggs
  • 200g cottage cheese
  • 600 ml of cow’s milk
  • 400g of baked beans
  • 150g of fish or chicken

However, not all proteins are created equal. Protein sources that contain all the essential amino acids (we need them from our diet) are referred to as being complete or high quality proteins. Examples of these are eggs, milk and meat. Grains and beans generally do not contain all the essential amino acids – quiona is an exception, but you can compensate for this by combining foods - for example rice and beans.

British Cycling and Gatorade

Protein Tips

  • ·Choose lean sources of protein such as chicken or fish, and only eat fattier cuts in moderation.
  • ·Consume your protein in doses of 20 to 25 grams per meal.
  • ·Equally space your protein meals throughout the day
  • ·Consuming protein before you go to bed can be an effective strategy for achieving your daily protein intake and can aid in the recovery process

Protein on the bike

As previously stated, protein contributes very little energy to fuel your ride. Therefore, there seems to be little reason to take on protein during a ride. However, during long rides (>3 hours) only taking your calories from carbohydrate – whether it be gels, drinks or sweets can become sickly and can also leave you feeling hungry.

It is not uncommon for cyclists to consume foods such as bars, rice cakes or sandwiches during these long rides. Consuming a small amount of protein and/or fat will improve the feeling of fullness and will provide a different taste profile from sports drinks and energy gels.

These foods need to:

  • Taste good to ensure that you look forward to each of the foods during the ride.
  • Be light weight and easy to store
  • Easy to chew
  • Be used in training to make sure that the foods are well tolerated by the stomach during exercise. 

There may also be some benefit of taking on board small amounts of protein during long rides as it may help to attenuate muscle damage that occurs during prolonged exercise and speed up recovery. However, more research needs to be done in this area before definitive recommendations can be made.

The most important role that protein plays in and around your ride is in the recovery period. A simple message is that the earlier after exercise you consume protein the better. Current recommendations advise that you consume 0.25 grams of protein per kg of your body weight after exercise. For a 70kg cyclist this would equate to 15-20g of protein.

This can be sourced from either food or liquid – whatever is easiest and works best for you. There are many sports nutrition products that contain carbohydrate, protein and electrolytes that are needed to help you recover and adapt, but so do drinks such as milk or if you feel comfortable eating after exercise a sandwich is also a great option. The key thing is that you find something that works for you and is easy to transport if you do not have good access to food after a ride.

Protein Tips for on the Bike

  • Protein consumption during long rides (>3 hours) can help you feel full and provide a different taste profile to gels and drinks. It may also help in the recovery process
  • Consume 0.25 grams of protein per kg body weight as soon as you can after exercise
  • This can come from a Recovery Shake, food, or drinks – find what works best for you

 

For more infromation from Gatorade click here

 

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