Protein plays an important role in the diet of bike riders, though it can prove a confusing topic with the rise in popularity of high protein-low fat, paleo, keto and vegan diets.
Read on to find out the essential facts cyclists need to know about protein, including why you need it, how much you need, and where to get it from!
Here’s PRO BIKE TOOL’s protein 101:
Muscle repair and growth
Protein provides our muscles with the building blocks for growth, playing a key role in recovery and repair. These ‘amino acids’ within protein are key for everyone, but especially for cyclists. Particularly long, hard rides break down muscle fibres. Re-stocking the muscles with plenty of amino acids from protein helps your body to regrow and repair, making you stronger and faster on the bike!
If you’re looking to shed a few pounds to boost your cycling performance, a protein-rich diet can help. Hormones that are released when eating protein promotes a feeling of fullness, which serves to keep you from over-eating through the day.
The way in which protein is digested actually boosts your metabolism, helping you burn more calories through the day. This increased ‘thermic effect of food’ is not so apparent when the gut processes carbohydrates and fats.
Lastly, a higher protein meal can also prevent spikes in blood sugar that come with overly carbohydrate heavy meals.
How much protein?
The recommended protein intake for the average adult is around 0.8g / per kg body weight per day. However, protein requirements for highly active people such as cyclists can increase up to around 2g / per kg body weight per day.
How much protein you choose to take on board should be tailored to your activity level. If you only cycle on a very recreational basis, around 1g / per kg body weight per day would likely be sufficient, but if you commute long distances every day or are training hard for bike races and events, closer to 2g / per kg body weight would be advised.
Where possible, distribute your protein hits throughout the day to best allow the body to synthesise the amino acids. Around 20-30g of protein per ‘dose’ is advised, so high-protein snacks outside of meal times such as nuts or yoghurt can be a great way to help you hit your target.
If you are trying to trim down a little in a bid to reach racing weight or get ready for the beach, it’s advised to keep protein intake high even if you are lowering your total caloric intake.
While it is best to spread your protein intake relatively equally through the day, there can be a benefit to paying attention to your protein portions at the following times, particularly if you are stressing your body with a lot of time on the bike:
Protein is available in a huge range of foods, with the richest sources being meat, fish, dairy and pulses.
A few of the best protein sources include: