Cycling with protein and when to consume them for best effects
If you are a cycling fan who wants to start practicing it or you are already a veteran in the world of bicycles, you may already know the importance of good nutrition and how a cyclist can improve performance. But, if we specify a little more, do you know how important protein is in cycling?
Next, we will give a review on what proteins are and why they are important for a cyclist and, in general, for any athlete who is serious about their workouts.
What are proteins?
We will start with a metaphor widely used to define proteins, and it is that it is often said that proteins are the “building blocks” that form muscles, since they are long chains of amino acids linked together to form the tissues of the body, such as muscles.
Precisely for this reason, proteins are essential both for the training, and for the maintenance and repair of damaged muscle tissues, for example, after intense exercise, which brings us to the next important point.
The importance of protein in cycling
Before going any further, I would like to mention that contrary to what most people think nowadays due to the recent fitness craze, protein is not only important or necessary for people who train with weights or for people who they want to gain muscle mass, but they are for any high performance athlete.
While it is true that proteins are closely linked to muscle hypertrophy (increased muscle mass), they are also very useful to accelerate muscle recovery, and that is where they become important for cyclists.
Cycling is an endurance sport, but not only that, it is also a power and strength sport. In fact, it is arguably one of the toughest sports out there today. If you have any doubts about this, you just have to watch the final leg of a race and the consequent struggle to cross the finish line first, and all after hundreds of kilometers pedaling at full capacity.
During a long and intense race, a cyclist suffers great wear and tear, mainly on the muscles of the legs and, to avoid further muscle breakdown and allow damaged tissues to regenerate optimally, it is important to consume protein to achieve better and faster muscle recovery. In this way, he will be able to return to training at full capacity sooner to continue fighting for his goals.
How much protein do I need for cycling?
The WHO (world health organization) recommends an average consumption of 0.8 g of protein per kilo of weight per day for inactive people, but what really determines the adequate consumption of protein in a person is the level of daily physical activity .
Since cycling is an endurance sport, protein consumption must be higher than that of a person who does not perform any type of exercise. Specifically, protein consumption for endurance sports is between 1 and 1.5 g of protein per kilogram of weight per day, which can be a higher consumption (of about 2 g per kilogram of weight) in training periods harder and more intense or in periods of strict diet.
As a general rule, we obtain protein through our diet, with foods rich in protein such as meat, fish, eggs or milk and derived products. But, there are situations in which it can be somewhat difficult to complete the daily protein requirements with food alone, and in these cases we can turn to sports supplements as extra help.
Let’s look at the example of a man weighing 75 kilos, who is in a pre-competition period with very intense training an average of three times a week, and with a consumption of 2 g of protein per kilo of weight per day.
This person should consume about 150 g of protein per day. Do you get an idea how much protein that is? Well, let’s take chicken breast as an example, which has approximately 23 g of protein per 100 g. To reach the 150 g of protein that our 75-kilogram man needs in the pre-competition period, he would need to consume about 650 g of chicken breast a day, which are two of the large whole breasts.
In case you really need it, a protein supplement can make your diet a little more bearable, because it gives you a generous amount of protein quickly and lightly without having to spend time that you may not have in cooking and eating your post-workout meal.
Therefore, if you are a cyclist (regardless of your level or your experience) who trains an average of 2-3 times a week at a high intensity, surely your daily protein requirements will be higher than those of a inactive person, and you will have to pay attention to your daily protein intake to avoid muscle breakdown and accelerate muscle recovery after workouts.
When is it better to consume it?
Have you heard of the anabolic window? Well, it is a period of time just after a training in which our body can increase the assimilation of nutrients due to the increase in blood circulation and the production of anabolic hormones such as testosterone or growth hormone, which can increase muscle protein synthesis to speed recovery after intense training.
Years ago, it was believed that this “anabolic window” lasted for a certain time since the end of training, specifically about 30 minutes, but today it has been discovered that this period of increased protein synthesis can last up to 4-5 hours.
The best way to complete your daily protein intake is to distribute it in small doses between meals throughout the day, always taking into account the pre and post-workout meals to improve performance, which should be rich in carbohydrates (for energy and replenish muscle glycogen stores) and protein (to obtain amino acids and accelerate muscle recovery).
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