Improve your recovery: the importance of protein for cyclists
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Muscle soreness, fatigue and the mounting pain felt the day after an intensive ride are all common for cyclists, but recovery strategies can help alleviate this and actually help to improve your overall performance for the next ride. One of the key ways in which muscles can be effectively repaired to avoid damage after a ride is through focused nutrition plans.
What seems like a recent discovery, but really has been known since the mid-80s, is the usefulness of protein for muscle recovery. While sitting down to a meal of chicken, beans and other protein-rich foods might not be plausible just after or even during a ride, protein supplements provide a practical and nutritious way of helping to aid muscle recovery and prevent fatigue.
For the nutrition novice, protein is essential for cyclists because the amino acids present in protein help aid muscle repair and limit muscle loss. During your cycling endurance training, your muscles are stretched to their limit, and ensuring that you take in protein will help avoid your body draining the energy in those muscles to sustain itself.
You'll notice that timing is important, too: the optimum time to take in protein is either during or immediately after your ride as this is when your body will be seeking extra protein to repair itself. Here's where protein supplements come in, especially the dairy-derived whey protein. Some proteins, like casein, are digested slowly, but whey protein gets to work fast in repairing your muscles and aiding in recovery. As these proteins help to limit loss of muscle and loss of strength, when you continue with a training programme that includes this recovery strategy, you'll find that your recovery times are quicker and your muscles will feel sore for a shorter time after a ride.
So, how much protein should you be taking in order to help muscle recovery? It's recommended that post-ride protein should be around 20 to 25 grams, which is roughly the weight of an average chicken breast. Exercise supplements like Maximuscle's Promax from www.maximuscle.com provide this amount per serving but in a liquid form, making it a much more convenient option for cyclists both on and immediately off your bike. A rider of around 11 stone will need between 80 and 100 grams of protein a day - that's a whole lot of chicken! Instead, taking whey protein and other protein-rich supplements is ultimately more practical, convenient and simpler for those of us on an intensive, endurance-based cycling programme.
But, as with any supplement or nutritional plan, make sure you are looking after your body in the best way possible. Protein is essential for muscle recovery, making it a must-have nutrient for cyclists; but too much protein in your diet can actually suppress your appetite, as it can make you feel very full, which in turn may lead to other essentials parts of your diet - like carbohydrates - being missed out. Combine easily-digested supplements like whey protein with ‘slow-burning' ones, like casein protein, and foods that contain protein alongside other nutrients: eggs, low fat dairy and beans are all good alternatives if you don't want to be eating chicken with every meal.
A good athlete knows that training only works successfully with a responsive and practical recovery programme; for cyclists, a key part of that recovery should be