Protein is an essential part of our diet, and is particularly important for cyclists and other athletes, because it helps to rebuild muscle after vigorous activity. Protein also supports the immune system and helps the body to burn off excess fat and calories, keeping everything ticking over smoothly.
For cyclists there is always a lot of talk about carbs, because they give the energy boost needed to make it through a gruelling session on the bike. However protein is just as important for recovery after the ride, and it’s not just for bodybuilders as some may think. All athletes need to recover after training.
You get protein from your diet, but if you need a boost, or if you don’t feel like eating a heavy meal after exercise, then a protein shake is a convenient alternative.
There are countless options to choose from, which can render decision-making almost impossible for some. Therefore it’s important to know exactly what to look for when choosing the best protein powder for you.
How to choose the best protein powder
First things first, it’s important to check how much protein is included in each serving. Opt for at least 20-30 grams of protein per serving so you get the full benefits of the supplement.
You should also check the level of carbohydrates, sugar and overall calories. If you’re trying to shed fat, it’s good to avoid high-calorie protein powder, and avoid a sugar overload.
If you want a bigger boost in performance, look for powders that also contain creatine, L-carnitine and caffeine.
Another factor to consider is the protein base itself: the most common is whey, which is derived from milk protein, however there’s now a huge rise in plant-based protein alternatives, including soy, brown rice, hemp, pea, and others. Textures can vary between different protein sources so it’s sometimes best to try a few to see what you prefer.
A nutritional supplement that’s also high in fiber
If improved health is one of your goals, then it’s a good idea to opt for an organic and plant-based protein source, since it’s much easier for the body to digest and doesn’t come with the potential bloating and negative health connotations of dairy. Plus it’s pretty low in calories.
This plant-based protein powder is also gluten-free, and made from a blend of pea, brown rice and chia seeds. Each 46 gram serving contains 150 calories, 21 grams of protein, and 6 grams of organic dietary fiber. It can be mixed with water, milk (plant-based or otherwise), or you can use it in baking to add a protein boost to cakes, muffins, brownies or cookies.
Flavor-wise, it comes in Cream Chocolate Fudge and Peppermint Hot Cocoa.
A high-carbohydrate whey protein shake
Clif is mainly known for its popular energy bars, but this chocolate recovery protein shake is an excellent addition to the brand’s repertoire. It’s designed to be consumed after exercise to aid recovery, providing a healthy dose of protein, carbs and sodium.
Despite Clif bars being predominantly plant-based, this protein drink is based around whey protein isolate and milk protein concentrate. Each 46 gram serving contains 160 calories, 10 grams of protein, 31 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of dietary fiber.
It’s a delicious recovery drink, though its high carb and sugar content wouldn’t be suitable for anyone trying to lose weight, and would be better suited to athletes looking to maintain their current weight.
Added leucine to support muscular recovery
Science in Sport (SIS) is a big name in the cycling nutrition game, and for good reason. Its products are specially formulated to help cyclists improve their performance and recover properly after high-intensity training. The SIS REGO recovery drink blends carbs, protein and electrolytes with added vitamins and minerals to create a post-workout shake that replenishes glycogen stores, rebuilds muscle and kick-starts a quick recovery.
It’s based around soy protein isolate, which contains all the essential amino acids, plus 2 grams of additional leucine, which supports muscular recovery. The powder is lactose-free, gluten-free, wheat-free and nut-free.
Available in Chocolate or Strawberry, each 50 gram serving contains 20 grams protein, 184 calories and 22 grams carbohydrates.
Supplemented with L-carnitine, L-tartrate, and more
MuscleTech’s Nitro-Tech Ripped protein powder delivers a huge 30 gram dose of whey protein per serving, alongside 170 calories and only 4 grams of carbs, making it an excellent choice for anyone trying to shed body fat and build muscle. Its key ingredient, named C. canephora robusta, has been shown in some scientific studies to help aid weight loss, while the protein powder contains no caffeine and is completely stimulant-free. It also contains L-carnitine, L-tartrate, kelp, rose hip extract and MCT oil powder.
Available in two flavors, French Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Fudge Brownie, it can be mixed with either water or milk and consumed up to an hour before your two largest meals of the day.
Added branched-chain amino acids for optimal muscle-building
Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard whey blend contains 24 grams of protein per 30 gram serving, making it an incredibly high-concentrate option, while being very low in sugar. It does however contain less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, so it’s important to consume fiber in your diet alongside using this product, and don’t rely on it for meal replacements.
The formula also contains over 5 grams of BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine and valine) to help with muscle building.
The Optimum Nutrition protein powder flavor list reads like a veritable menu, including Birthday Cake, Cake Donut, Double Rich Chocolate and Peppermint Mocha, among others. A great post-ride treat to keep around as a reward when you get home.
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