Protein is the building block of muscles, so diets rich in protein are important for cyclists and other athletes. One great way to be sure you are consuming enough protein is to start your day off with a high protein breakfast. There are a number of different breakfast choices you can make to fulfill your protein requirements, from traditional breakfast fare to on-the-go quick and easy options.
When we think of energy, we generally focus on carbohydrates. Carbs offer quick energy that your body needs to function and is your body’s preferred fuel source. But when it comes to repair and growth of muscles, protein is critical. Protein also offers a good source of long-term energy. When we ride, our muscles break down from use. It gives our blood sugar a solid boost and, unlike carbs and sugars, it won't raise it too high. Instead, protein provides a slow release of energy that is crucial for road cycling.
Feel that burn when you’re hitting a serious climb or speeding to catch up with a friend? How about some soreness the day after a long ride? We all experience those sensations – and they are clear signs our muscles need repair. When we exercise, especially at high levels of performance, our muscles break down. Our body requires protein in order to repair and build those muscles back up.
Think all you need before a long ride is some carbs? Think again! Although it’s true that your body depends on carbs for energy, during long rides, especially after 90 minutes or more, your body begins to metabolize lean muscle tissue. This process, called gluconeogenesis, can result in cannibalization of your own muscle tissue. You can minimize this problem by consuming a high protein meal before you ride.
Athletes often consume protein in the form of soy or whey protein shakes or bars. But these alternative proteins can be costly and do not offer the kind of satisfaction you can get from a meal. Consuming a high protein breakfast before your morning ride can provide ample energy even during a stringent workout. High protein breakfast foods like eggs, bacon, sausage, peanut butter, and milk all provide high levels of protein.
Another great option is to consume a high protein breakfast after you ride. This is a great time to feed your muscles and encourage your body to repair any damage inflicted during your ride. Remember, too, that a breakfast with proteins and whole grains will keep you feeling satisfied (and less likely to snack) throughout the day.
Healthy proteins, like meat and dairy, may represent the best protein for cyclists. The combine protein with healthy fats, and that protein and fat combination burns slowly to fuel your body over a long period of time. These natural sources provide ample levels of essential amino acids, specifically leucine. One study indicated that increased levels of leucine facilitate an increase in strength and a decrease in levels of muscle damage. Cheese, beef, chicken, and pork are some of the best sources of leucine, so don’t be afraid to eat a hearty lumberjack’s breakfast.
Professional cyclists often select a breakfast before cycling that maximizes energy from carbs as well as the benefits of protein. One great choice is whole grain oatmeal with scrambled eggs or an omelet. Another option is a bagel sandwich made with a fried egg, cheddar cheese, and bacon strips. These choices provide enough carbs for a rapid energy boost and an ample bang of protein to help support long rides and allow your body to repair damaged muscle tissue.
When it comes to choosing the best cycling breakfast, you should focus on grazing or eating small amounts of a number of different foods instead of gorging on one option. A huge stack of pancakes and syrup may seem appealing, but after that initial energy boost, you may hit a slump. A pancake with peanut butter, a scrambled egg, and a cheese stick, however, would boost your energy without leading to a sugar slump or leave you feeling like you have a watermelon in your belly.
Whatever your protein cycling diet choices, be sure that you take a snack or two along for the ride. We all have hit the wall or bonked during a challenging ride – and one of the best ways to recover is to eat a snack. Gels, bars, and protein shakes say they provide “optimum” levels of nutrition, but in my experience, the rapid boost in energy is often followed by a slump shortly after consuming them. Real food choices like hard boiled eggs, cheese, nuts and seeds, or bananas provides calories and energy that are stable and long-lasting. When it comes down to it, the best protein for cyclists is the one that you will eat and enjoy.
At Kass & Moses, we work hard to defend the rights of injured cyclists because we ride, too. We understand that after a bicycle crash, you just want to recover and resume living, but often, injuries stand in your way. We work aggressively to help cyclists recover from the financial burdens they have suffered. If you have questions about a bicycle crash or injuries, contact the team at Kass & Moses to learn more today.