Less than ten years ago, protein was considered to be an energy source while carbohydrates were considered to be the kings. Protein was seen as the easiest way to bulk up but as time would have it, protein is now recommended as a way to lose weight.
Nutritionists argue that increasing protein intake and lowering the intake of carbohydrates can help your lose weight.
You might be wondering how protein intake helps you as a cyclist. Well, protein is an essential component of the muscle protein synthesis which is the driving force credited for adaptive responses to exercises. It’s also crucial for recovery, which means that without proteins you might not reap the results expected from all the hard work you put in.
Protein is a valuable training tool but sometimes we find it hard to keep up with the body’s requirements and this is where protein powders come in. They are an easy option that you can conveniently carry around during your workout. And the best part is that you are not confined to one taste.
- Our Top picks for Best Protein Powder for Cyclists
- How you can tell the different types of protein apart?
- Choosing the Best Protein Powder for Cyclists
- Protein Powder Benefit for Cyclists
- What’s on the Protein Powder Label
Our Top picks for Best Protein Powder for Cyclists
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard-Unflavored
Optimum Nutrition is often seen as the industry standard for quality whey supplements. They have been around for ages and are the top choice for pro athletes especially IFBB pro bodybuilders. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is available in 20 different flavors which are all said to have a creamy taste and deliver reliable results.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard features whey protein isolate as its primary ingredient. Each serving constitutes of 24 grams of whey protein, 4 grams of glutamine and 5.5 grams of BCAAs. In addition, Optimum nutrition gold standard is gluten free.
To achieve the desired results, it is recommended that you consume the protein shake before or after hitting the trail to help kick start the muscle recovery process.
BSN SYNTHA-6 Whey Protein Powder
For more than a decade, BSN has been at the forefront of innovation. They are credited with creating new supplements and improving the already existing sports supplements. Their main aim is to create dynamic products that not only deliver results but also have no side effects on the athletes. This is especially true with the BSN SYNTHA-6 Whey protein powder.
It comprises of calcium caseinate, egg albumin, whey protein isolate, micellar casein, whey protein concentrate and milk protein isolate. In addition, SYNTHA-6 also contains essential fatty acids, essential amino acids and fiber. The manufacturer also claims that it’s the best tasting protein powder on the market.
SYNTHA-6 is the top choice for cyclists as it’s formulated to suit different diet plans and lifestyles. It’s the go-to protein powder for any time of the day whether it’s post workout, pre-workout, between meals, as a treat or a snack. Once consumed, SYNTHA -6 promotes recovery support as well as muscle protein synthesis.
Protein supplementation is the way to go for pro athletes as it’s crucial in repairing muscles that break down during workouts. It is also needed when building new muscles. Quality protein powders such as BSN SYNTHA-6 should be an essential part of your diet regimen.
Myprotein Impact Whey Protein Blend
Unlike regular folks, pro athletes such as cyclists have high protein requirements. Their bodies require high protein intake to facilitate the growth and maintenance of muscles. Consuming traditional sources of protein could work; however, they are not as efficient and fast acting as protein supplements.
There is a wide variety of protein supplements but if you are looking for the best protein powder for cyclists, then Myprotein Impact whey protein blend is the way to go. A single serving of Myprotein Impact contains 3.6 grams of glutamine, 4.5 grams of BCAAs, 21 grams of protein, 1 gram or carbohydrate and 1.9 grams of fat. Myprotein Impact has a remarkable nutritional profile and delivers exceptional results.
With this protein powder, you are assured that your muscles will get sufficient protein to facilitate growth and maintenance. It’s available in 50 flavors and should be consumed 30 minutes after a workout session. You can also consume it any time of the day to keep your protein levels high.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Micellar Casein Protein Powder
Optimum Nutrition has over 3 decades of experience in manufacturing sports supplements and each product they manufacture is a testament of their ability to keep the needs of the athletes first. Among its many products is Micellar Casein protein powder, a product that helps with weight management and supports muscle rebuilding.
Casein protein powders are different from other protein powders as they take longer to digest and absorb making them ideal for bedtime when your body is resting. Fast digesting proteins are recommended for pre and post workout to help refuel recovering muscles. On the other hand slow digesting protein work well when the body is resting as they deliver BCAAs to recovering muscles over a prolonged period.
A single serving of casein protein powder contains 24 grams of slow digesting protein, 5 grams of BCAAs and 5 grams of glutamine. It’s 100% gluten free.
Dymatize ISO 100 Whey Protein Powder Isolate
Dymatize ISO 100 is touted to be the best protein powder for cyclists. It’s formulated based on science and then put to test in research universities and professional training facilities. The results are then used to tweak the product thus ensuring that athletes get only the best there is. All ingredients used in the manufacturing process are tested and approved for use before being combined.
In simple terms, Dymatize ISO 100 is a muscle-building fuel. It’s formulated using a purification process that retains vital muscle-building proteins while filtering out any excess cholesterol, carbohydrates, lactose and fat. A single serving of ISO 100 comprises of 5.5 grams of BCAAs, 1 gram of sugar, 2.7 grams of L-Leucine and 25 grams of protein.
ISO 100 is available in a variety of flavors and contains pre-hydrolyzed protein to facilitate for fast digestion and absorption. L-leucine is responsible for the activation of protein synthesis while BCAAs aid in recovery and building muscle memory.
How you can tell the different types of protein apart?
The main ingredients are a good place to start! The protein in protein powder supplements mainly comes from milk, soy, egg whites and rice:
Whey is a by-product of cheese making and no doubt the most widely used ingredient in protein powder supplements. Whey proteins are full of Essential Amino Acids and Branch-Chain Amino Acids, both of which are responsible for helping your muscles repair and regenerate after working out. Whey proteins are available as:
• Whey Protein CONCENTRATE ( the most basic)
• Whey Protein ISOLATE ( much of the fat and lactose are removed)
• HYDROLYZED Whey which has been broken down or “pre-digested” so that it can be absorbed into the body much faster.
Typically whey protein powder concentrates are cheaper to buy as they haven’t been put through expensive refining processes. Additionally some people find that Whey Protein Concentrates leave them feeling bloated and gassy, which is due to the larger, less processed protein molecules being more difficult for your body to absorb.
Whey protein powder isolates and hydrolysed whey protein are purer and cost a bit more.
Casein is another dairy by-product and one of the major protein types found in both human and cow’s milk. Casein protein is a slow releasing protein compared to whey protein and is most often used blended with other proteins or as a night-time/before-bed protein shake. It’s ideal for seeing your muscles through the long night of fasting when you’re asleep or when you’re expecting to not eat for more than a couple of hours throughout the day.
Egg White Proteins
Once upon time eggs were the main source of quick and easy protein for athletes and body builders. Those days are over; however the humble egg protein lives on as an excellent source of Essential Amino Acids as well as being rich in vitamins. Egg protein powders are naturally dairy-free for those who are lactose intolerant and unable to use dairy-based products like casein and whey.
Soy and Rice Proteins
Both of these protein types are great for vegetarians, vegans and those who are lactose intolerant. Soy is often used as a meat substitute (tofu), has a high protein concentration and is also full of vitamins and minerals.
Most trainers believe that you’re best to spread your daily protein intake across 4 to 6 meals. It’s good for your metabolism and helps your body efficiently absorb it.
It’s all about keeping yourself stocked with the protein including Branch Chain Amino Acids and the other essential amino acids that are the building blocks of your muscles and their development. This being said the best times for your protein shakes are:
When you first wake up and haven’t eaten for 8 hours or so. Quickly absorbed whey protein powders are best.
Pre-Workout (around an hour prior)
So that your body is stocked with BCAA’s ready to give you the pump that you’re training hard for! Fast acting, easily digested, whey-based proteins contain whey protein isolates and hydrolytes are best.
Post-Workout (up to an hour after)
When you need it the most! Post-work out protein powders are often higher in carbohydrate to replace the energy your body has depleted while working out. Without this your body may start breaking down the protein of which your muscles are made for continued energy.
Along with Glutamine and the other Essential and Branch Chain Amino Acids contained in good post-workout protein powders, your muscles will have all the ingredients they need to regenerate and grow.
Obviously your body needs to restock as quickly as possible so it’s important that your post-work out protein powder is fast acting. Once again fast acting easily digested, whey-based proteins contain whey protein isolates and hydrolytes will work best for you.
Your body is about to go into fasting mode! So if you’re serious about gaining muscle you should prepare for it. Casein protein which is slower releasing will see your muscles provided with all of the amino acids they need to get through the night.
Cutting back on fats and simple carbohydrates are important for weight loss. A great way to replace them as (unhealthy) snacks and feel satisfied between meals is have protein shake! You’ll keep your muscles primed too. There are some protein powders that contain added fibre to increase your feeling of fullness.
Choosing the Best Protein Powder for Cyclists
Recreational athletes require 0.8 – 1 gram of protein per kg of bodyweight. However, if you are a pro-athlete you require a little bit more protein to aid in recovery, repair and muscle building.
It’s advisable that you consult a performance nutritionist who will tailor your protein requirements according to your training schedule and end goal. You want a protein powder whose ingredients align with your goals whether it’s slow rebuild or quick recovery.
For quick recovery it is advisable that you opt for whey protein powders as they are easily digested and absorbed. Whey is fast acting and once digested it releases amino acids for muscle recovery. It also contains a high amount of Leucine- an amino acid responsible for boosting performance and recovery.
Whey makes up 20 % of milk protein while casein fills up the reaming 80%. Unlike whey, casein takes forever to absorb. Some take as much as 8 hours to absorb. This means if you are looking for quick recovery then you should take a supplement that contains whey. However, the two work better when combined.
For a quick recovery consume whey as your post workout supplement and reserve casein for your overnight recovery.
After milk-based proteins, plants proteins are the next best thing. They help with muscle recovery and immune function. The only downside is that plant proteins have strong flavors which are masked with natural or artificial sweeteners.
Protein Powder Benefit for Cyclists
Protein powders are a great supplement to help you lose weight in a natural, safe way. They provide important amino acids and help to keep your immune system strong.
Protein – The Bricks of Life
The basic components of the food we eat are proteins, carbohydrates and fat. Obviously minimizing the ingestion of fat is the first thing we need to do when considering weight loss.
However carbohydrates also have a tricky way of being transformed, through complex metabolic processes, into fatty substances. So they can also lead to weight gain. The only substances that are extremely hard to transform into fat are proteins!
Proteins usually don’t have an energetic value, but rather a structural value. What does that mean? Well, think about a wood burning fireplace. The wood that burns are the fatty substances and carbohydrate
es, while the proteins are the bricks of the fireplace. When starting a weight loss diet people often inadvertently cut the amount of protein they eat when it’s not the proteins that lead to weight gain (unless we are talking about positive gains in lean muscle mass).
Additionally, proteins have a stimulative effect on the metabolism. Eating high-protein foods increases the speed of chemical reactions in the body by about 20 to 30 percent (Journal of the American College of Nutrition), leading to the increased burning of fat.
Fat and carbs certainly don’t do this! Using lean protein powder is a great way to kick-start your metabolism and speed up the burning of kilojoules.
When you’re training hard muscles need a constant supply of amino acids, which are the primary constituents of proteins. Amino acids help repair the muscles after moderate to intense exercise and without these amino acids you may “burn” muscle tissue along with fat. Weight loss diets usually don’t provide the necessary amount of protein, which may lead to muscle catabolism (break down).
Protein Powder Fat Burning Additives
Some protein powders also contain metabolic-enhancing and fat-burning additives. L-Carnitine is a molecule naturally found in the human body that transports fatty substances to the place of their burning. It promotes weight loss through more effective fat degradation.
Caffeine is a substance that increases the overall intensity of chemical reactions in the human body, making it more alert as well as boosting the metabolism. Hydroxycitric Acid (which you may know as Hydroxycut) is also an effective fat-burning additive that may be found in some protein powders designed specifically for weight loss.
It also inhibits the metabolism of carbohydrates. Other commonly used, metabolic enhancing and fat-burning ingredients include Green Tea extract, Guarana (caffeine) and Forskolin (extracted from the Coleus Forskohlii plant). Chromium is another interesting, often-used additive that helps to manage carbohydrate metabolism and reduces the need to snack between meals. Choline and Inositol can assist in fat metabolism and energy production.
SO! Using protein powder is a great way to boost your metabolism, increase your energy levels and keep your muscles in great shape while undergoing your weight losing regime. However, a high-protein diet that includes lean meat, fish, egg whites, turkey and chicken are also essential for you to achieve your weight loss and overall health goals. You shouldn’t rely on protein powder as being your primary source of protein. You should also eat enough fruits and vegetables to provide a constant supply of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Reduce calorie intake
Increasing your protein intake could significantly reduce the amount calories consumed. For example, adding proteins such as unsalted nuts to your snack or meal could take the edge of your appetite. Consuming more proteins with a snack triggers the body to release more hormones which signal your mind that you are full.
This takes your mind off the next meal. It’s a trick that could help control your appetite. You see, once you start thinking of food, an orange will turn into a banana and then into a cookie. The next thing you know you’ve cleared half a shelf. The feeling of fullness could help control this. Simply combine a protein source with a carbohydrate.
Studies show that consuming 10-20 grams of protein could potentially reduce calorie intake in subsequent meals by 60-120 calories without feeling hungry.
Builds and repairs muscles
Protein is an essential dietary requirement for every athlete especially if you adhere to your strict training schedule. Every time you hit the gym or your favorite trails, your muscles are always on the blunt end of your training. They break down thus require repair and recovery time. Protein intake either through traditional sources or supplementation aids in recovery and repair of your muscles.
Protein also helps your body respond and adapt to the training. Unlike glucose, your body cannot manufacture its own protein from other sources which means if you want your body to keep up with the training you have to keep refueling. If you don’t, your body will begin to break down muscles to satisfy its amino acids requirements.
What’s on the Protein Powder Label
Acesulfame Potassium (k)
Acesulfame potassium is an artificial sweetner. It contains no calories/joules and is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. It is often blended with other sweeteners to create a more natural, sugar-like taste.
Alpha-lactalbumin is the main protein in human milk and human milk whey protein. It is rich in conditionally essential and essential amino acids. It has also been found to have immune-system boosting properties which are important for athletes whose immune systems may become suppressed due to rigorous and prolonged physical activity.
Aminogen is intended to boost amino acid levels and improve nitrogen retention. It is often used in protein supplements for these reasons.
Beta (bovine)-lactoglobulin is the whey protein found in sheep and cow milk and therefore prominent in most whey protein supplements.
Branch Chain Amino Acids
Many trainers and bodybuilders now believe that consuming more BCAA’s is better for increasing lean muscle mass. Your body breaks protein down into BCAA’s which are then absorbed directly into your muscles, assisting them to regenerate, heal and grow after working out. Your muscle tissues are actually made of protein! It’s therefore assumed that consuming additional BCAA’s will help your muscles to recover and build faster. Other research has indicated that BCAA’s may increase your strength and energy levels. For more information about BCAA’s click HERE.
Bromelain is extracted from the stems of pineapples. It is a mixture of protein digesting enzymes that when added to protein powder assists with the breakdown and digestion of protein.
Carrageenan is a food additive used as a thickener and stabilizer. Stabilizers prevent different substances from reacting with each other. Thickeners increase the viscosity of a liquid.
Choline Bitatrate is grouped with the B-Complex vitamins. It’s a pre-cursor to some neurotransmitters for the memory. It’s important for maintaining healthy cell membranes. It also functions as a carb blocker by slowing the conversion of carbohydrates to fats.
Chromium is needed by the body in very small quantities. Research indicates that it may help to reduce carbohydrate cravings and it’s been promoted as assisting with weight loss and muscle gain. Interestingly some studies show that chromium picolinate has no affect on weight loss or muscle gain.
Coleus Forskohlii is mainly used as a fat burner. It comes from a plant which is in the same family as mint and lavender.
Research about all of its properties is still underway and being published, however it supposedly causes the body to release different types of enzymes that result in fat being burned. It is also meant to stimulate the thyroid into producing more metabolic quickening hormones. It does this without blood pressure raising side effects.
Colostrum is the milk produced by mammals when they’re almost ready to give birth. It contains nutrients in the form of antibodies (also referred to immunoglobulin) that boost the immune systems of the baby. It has more protein than cow’s milk protein that ordinary whey comes from (and less fat) and is designed to give the newborn a real kick-start for the first part of its life.
Because babies have such an undeveloped digestive system, colostrum deliver more nutrients in less quantity of liquid. When included in protein powder, colostrum is believed to have immune system boosting properties as well providing digestive system assistance. It’s also believed to decrease muscle recovery time and to fend off fatigue.
You will often see Creatine Monohydrate added to protein powders. It’s a natural component of skeletal muscle. Creatine is said to reduce your recovery time and feelings of fatigue when you’re nearing the end of your set. It can also improve your overall endurance and keep you looking pumped-up by hydrating your muscles.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)
Essential Fatty Acids are fats that must be consumed because the human body cannot make them. In this way they are like Essential Amino Acids (EAA’s). The 2 known essential fatty acids are alpha-linoleic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acids (omega-6). Essential fatty acids are known to impact inflammation of muscles, affect mood and cellular signalling. They can naturally be found in sunflower and pumpkin seeds, soya and hemp oil, flaxseed, fish and shellfish. It is often included in Gain Mass protein powders.
See Hydroxycitric Acid.
Flavones are found naturally in celery, parsley, citrus peels and some other herbs and cereals. They are supposedly beneficial in the treatment and prevention of atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, diabetes and some cancers. Flavones found in soy protein.
Green Tea Extract
Green tea extract has several benefits, these being its anti-oxidant properties and fat burning qualities. It is thought to burn fat by increasing the amount of calorie consuming functions within the body (i.e. our metabolic rate) . “Anti-oxidant” refers to cell deterioration.
Guarana is a stimulant and contains about twice the caffeine found in coffee. It therefore sharpens the memory, mood and alertness, as well as increasing the metabolism and speed at which fat is converted into energy.
Glucuronolactone is a precursor to ascorbic acid synthesis. It’s often used in energy drinks.
Glutathione is a tri-peptide (see Peptide). It’s a non –essential nutrient (meaning the body can create it and it needn’t come from food) . Created from the amino acids L-Cysteine, L-Glutamic Acid and Glycine, it’s an antioxidant that has immune boosting properties and helps to protect the body from oxidative exercise stress. This can have a negative impact on training and muscle gain. It also effects regulation of nitric oxide.
Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA)
Hydroxycitric Acid comes from the Garcinia Cambogia plant and is most commonly used in weight loss supplements to inhibit the digestion of carbohydrates. This makes them more likely to pass straight through you without being broken down into sugars and then fat if not burned as energy/fuel. Hydroxycitric Acid is also therefore known as a Carb Blocker. It can also function as an appetite suppressant.
An immunoglobulin is also known as an antibody. It’s a protein used by your body’s immune system to fight the bacterial and viral nasties. It’s occurs in high concentrations in colostrum.
Inositol is purported to boost mood, focus and mental clarity. It’s known as a “liptotropic” which converts fat into energy. It’s also thought to be a “signalling” molecule which carries messages between cells in the body and helps to regulate the metabolism.
Inulin is a dietary fibre that has a food energy similar to that of a carbohydrate, however it has a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. It can assist with the growth of intestinal bacteria (like yoghurt) and promotes calcium absorption. It can have either a mildly sweet or bland flavour which makes it a versatile additive in processed foods.
L-Glutamine is important for post-workout muscle recovery and can reduce muscle soreness. It’s one of the essential amino acids and it becomes depleted when training hard. It’s believed that L-Glutamine supplementation will help to prevent muscle catabolism (breakdown).
L-Carnitine is most frequently used as a weight loss supplement. It supposedly works by transporting fat to the parts of the body where it is burned as energy.
Lactoferrin is a protein found in colostrum as well as human and cow’s milk. It’s also found in saliva, tears and mucos and has an antibacterial function, therefore contributing to the effectiveness of the immune system.
Lecithin is often used as an emulsifier in foods. An emulsifier is a substance which facilitates the blending of substances that wouldn’t usually blend. Lecithin is non-toxic and occurs naturally in soy from where it is often extracted. So it’s a blending agent when used in your protein powder.
Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate which is formed by partially hydrolysing starch. Hydrolysation is a process whereby a substance is “pre-digested” by the application of the kinds enzymes found in your gut. Maltodextrin is therefore a very fast absorbing carbohydrate which will increase your energy levels (important after training to ensure that your muscles have the energy to repair and grow).
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s)
Medium Chain Triglycerides are believed to be a good source of energy that the body finds easy to absorb and use. Coconut oil is rich in MCT’s as is palm kernel oil and butter. Medium Chain Triglycerides are also known as Medium Chain Fatty acids. There is limited evidence that MCT’s may also have fat-burning properties. So they’re generally intended to be an energy source when included in protein powders.
Nitric Oxide is believed to increase blood flow. It can boost the delivery of nutrients, oxygen and hormones when you’re training. It is added to some protein powder supplements to help your body prepare for its workout and help to speed up the recovery process.
Good old egg white protein! Ovalbumin makes up about 60-65% of the protein found in an egg.
Papain as the name suggests comes from the papaya plant. It’s an enzyme that breaks down proteins by hydrolysis. You may hear hydrolysis referred to as being “pre-digested”, particularly with reference to Hydrolysed Whey Protein. Papain assists with the protein digestion process when added to protein powder.
Peptides are clusters of amino acids linked together by a bond or “glue” referred to as a “peptide bond”. The smallest ones are “dipeptides” (di meaning 2) which are made up of 2 amino acids, with the biggest ones referred to as a “polypeptide” (poly meaning many). A protein is a long string of multiple polypeptides. So if you hear of peptides being extracted using filtration processes like “cold micro” or “ultrafiltration” it means that the resulting protein powder contains smaller protein particles capable of being absorbed quickly and more efficiently by your body.
Phaseolamin is extracted from white kidney beans and is a “carb blocker”. It works by delaying the absorption of starch. Phaseolamin is sometimes added to weight loss protein powders.
Schisandrea Chinensis is found in parts of China, Russia and Korea and is a woody vine with red berries. The fruit is used for medicinal purposes and in some supplements and protein powders. Studies have purportedly shown that Schisandrea Chinensis can improve concentration and attention as well enhancing hearing and vision.
Taurine is essential for the development of skeletal muscle, cardiovascular functioning and the nervous system. It occurs naturally in seafood and meat and is a major component of stomach bile. It is often used in energy drinks. It’s often called an amino acid even though it’s not a true amino, rather a derivative of cysteine.
Tocopherol is a natural antioxidant which is used to preserve the flavour of foods and of course the ingredients in your protein powder, the freshness of which deteriorates due to oxidization.
Undenatured Whey Protein
Undenatured whey protein is different from denatured whey protein due to the way it has been processed. Undenatured whey protein is manufactured by filtering the whey at low temperatures so that the lactoferroin and immunoglobulins (defined earlier in this section) are preserved, rather than losing much of their biological value. Denaturing can result from exposure to salt, heat and radiation, solvents and acids (used in processing treatments).
A food additive used as a thickener and stabilizer (increases viscosity and prevents ingredients from separating). It’s also used to create a nice consistency and texture (ice cream). It’s often used as a gluten alternative in baked products.