A well-known cycling coach used to say that recovery is probably the most important factor (and also the most ignored one) for the progress of all cyclists. Those of us who are into the sport know how tough cycling can be.
Competitive cyclists are by nature very determined and used to suffering. Indeed, pain is a necessary stage of competitive cycling. Whoever tells you otherwise is lying. You will have to go through a lot of suffering if you want to be able to overcome your limits and personal records.
However, it is also true that a proper recovery plan can make things a lot easier. Every committed cyclist should regard recovery as important as the training itself. Remember, every time you train or compete you are literally destroying muscle tissue. Every time your muscle fibres regenerate they come back stronger than before, allowing you to do better in your next race.
The importance of nutrition for cycling recovery
Nutrition is a very important part of the recovery process. Our body needs the right amount of nutrients in the right time to get back in the game. Many people among the cycling community still believe that carbohydrates are all the body needs to recover properly. Well, this isn’t true.
Recent research questions the efficiency of carbohydrate-only recovery drinks. Having a recovery drink containing fast-acting carbohydrates will help replenish glycogen levels in the muscles. This is as clear as day. The question we must ask is: are carbohydrates alone enough to help a cyclist come back stronger?
The protein-carbohydrate combo
According to recent research, combining carbohydrates and protein in a single shake has higher effect on muscle recovery than a carbohydrate drink alone. Carbohydrates don’t repair muscle, protein does. Besides, a protein-carbohydrate recovery drink also reduces cortisol, which is a hormone that destroys muscle and so can impair athletic performance.
Scientists at James Madison University in Virginia, have found that cyclists who were given a gel containing both carbohydrates and protein improved endurance capacity as well as had less muscle pain compared to those who only had a carbohydrate gel. The study was published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.
Another study published in the same scientific journal has found similar results. Nine trained cyclists exercised on 3 separate occasions at different exercise intensities. Researchers found that coingestion of protein and carbohydrate during exercise demonstrated an ergogenic effect on endurance performance to a great extent than carbohydrates alone.
These two studies confirmed that consuming a gel or sports drink with both carbohydrates and protein during and after exercise is a better strategy to boost the body’s ability to recover than just relying on carbohydrates for it.
How to put recovery drinks into practice
You can either prepare your own protein-carbohydrate drink or have a bar or gel already containing these two nutrients.
If you go for the first option, make sure your drink contains a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. This means that for every 20 grams of carbohydrates you should add in 5 grams of protein. It is better to add in free amino acids as they won’t have to go through the breaking process and therefore will be absorbed faster.
If you go for the second option, you can find several suitable products at ProBikeKit.
For our full range of recovery products, look here!