Post-Training Nutritional Tips for Cyclists

This article is a guest post from Shim Ravalia who studies a master in sports rehabilitation at the University of Kent (Gillingham, Medway).

In this article she outlines the current knowledge on how we can optimize our recovery by choosing the right recovery drink after training.

If cyclists do not recover properly straight after exercise there is no point to their training. Without the proper nutrients to refuel the body such as Carbohydrates and proteins, the performance of the individual will drop.

Timing is absolutely important because the muscle cells in the body are highly insulin receptive after exercise. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the level of glucose. Insulin is in charge of transporting glucose and the essential amino acids to the cells. This speed up muscle repairs and reduces the breakdown of protein.

It is best to consume a recovery drink 30 to 45 minutes straight after exercise. If this window of opportunity to recover is missed then the muscles will no longer be insulin receptive.

Depending on the intensity of training, cyclists should be aware of the types of recovery drinks to consume. Working in the gym environment, I often see many people just pick a bottle of drink after exercise without looking at the contents of the beverage.

Some drinks contain too much sugar which can be distressful for the gut to absorb quickly.

Below are the some examples of the types of drinks:

  1. Cyclists who perform low to moderate intensity training, they should
    consume Carbohydrates and Proteins on a ratio of 2:1 (Carbs:PRO).
    For example: approximately 450ml – 600ml of semi skimmed milk with 1 tablespoon of syrup or powder (any flavour). This should contain up to 25g of Protein; up to 48g of Carbohydrates and up to 1g of fat.
  2. Cyclists who undergo moderate to high intensity training, they should consume Carbohydrates and Proteins on a 3:1 ratio (Carbs:PRO).
    For example: 350ml to 600ml of chocolate milk which contains approximately up to14 g of Protein and 35g of Carbohydrates. You can also buy ‘ready to drink’ milk based drinks which contain more Carbohydrates for higher intensity training such as Goodness Shakes, Nestle’s Nesquik.

Remember, the higher the intensity of your training, the more carbohydrates and proteins your body needs. Therefore, the amount and contents of your recovery drink should relate to this. There shouldn’t be an excuse not to recover properly. Cyclists who are lactose intolerant or does not like cow’s milk, soy milk is also an option as a recovery drink.

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11 comments… add one

  • Getting a post-exercise drink is extremely important and it’s actually an opportunity to use legal doping since you benefit from the insulin boost you get when you drink both carbohydrates and proteins. Insulin is an anabolic hormone that helps you rebuild glycogen stores and muscles after training sessions. If you don’t get energy immediately after exercise then you maintain the catabolic status.

  • James

    confused why you state “the higher the intensity of your training, the more carbohydrates and proteins your body needs.” but in your example an athlete performing low to moderate intensity training is recommended more CHO and protein than an athlete performing moderate to high intensity training

  • Ross

    Most literature that I read suggest some carbohydrate:protein mix for a recovery drink. But we also know that carbohydrates are digested in an alkali environment starting with the saliva in your mouth. While protein is digested in an acidic environment starting in your stomach. Eating these two together would supposedly prohibit your ability to digest the carbohydrates. So with this in mind perhaps it would be better to consume only carbohydrates first, then protein in, say the second hour after training.
    Just a theory.

  • James

    I’m pretty confident the scientific process has shown time and time again there is no validity to that theory or any notion that one cannot absorb carbohydrates and protein when ingested together. In fact, the body of scientific evidence shows that cumulatively the 2 nutrients appear to help raise insulin to higher levels when consumed together than when carbohydrates are consumed alone. If the carbs were not being absorbed we would expect to see a substantial decrease in insulin when protein is added according to your theory not an increase. Let me ask – according to your theory where do you hypothesize the carbohydrates go?

  • Ross

    Thank you James,
    Bad theory. I just couldn’t understand the mechanisms involved. I would have thought that by digesting the two together would have slowed the uptake of carbohydrate. But all the studies I have read show that it enhances it.
    Ross

  • Baljeet Degun

    Many of us are lactose intolerant: if you burp, fart or experience an unsettled stomach, this could be the reason. But my point is that lactose-free milk is readily available in plain or choc-milk format. I say this because I tried soy milk once, and it makes me very lethargic. My body hates the stuff.

    It’s important to experiment and see what works best for your body…

  • Anyone done any research on peanuts as recovery food? I’m in training for the Tour de Timor 2010 – and after 5hrs riding in tropical heat I get massive cravings for salted peanuts. I down handfuls of them and a bottle or two of mizone. Never tried choco-milk tho, must look into that …..

  • James

    never seen any research on peanuts as a recovery food per se. likely you’re needing the salt more than anything but peanuts will also provide a little protein but be inadequate in carbohydrates for effective recovery from a 5 hr ride but suppose you’re getting those in Mizone

  • One question here……I have Type 2 Diabetes that I control solely with diet and excercise, but to do so I eat a low carb diet as too many carbs spike my blood glucose to unacceptably high levels.

    So after moderate training, should I be taking a 2:1 carb:protein drink as suggested? Presumably the muscles need the carbs at this point and should be more easily able to absorb them?

    At the end of the day, I guess it will be a “try it and see” scenario, but I’d be interested in any advise.

  • Heather

    Nestle’s Nesquik? You got to be nuts. My post recovery drink:
    6 ounces water
    banana
    pinneaple
    stawberries
    blueberries
    scoop of hemp protien
    tsp of raw unrifined, unfiltered honey
    Blend for 30 sec

  • Peter Adeyemi

    Coach! Thanks for this tips. sir! is it advisable to be taking sweet drinks after Training.

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