Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of your muscles.
There are lots of great reasons to increase the proportion of protein in your diet when you’re trying to lose weight.
Firstly, protein takes longer to digest in our gut, so it makes us feel fuller for longer.
Try it yourself, instead of that bag of crisps or chocolatey bar, try snacking on some nuts, like almonds. They have a high protein content and will leave you way more satisfied than that bag of crisps. Crisps and chocolate will just make you crave more crisps and chocolate! No good!
I see this all the time in my workplace. There’s a communal sweety tin that some staff top up regularly. You see the same colleagues hovering at the tin about the same time each day, choosing what to have. You can guarantee that within a half an hour, they’ll be back for more, repeatedly for the rest of the day. They’ve just boarded the roller coaster.
Secondly, protein aids your recovery after a ride by helping your muscles to repair and build.
They cannot do this effectively without protein.
There are all kinds of protein shakes on the market to assist with weight loss, as meal substitutes. Some people find them useful in terms of strictly quantifying their calorie intake, and not having to bother counting the calories of real food. But most of us, I’m guessing, enjoy the variety of tastes and textures of real food.
One exception I find helpful, is to use a high protein recovery drink after a long ride.
Two reasons to use Protein Recovery drinks after a long ride
- Your muscles will recover more quickly and help prevent aches and pains. If you’re going to be riding again soon, it probably helps prevent over training and possible injury. The protein in these products is extremely pure and you know exactly how much you’re getting in one “dose”.
- You will feel very satiated (full) after a protein drink, and this means you’re much less likely to want to snack on junk food. You simply won’t feel hungry. How many times have you completed a ride, burned off several hundred calories, only to eat just as many (or more) on your return to the kitchen? Protein shakes can help with that!
Protein as a fuel?
The body mainly uses the energy from carbohydrates and fats as fuel for all the things you need to do. As mentioned already, protein is mainly a source of amino acids for rebuilding muscle. The body is able to switch to using protein as fuel, but this only happens when carbs and fat stores are getting low.
Carbs and fats are stored up in the body – carbs as glycogen in the liver and muscles, and fats, well, everywhere!
Proteins are not stored up at all, and you can only absorb a certain amount at one time, so you need to eat small amounts regularly.
It’s no use taking too much protein in one go, hoping that you will store it up for later, because you can’t store the excess. (Although some proteins, like Casein, can be considered “slow-release” – they take longer to break down and be absorbed.)
Conversely, if you don’t consume enough protein, your body will start to break down your own muscles to maintain amino acid levels. As a cyclist, you don’t want that! Let’s build lean muscle and shed the fat!
The bottom line on Protein
Eating more makes sense:
- When you eat more protein, you will feel fuller for longer.
- You won’t have hunger cravings.
- You will have consumed less carbohydrate, which means the body switches to burning fat for energy.
How to eat more protein
- Eat nuts as snacks (not salted or coated ones!)
- Eat lean meats, like chicken and fish, eggs, prawns, tofu.
- Seeds and pulses also contain lots of protein too.
- Consider protein recovery shakes (check out that free sample from TheProteinWorks)