Cycling Nutrition 101: Part 3
In part 1 of Cycling Nutrition 101 I talked about the importance of having fats in your diet. In part 2, I talked about the importance of having complex carbohydrates in your diet. For part 3 in my series of cycling nutrition articles I will talk about a part of your diet that you are probably already fulfilling, and then some.
If you ask most athletes what the most important part of their diet is, they will most likely tell you it is protein. Athletes are bombarded with products that contain protein. We get protein in energy bars, sports drinks, and protein powders. We have continually been told that the way to gain muscle mass is by sucking down as much protein as we can.
Protein is a part of muscles, bone, hormones, antibodies, and enzymes, and makes up about 45% of the human body. It is, without a doubt, an incredibly important part of anyone’s diet, but the amount of protein that we need is far less than most people believe.
Figuring out how much protein you should take in daily is pretty easy to do. The amount of recommended protein intake will vary from person to person. All you need to do is take your current weight and multiply it by the number associated with descriptor that best describes you below:
- Sedentary Adult (0.4)
- Active Adult (0.4-0.6)
- Training Athlete (0.6-0.9)
- Adult Building Muscle Mass (0.6-0.9)
As an example, if you an adult cyclist who is actively training and want the maximum but acceptable amount of protein daily (0.9 x 160) than you can take in around 144 grams of protein a day. This number may seem high, but this is a lot easier achieved than you might think. If you start your day with a couple eggs, and a piece of toast; a deli meat sandwich for lunch; an 8 ounce piece of chicken, and vegetables for dinner, and a couple glasses of milk during the day; you will have taken in at least 140 grams of protein. Now, keep in mind this is the amount of protein that an adult who is lifting weights to build muscle mass should intake. I think it is a much more reasonable amount of protein intake is about 0.6 grams per pound of body mass, or less than 100 grams for a 160 pound adult.
My point is that supplements and energy bars are entirely useless. You can safely get more than enough protein to fill your daily requirements without much change to your current diet.
Supplements also lack other important nutrients found in meats and grains, such as iron, zinc, B-vitamins, and calcium. While eating a half pound burger will get you about 50 grams of protein, you also have to keep parts 1 and 2 of Cycling Nutrition 101 in mind. Healthy sources of protein include most types of fish (especially salmon), black beans, peanuts or almonds, milk or soymilk, and eggs.
The bottom line is, don’t focus too much on protein. Remember all three important parts of a healthy diet, because they all play an important role in creating energy, building muscle, and helping to prevent injury.
I have now broken down each of the three most important parts of a cyclist’s diet. In part 4 of Cycling Nutrition 101, I will put it all together for you and build a meal plan to help improve your energy and endurance.