Fuelling with Protein and Fat – The Endurance Benefits
Now, sports nutrition scientists have recognised the downsides of sugar overload; as well as the advantages of protein and fat, for fuelling. Sugar is great at providing a quick hit of muscle fuel, but, that is exactly what it is: a quick-hit. Sugar creates spikes in your energy levels, and when your body is accustomed to the sugar-hits, it can struggle to perform without them.
Enter protein and fat fuelling. Fat is packed full of energy, which releases itself over a longer duration than sugar. Protein contains vital amino acids, which help to recover and rejuvenate muscles, as they work. An approach that considers these fuels for endurance sport, therefore seems logical and more sustainable.
Look at many pro-team nutrition strategies, and you will see that riders are increasingly using protein and fat, to fuel their riding. Jens Voigt tended (he is now retired) to have his first bottle of each race filled with whey, rather than fructose energy drink. Hannah Grant’s ‘Grand Tour Cookbook’ demonstrates how ride food contains more fat and protein now: like rice cakes made with coconut milk, or protein pancakes. The tendency is for riders to consider the longer term strategy with their nutrition; sugar might give you a five-minute flurry, but you can fuel on fat and protein, steadily, throughout a six-hour stage.
I personally made the switch to using more protein and fat for fuelling, after some blood testing (blog link) last year, which revealed I had low testosterone levels; a trait shared with many endurance athletes, including the likes of Chris Boardman. Whilst the root cause of this is still under investigation, one of the key immediate changes that I could make, was to reduce sugar in favour of protein and fat. Testosterone is produced directly from fat, and low T levels can lead to muscle mass loss, so it is vital to keep up protein intake.
I made the switch, and I am now choosing ride snacks such as protein bars and salted nuts, rather than gels and energy bars. I have notice a substantial change as a result.
On long rides this winter, my fuel levels have felt more stable, more constant and more consistent. My recovery has improved, too: due largely I expect, to the increased protein intake. I also no longer get those post-ride hunger extremes, which can result from low blood sugar at the end of a ride. For me, it seems to work very well.
MultiPower High Protein Product ReviewIn making the change to a lower sugar diet, I have considered carefully the nutritional products that I am using. Gone are the sugary energy drinks; replaced by electrolyte drinks and water. Gone are the high sugar bars, including cereal and some “protein” bars. Gone are the sugary recovery drinks.
Instead, I have started using products like those from MultiPower: a German brand with a real focus on quality. Their 50% Protein bars contain a whopping 50 grams of protein per bar, which will keep you fuelled on even a long winter ride. Their Formula 80 Protein Drink, provides a great balance of mixed protein types, as well as good fats, when mixed with semi-skimmed milk (as instructed).
Coupled with the impressive protein numbers, these products taste good. They also have minimal sugar content, and most importantly they feel like they are doing you good; far more so than the fluorescent coloured sucrose drinks, which previously ruled the bicyclist's bottle.
SummaryIf you are an endurance cyclist, or you experience poor recovery or energy spikes during training, then switching to protein and fat could be an interesting experiment, with potentially large benefits.
Consider saving the majority of carbs for race day, to give you that extra boost. Look to the longer term benefits of fat and protein, for the everyday sustainable nutrition strategy. Research suggests that it could help you to ride further, train harder and increase lean muscle mass; three objectives that are in most cyclists' desirables.
View the Multipower range at Multipower.com (Link)