Nutrition - Eating for Recovery

Recovery is as fundamental for progress, as the training time that you put in on the bike. One of the biggest parts of effective recovery is the food that you consume; both in the hours and days after a hard training session.

This blog post gives a few ideas on how to refuel and re-energise, immediately after training and racing. In further posts on Nutrition, I look at other aspects of effective fuelling; including breakfasts and evening meals.

Fast Protein and Glycogen

On finishing a hard ride, your muscles are fatigued, and your energy stores depleted. In order to start the recovery process as quickly as possible, you want to get protein and carbohydrate to them while the blood is still pumping, and your metabolism raised.

This means taking on between 15-25 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbohydrate within 25 mins of stopping. This can be a tough ask though, as all you may want to do is have a hot bath, wash your bike, or collapse on the sofa...

Below are a few effective ways of getting protein and carbohydrates into your system, fast.

Protein Shakes - A relatively expensive option, but effective. Protein shakes are a quick way of getting quality protein into your system.

Cycling specific brands are not always the best, and often fitness/body building brands produce something similar at a lower cost. For one of the easiest on the stomach, try Science in Sport REGO Recovery - it is easy to drink, not too sweet, and mixes well with water.

Protein Bars - Similar to a protein shake, but easier to transport. Protein bars come in a number of different forms, and with a wide range of ingredients. If you fancy something a bit alternative, try Fori Meat Protein Snacks.

If you do have a protein bar, remember to have a good drink with it as well. Our bodies are made of 70% water, which means our muscles need to be sufficiently hydrated to recover.

Homemade Shakes - These take a bit more time, but they are cheaper, tastier and just as effective. A full recipe for my own home-made recovery shake, which you can make in a blender in a few minutes, can be found here: Recipe: Homemade Recovery Shakes

Milk - Perhaps the simplest solution out there. A pint of dairy milk will contain similar amounts of protein as a protein shake, and is cheap and easy. If there was such thing as a "Super-Drink", it would be milk - it contains so many essential amino acids and vitamins, which are helpful to rebuilding our muscles. It has also been proved to be one of the most effective isotonic (rehydrating) fluids.

Protein Packed Lunches

For those that arrive back at home around mid-day, following a hard training session, then a protein-packed lunch can be a good substitute to a specific protein supplement.

Below are three cheap (student) ideas, for tasty and healthy protein rich lunches.

Poached Eggs on Toast - Simple, quick and easy. Eggs are another superfood, for sure. They contain some of the best protein there is, and are packed with nutrients and relatively low fat. The myth that eating lots of eggs raises your cholesterol level was proven wrong a few years back, as the cholesterol in eggs is in fact "good cholesterol". Wholegrain bread is a healthy carbohydrate choice.

Tuna Sandwiches - Tuna packs a serious protein punch - with over 30 grams in a standard tin. Mix it up with mayo and sweetcorn, and have it in a sandwich or with pasta.

Beans on Toast - A great source of protein, and with plenty of carbs, fibre and vitamins in there too. Beans on toast is a cheap, simple and tasty way of getting your lunchtime protein.

Homemade Hummus - Check out my recipe for 'Healthy Homemade Hummus' for a vegan protein hit.

It is simple really... once you get back from your ride, you need to eat something that is rich in protein, carbs and nutrients, to help your body start recovering as effectively and quickly as possible.

There are a number of ways of doing that, and they don't have to cost the earth. The consequence of not doing them though, can cost your cycling performance dearly. Recovery nutrition is key.


  1. I honestly didn't know that beans can be a rich source of protein. It's really awesome that I learned something new today just by reading your article. Great job!


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