There are so many different types of protein powders available out there for you and your fellow mountain bikers, and it’s challenging to know which to buy. Whey, casein, and plant proteins are the three most common options available.
What is protein?
Protein is a crucial macronutrient used by our bodies to build cellular structures. As athletes, we most often think of protein and its role in repairing our muscles. Protein takes longer for the body to break down, making it a slower and longer-lasting energy source than carbohydrates.
Athletes usually meet their daily protein goals through food (remember about 1.2 – 2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight per day), but sometimes it is necessary or convenient to supplement with protein powder. For example, after your mountain bike race or ride, you may just grab a scoop of recovery mix containing protein powder instead of remembering to pack a snack. Likewise, many vegan athletes reach their daily protein goals by supplementing protein powder.
Proteins are composed of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids in the body, and 9 of these we can’t make. So they are considered “essential” amino acids. The protein quality is determined by its amino acid profile. I recommended using proteins with a high biologic value (HBV). HBV proteins contain all of the essential amino acids needed by the human body. Examples of HBV proteins are all animal proteins, such as dairy, eggs, meat, fish, and soy protein.
Whey Protein is a high biological protein that is easily digested and comes from the liquid portion of milk. It is produced in three forms: concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate versions. This protein is absorbed quickly, so it is ideal for post-workout.
Casein Protein is Another high biological protein source from the curd or thick portion of milk. It clots in the stomach’s acidic environment, resulting in slower digestion, making it an ideal protein to have before going to bed.
Soy Protein is a high biological protein that is an excellent choice for vegetarians.
Pea protein, commonly found in vegan protein powders, is an excellent source of iron. However, Pea protein isn’t considered a high biological protein by itself. Still, it is often combined with other proteins, like rice protein, making it a complete protein and containing all the essential amino acids you need.
There’s a lot of options for protein powders for mountain bikers. Remember to buy protein powders that are NSF Certified for Sport or USP certified. Protein powders are considered supplements and not regulated by the FDA, so anything, like dirt, can be in them.
Emily is a Sports Dietitian who is passionate about helping others improve their health and athletic performance through proper nutrition. She races cyclocross professionally. She lives in Roanoke, VA with her husband Kerry and their beagle Sherman.
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