How Much Protein Do Cyclists Need?

protein for cyclists

Proteins are essentially a chain (or several chains) of amino acids arranged in a certain structure, which perform a particular function in the body.

The sequence of amino acids and the structure they form is defined by our DNA, which acts as the blueprint for the varying types of proteins. Proteins have a wide range of functions in the body. They form the structures of our body such as hair, skin and muscles, send signals around the body in the form of hormones such as insulin, and carry out a range of functional processes.

What seems like a recent discovery, but really has been known since the mid-80s, is the usefulness of protein for muscle recovery. While sitting down to a meal of chicken, beans and other protein-rich foods might not be plausible just after or even during a ride, protein supplements provide a practical and nutritious way of helping to aid muscle recovery and prevent fatigue.

Research indicates that endurance athletes should consume a diet of approximately 55-60 percent carbohydrates, 20-25 percent fats and 15-20 percent protein.

Roberta Anding, a sports dietitian, recommends that cyclists consume a daily dose of 0.5 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight—that’s about 85 grams for a 170-pound rider. Eat 15 to 25 grams of that during recovery, within an hour of finishing a ride. And always target lean sources. “Skip the animal proteins that are loaded with saturated fats, such as full-fat cheeses and burgers, and opt for reduced-fat dairy or lean meats,” Anding says.

The type of protein is also important. Whey protein for example is easily digested and superior to soy protein. It also makes for a simple post workout option in a smoothie. By combining carbohydrates and protein you not only refuel your glycogen with the carbohydrates, but they also create an optimal environment for absorption of amino acids.

Translating that into breakfast, lunch & dinner

After an early morning ride

2 eggs on toast plus a large skinny latte

Cereal with 250mL milk plus 250g yoghurt


1 sandwich with 2 slices of ham or chicken (plus salad) plus 600mL flavoured milk

2 curried egg sandwiches (1 egg in each) plus a large latte

1 small can tuna or 100g chicken with salad plus 300g yoghurt


200g meat, fish or chicken with any combination of starch (rice, pasta, etc.) and vegetables/salad

150g tofu with 1 egg and rice/noodles and vegetables, plus 250g yoghurt

1 cup red kidney beans or lentils plus 500mL milk (plain or flavoured)

Convenient options/snacks

30g whey protein isolate with water

20g whey protein isolate with 200mL milk

65g PowerBar Protein Plus or Sustagen Sport with 300ml milk

DIY Protein drink – 60g skim milk powder, 300mL milk plus flavouring of your choice

80g beef jerky

1 sandwich with 2 slices of ham or chicken (plus salad) plus 600mL flavoured milk


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