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More than one whey: Five protein powders that will help rebuild muscles after a long ride

Among muscle men, protein has always been a macronutrient of particular interest. But the Lycra crowd also needs to pay attention to their protein intake to help repair and rebuild muscles.

by Matthew Kadey

Whey protein scoop. Sports nutrition.
Whey protein scoop. Sports nutrition.

Among muscle men, protein has always been a macronutrient of particular interest. But the Lycra crowd also needs to pay attention to their protein intake to help repair and rebuild muscles that have been beaten down by training. But you don’t always have the energy or appetite to fry up a steak after a hard ride. And a hard-boiled egg doesn’t make for great jersey pocket fuel. That’s where the various guises of protein powders come into play: they can offer a convenient and easy way to get your fill of protein. Here’s the lowdown on the options available and some ideas for using them that goes beyond the smoothie.

Whey protein

Derived from milk, whey has long been the gold standard when it comes to protein powders. The moo-derived powder is fast-digesting and contains high amounts of essential amino acids, both of which make it especially effective at repairing and building lean body mass. What’s more, a recent study published in the journal Appetite found that cyclists who consumed a whey protein drink after a hard ride took in fewer calories during a meal later, which means incorporating the powder into your postride routine could keep you from overeating and saying sayonara to your race weight. Whey-protein isolate is the most finely filtered form of the powder, meaning it contains very little, if any, fat and lactose. Whey concentrate is more budget-friendly but may contain a bit more fat and carb (lactose) calories at the expense of protein.

Try this
Place 1 cup steel-cut oats, a pinch of salt and 3 cups water in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to simmer, immediately turn off heat, cover and let oats soak overnight. In the morning, stir ½ cup milk, ½ cup whey protein powder and 1 teaspoon cinnamon into the oats and heat over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring in additional milk if too dry.

Egg protein

This powder is derived from egg whites and is lactose free. It also doesn’t contain any egg yolks so is very low in fat and free of cholesterol. Egg protein is the standard by which all other proteins are measured because it’s the highest quality protein available. In particular, it’s packed with branch chain amino acids that are very effective at stimulating muscular repair and growth – both of which can add power to your pedal stroke. Egg protein powder, however, can be pricey and some people prefer the more benign flavour of whey protein.

Try this
Turn your yogurt bowl into pumpkin pie by stirring together ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt, 3 tablespoons pure pumpkin purée, 3 tablespoons egg white protein, 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ginger powder and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves. Top with chopped pecans.

Hemp protein

Up-and-coming hemp protein powder is made by milling hemp seeds into a fine powder. Based on production methods, brands will contain various levels of protein and dietary fibre, with powders such as Mantioba Harvest Hemp Pro 70 containing a higher percentage of protein, having a smoother consistency and having the ability to mix easily with liquid. Hemp is considered a complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids, making it a great plantbased option for both vegetarian and carnivorous riders.

Try this
Stir together ¾ cup oat flour, ¼ cup hemp protein powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking powder and ¼ teaspoon baking soda. Whisk together 1 large egg, 1 cup milk and zest of 1 lemon. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Prepare batter as you would normal pancakes.

Pea protein

Gleaned from yellow split peas, pea protein is showing up in everything from energy bars to cereals to veggie burgers. It can be an ideal protein powder choice for those who are avoiding dairy, meat, soy or gluten. It’s also considered very easy to digest for sensitive post-ride tummies. Pea protein, however, is not a complete protein in the manner that whey is. You can address this concern by eating a variety of other high-quality proteins during the day.

Try this
For a protein-rich riff on hummus, blend together 1 can chickpeas with ? cup plain pea protein, ¼ cup tahini, 2 tablespoons olive oil, juice of ½ lemon, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.