Many enthusiasts and intercessors talk about a superfast refill of carbohydrates after exercise. Why carbohydrates? You need those during exercise, but after? You also have a lot of recovery products that contains surprising amount of fat and carbos.

Pure protein to fill up your reservoirs. You can feel comfortable that your muscles are saved, all surplus of proteins (what body doesnt need) are converted to carbos/glucose by your body. Driving your body more empty of carbohydrates while a period of structured training, just makes it more comfortable with that balance and probably got a boost later on with filled reservoirs.

This Q excluding "wear out completely" exercises, which purpose is a maximum carboload before an important competition. The Q is more about the regular training purposed to build up stronger endurance while the season. I would buy many of the promoted products regarding recovery if it's for for spontanouos competitors and joggers that likely are well-rested between competitions and heavy exercices.

What are your ideas here? How do you eat/fill after cycling? Wo you know some references to pure protein theory (or evidence for the opposite)?

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    What is the question here? May 26, 2011 at 15:21
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    Also, can please please reference their answers. Unsupported assertions on basic sports science questions are not very useful. It's IMO acceptable to say "this works for me" but when you're saying "everyone should" that suggests to me that evidence is required.
    – Мסž
    May 26, 2011 at 22:47
  • @Neil - I think the question is, "Why recover with carbohydrates, instead of with protein?"
    – ChrisW
    May 28, 2011 at 0:33
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    @Ambo100 - Feel free to vote to close, of course; you have the rep. (My take on this: Recovery is of great concern to cyclists, particularly distance cyclists. Do we really want to close because the author didn't type "after cycling" instead of "after exercise" in the first sentence?) May 28, 2011 at 14:46
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    @Neil Thank's for pointing that out. I think you wouldnt be a cyclists without knowledge in nutrition from this point of use. Also "Exercise" should be fully enough described sentence, in a forum that are dedicated to one specific sport. I'm also sorry that I lacked with follow-ups so far.. I will refer the reason to spending to much time on the road ;). May 28, 2011 at 21:38

4 Answers 4


This answer is primarily based on 2 books by Chris Carmichael. The Time Crunched Cyclist and Food for Fitness, plus some other sources that I am unable to dig up at the moment.

Here's the gist of it... Following a race, intense workout, or an endurance ride, the muscles and liver are glycogen depleted. The key to recovery is to replenish glycogen so that you begin your next event with full glycogen stores. The major building block of glycogen is carbohydrate. The body quickly and easily disassembles carbohydrates into glucose and that glucose is readily available for conversion into glycogen by both the liver and muscle cells. Protein is synthesized into glycogen, however protein must be first transported to the liver, converted to glucose, and then transported to the muscles. So, restoring glycogen levels with protein is less efficient and more prolonged than restoring glycogen with carbohydrates.

According to Carmichael, the 3 critical components post-ride are carbohydrate, sodium/electrolytes, and fluid. And, your body is primed to replenish muscle glycogen stores most rapidly within the first 30 to 60 minutes following exercise, and the sooner the better. As GuyZee points out in another answer, "the glycogen window".

Back to protein... Protein is also important for recovery, primarily for muscle tissue repair and additionally protein enhances the ability of muscle tissue to utilize carbohydrate in the replenishment of glycogen. A general rule of thumb is a 3:1 carb to protein ratio; but some experts recommend a 4:1 ratio.

In essence: Carbs for glycogen replenishment. Protein for muscle repair. Electrolytes and fluid.

Examples... One would be something like a bowl of rice and sauteed vegetables plus chicken breasts. And for a "technical" product, something like Recoverite by Hammer Nutrition. I personally like the Hammer products as they don't use sucrose and high fructose corn syrup; instead a primary ingredient is maltodextrin which is basically long chains of glucose. Sometimes I don't have time for an actual meal, so I'll use Recoverite in that case. It can also be chocolate milk. The basic idea is that you need to replace and repair.

FWIW - None of this matters for the casual cyclist or the "typical commuter". Just eat normal, healthy meals and you'll be fine.

A few references:

  • "Moreover, recent research suggests that consuming a carbohydrate/protein supplement post exercise will have a more positive influence on subsequent exercise performance than a carbohydrate supplement." - I'm happy to see what "later research" says about protein in additional few years. It's proofed as a slow process for the body to build carbos through protein, but is it proofed as less good, and when? Sometimes scientists need to exclude such points. Jun 7, 2011 at 7:56
  • To be more clear, the citate in my comment above is from the abstract in link "REGULATION OF MUSCLE GLYCOGEN REPLETION, MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS AND REPAIR FOLLOWING EXERCISE". There are also a few assumptions at the end, about new research and the role of protein. Jun 7, 2011 at 8:43

Actually your recovery should start on the bike. What I mean by that is the primary fuel used is carbohydrates and you should be re-fueling throughout the ride even at the end of the ride. Carbohydrates are easy to digest and provide highly efficient energy. Hydration is also key as well.

Post ride, the optimal window for glycogen restoration is 30 minutes once exercise stops! Your muscles are depleted and craving carbs. Once you get into the habit of doing this, you will be shocked if you miss this window how much more slowly you recover. There is a lot of debate about protein to carbo ratios which I will not introduce here.

Why not pure protein? It is takes way too long to digest and you miss the optimal window. If you are trying to build muscle mass, protein would be ideal, but as cyclists we do not want or need the mass.

My recovery drink of choice: Organic Low Fat Chocolate Milk. For me it has the right balance/ratio of carbs and protein.

Hope this helps!

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    and electrolytes..
    – Karl
    May 28, 2011 at 3:08
  • Thank's, though this is fully about post-ride. Carbos while competition and or training needs another question (frequency, amount, bananas/apricots/winegum..). On which way does protein cause you miss the 30 minutes window? And what protein do you have in mind? Aren't Casein (milk) slowing down the digestion?? Casein is slower then Whey (which absorbs immedietly if taken after exercie). May 28, 2011 at 22:00
  • As I hear, muscle-builders often think it's a nice idea with Whey-100 Prot and mix with Milk? (Which got cocktailed and means you have a kind of Whey-80 with the effects of slower casein). Carbs is, as you say, something that should be taken while exercise. Also after if you MUST have filled reservoirs due to coming competition. In other cases (in my Q of view) in just protein extends the regular food princips. May 28, 2011 at 22:00
  • @Karl Salt are important! +1. Though, during the race & pre.. May 28, 2011 at 22:20

Do you know some references to pure protein theory (or evidence for the opposite)?

Here is one answer:

In summary, muscle glycogen concentrations for the three trials were similar immediately postexercise and again 4 h after the cessation of exercise. In addition, the serum insulin and glucose responses among the three eucaloric feedings displayed no differences at any time throughout the 4-h restoration period. Therefore, it appears that the addition of protein or amino acids to an eucaloric postexercise CHO feeding does not enhance the restoration of muscle glycogen compared with a CHO-only feeding. Thus, provided the caloric content is similar and adequate amounts of CHO are consumed (>0.70 g ⋅ kg body wt− 1 ⋅ h− 1) after exhaustive exercise, the addition of protein or amino acids to a CHO feeding does not appear to enhance muscle glycogen restoration.

That study's summary talks about the measure of glycogen restoration after cycling (perhaps as if glycogen restoration is what's important). The study also measured insulin levels, and measured performance (VO2 and watts).

However that study measures same-day effects, not long-term effects.


It is worth noting that proper ride nutrition does not happen only pre, during, and post ride. It is important to eat a healthy balanced meal every day. This might sound obvious to some, but you would be surprised at how many people don't understand this. As for nutrition for a ride I do something like this:

Pre-Ride: Breakfast

A breakfast high in protein and carbs an hour or so before I go on my ride. The reason you you focus on protein as well as carbs is so that you feel fuller longer. It sucks when you are in the middle of a ride and you can't wait to eat. The less you are distracted the better your workout will be.

During Ride: Energy Drink

An energy drink like a Gatorade without the sugar. This is essential during a ride because you are losing things like electrolytes and fluids while riding, especially while it's hot, and you need to replenish that or face dehydration and exhaustion.

Post-Ride: Lunch/Dinner

Another meal high in protein and carbs. When I say "carbs" I don't usually head for the starches. I am talking more your fruits and vegetables.

I do have health factors that make me a little different from other people, but the principals are the same.

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    Not consuming sugar on any kind of long-distance ride will quickly lead to you bonking. Carbohydrates are an absolute must during a ride of any substantial length. Jun 1, 2011 at 16:57
  • @Stephen that leads me to a subquestion. Are training of looong distance with just adding water while riding, a task that make your body stronger? I almost 100% never attach other then pure water because I want it as a boost on competition and other important races. If i'm trained to ride 5 hours with hughe addition of carbs/whatsoever, im also trained to require it to 'alive'. I really cant say im failed of my theory.. it may require a new Q though. Jun 2, 2011 at 8:09
  • @Stopher87 Thank's. This is not so much about "why not using protein instead" but I agree on think honestly about food routines. I see competitors that doing so big thing of thier food that they nearly can't focus on the competition itself. One note though, that are quite opposite to many, pure water during ride!!! If you need energy, take it on bars, gel or normal food (dried apricots, bananas, walnuts..), based on what suitable for the race. Jun 2, 2011 at 11:38
  • FWIW, I am not a sports nutritionist. That said, my understanding is that long-duration training without carbohydrate intake will simply limit your available energy which will in turn limit the intensity (and therefore potential benefits) of your training. You may receive some benefit in training the muscles to retain more glycogen, but I suspect any difference will be lost due to a decrease in training effectiveness. Jun 2, 2011 at 12:38
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    The longer you can put off hitting the wall, the better. Training at or near your anaerobic threshold already causes your body to increase its glycogen stores. Intentionally going over may have marginal benefit, but I would wager it's significantly less than the benefit of being on the bike for significantly longer. Jun 7, 2011 at 13:01

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