Noob Mistake: Not Replenishing Protein

There’s a plethora of material out there, both online and in print, about nutrition and exercise. For the most part, I have ignored it. That’s because I’m a procrastinator. I just don’t get around to reading up on stuff I know I should be up on.

Take tiredness after long rides. It’s a particular problem for me, one I’ve written about before. I just could never figure out why, after a couple of hours in the saddle, I would crash on my bed for a long nap. Those naps were more trouble than they were worth, because they threw off my sleep schedule for the next 24 hours, and I had a lot of trouble readjusting my internal clock.

My routine after a long ride is to settle in at a coffee shop or restaurant or even the living room at home, and have a large drink of something. Usually, it’s iced tea. That takes care of the liquids I lose on a ride through sweating, but doesn’t do much to refuel my body.

I remember riding once with an acquaintance — an experienced cyclist — who couldn’t wait to get some food after we’d finished the ride. “I have to have some protein within a half hour of the ride,” he said. I chalked it up to his personal idiosyncrasy.

Turns out, he was right on the money.

When you take a long bike ride, you’re using up branched chain amino acids. When these essential nutrients are depleted, that leads to the doubling of tryptophan, another amino acid. Once it’s in the brain, tryptophan converts to serotonin, which makes us drowsy.

That drowsiness can set in during the ride itself, as fatigue. If you overtrain, you’ve probably experienced it. But if you maintain adequate levels of branched chain amino acids, you should be able to ward off fatigue. So as my friend does, try to get some quality protein into your system immediately after a ride.

Where do you find quality proteins? Meat, dairy products, and legumes. That might be why cyclists are adopting chocolate milk as a recovery drink.

Today, after two and a half hours riding over rolling hills, I whipped up a ham sandwich right after getting out of the shower. Sure enough, although I felt my eyes get a little heavy while sitting in my chair watching football, I soon snapped out of it. Any other day, minus the sandwich, I would have been crashed on my bed.

It’s a simple solution, but one I’ve bypassed for far too long. I guess I’m still a noob.

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3 thoughts on “Noob Mistake: Not Replenishing Protein

  1. I went out for a hard ride for 2 hours yesterday, and one of the first things I did was down some protein. I actually mix a scoop of whey into a glass of milk, and it does the trick. Not only do I feel better after the ride, I’m less sore the day after.

  2. Most recovery drinks will have added protien in them. I prefer the chocolate milk trick. Be careful…caffeinated drinks will not help you re-hydrate.

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