The last piece of the protein puzzle is how to actually fit it into your diet. It depends a lot on what your goal is and how important flavour is to you. Let’s go through several examples that will help you choose the right way.
Just mix the protein powder with water in a shaker and drink. That’s what most people imagine when you talk about protein powders. There are more ways to use them and if you find the right one for your goal, you will get the biggest benefit.
Recovery and cycling performance
If your goal is to improve recovery between training sessions and support your cycling performance, then the best way to use protein powder is along with some carbohydrate. Evidence suggests that a protein-to-carbohydrate ratio of 1:3 is beneficial for recovery after exercise. You can check out more about eating for recovery in our previous article.
To maximize recovery, look for protein mixes that have significant carbohydrate content. Alternatively, you can blend your protein isolate with a banana or some oats to add carbs.
You don’t need a protein boost before exercise or immediately after but aim for having your recovery protein mix in an hour or two after a training session.
Fat burning and weight loss
When you’re trying to reach your race weight or working on improving your power-to-weight ratio, you should focus on consuming protein with as little carbs and fat as possible. Look for protein isolates or hydrolysates with the least number of calories.
Stick with plain water for your protein powder to minimize adding calories. Save your daily carbs and fats for real foods when you’re trying to burn fat and get leaner.
In general, it’s best to have your protein intake spread throughout the whole day to limit hunger. Use protein powder to bridge the gap between meals, maybe as an afternoon snack.
If you want to use protein powder to hit your daily protein goal when you can’t have a warm meal, then focus on mixing it with a variety of real foods. Any fruits, vegetables, nuts, or seeds will add the much-needed healthy fats, minerals, vitamins, and fibre to your meal. It’s important to make it tasty too if you want to do this often.
The most convenient and easy way to create a worthy meal replacement is making a colourful shake. Alternatively, you can add it to your oatmeal, pancake batter, cookie dough, or bread mix.
Have it instead of a regular meal or at the next opportunity to keep your protein intake spread out during a day.