For anyone who spends a fair amount of time on the saddle, carbohydrates aren’t the only macronutrient worth paying attention to when it comes to fueling. You also need plenty of protein. “We know that protein in the diet is important for the recovery process from exercise, including limiting sore muscles,” says Kayla Slater, MS, RDN, founder and owner of Plant-Based Performance Nutrition and Run Coaching. “It’s also essential to get enough to help build lean body mass—the more muscle you have, the stronger and more injury-resistant rider you will be.” Plus, you need protein for maintaining strong bones and connective tissues.
A 2019 sports nutrition consensus statement released by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) recommends endurance athletes consume between 1.3 to 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (0.6 to 1.1 grams per pound)—on the higher end if you’re looking to build muscle mass.
Meat, fish, poultry, and eggs are often what come to mind for protein. And they are certainly high-quality sources that make it easier to take in enough of the macro. But it’s possible to pivot to plant-based proteins more often and still get what you need. “There is little credible evidence to show that active people who follow a well-planned plant-based diet that includes plenty of higher protein plant foods are at a performance disadvantage,” Slater tells Bicycling. And there could be some important health benefits of going bigger on plants and trading in beef for beans more often.