I’ve mentioned supplements a few months ago (I don’t use them), but I do believe in recovery drinks after hard workouts and races. After a multi-hour workout your body is sensitive to carbohydrates and will put them back where they came from (your muscles) readily. A little protein is understood to help as well. For endurance athletes, most recommend a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein, and The Cyclist’s Training Bible recommends 3-4 calories per pound of body weight in the first 30 minutes following a workout longer than a couple hours.
The problem I have found is that many protein powders / drink mixes are for body builder types, are low on carbohydrate, and often artificially sweetened. Endurance sport specific blends using the 4:1 ratio are often fruit flavored, and after five hours drinking Gatorade, I’m not too interested in more ‘fruit punch’. They are also often quite expensive. For example: Endurox R4 lists for $54.99 at , and has only 14 servings.
I used up the last of my protein powder mix a few weeks ago, and have been making ‘real’ food. Leftovers are easy to make after a ride, and work if they are close to the ratio I’m looking for and easy to digest (low fiber, and low fat). Sometimes I’ll cook recovery food from scratch. One quick one is a packet of instant mashed potatoes, a can of corn, and a can of tuna. I know it sounds gross, but the carbs and salt really work for me. Still, this sort of thing isn’t ideal so today I made my own protein shake from only four ingredients I picked up at Natural Grocers:
- provides 25g whey protein
- aka glucose, 98g carbohydrate
- a little less than 1 tbsp, 4g fat
- ~1/8 teaspoon, ~500mg Sodium)
When mixed with 16 oz Vanilla Silk Soymilk, provides 112g carbohydrate, 37g protein, and 7g fat, and 650 total calories, which for me is 4 Calories per pound of body weight at 160 lbs. Simply adjust the quantities for your body weight. When using dry ingredients a food scale is most accurate because it accounts for settling. Also if you use cane sugar, it is almost twice as dense as dextrose, so be sure to weigh everything. Protip: The food scale is also helpful for weighing bike components in your spare time.
I just pre-mixed five pounds. I found a cup in the cupboard that holds the amount of powder mix I need, and marked a mason jar for 16 ounces of soy milk. I used all the dextrose, about 1/4 lb of cocoa powder, and only about 1/5 of the protein tub. Did I mention it tastes fantastic? It is rich and chocolatey and I need to be careful I don’t drink it for fun!
If you’re looking for a cheap and readily available alternative, some (including myself), drink chocolate milk, as it has a similar 4:1 ratio of protein to carbs. I find this to work well if all I have is a grocery store around, or even a convenience store. The downside is the lactose slows digestion more than a pure dextrose, as does the additional fat. Another minor downside is keeping it around in the fridge, since depending on my training cycle, I may only have a recovery drink once or twice a week and chocolate milk can go bad quickly.