Should Mountain Bikers Take a Protein Shake?

This email popped into my inbox today :

“Hi Matt,

Very quick one really. I was looking back to see what your comments are on protein shakes. 

I have been using optimum nutrition 100% whey [as opposed to MyProtein which you recommended in a previous email]. It’s good but expensive. I’d be interested to read your thoughts on choosing Whey Protein, BCAA’s etc.

Be great to read your thoughts and recommendations on this area. Choices are endless!

Thanks, 

Keith”

So, first of all – protein shakes.

I’m a big advocate of using a protein shake. After a ride you want to begin the recovery process as quickly as possible. A whey protein shake mixed with water doesn’t require much digesting (due to it’s liquid form and the rapidly digesting whey protein). This means the protein gets rapidly into your blood stream and to the muscles to begin the recovery process.

(Bonus nerd tip : A Whey Protein shake spikes insulin which pushes the amino acids/glycogen in your blood into your muscle and also lowers cortisol levels which will likely be high after a ride/workout. Cortisol has a catabolic effect – you want to get it down quickly after a ride)

A protein shake is better than milk, or a milkshake, because it contains a very low amount of fat. If you were to have milk instead, the fats in it slow down the digestion which won’t have the same rapid effect as a protein shake.

​​​​​​​So…take a protein shake mixed with water immediately after a ride (you could also add carbs to this shake in the form of dextrose/maltodextrin if you like)

Now there is almost no difference in the quailty of the protein, in regards to how much it benefits you, based on price. In my experience, and opinion, a £20 protein shake from MyProtein/BulkPowders etc. is going to give you 99.5% of the benefit that a shake at £50 or £60 will give you from a more expensive brand.

I used MyProtein for the last couple of years…and incidentally changed to an Optimum Nutrition 100% whey (like Keith). The one difference I did notice was in it tasted nicer and mixed much smoother with ZERO lumps in. So…a more expensive shake (such as Gaspari, USN, Optimum Nutrition, PHD) won’t give you more benefits in regards to the results they give but they probably will taste nicer and mix better. That’s then up to you whether you want to spend the extra money for better taste.

Think of it as having a £15 steak meal from your local pub vs a £60 michelin star steak where both steaks were sourced from the same farm. Both are equally nutritious for you…but one will taste much better.

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