Whey?

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It’s funny old game, cycling.

Especially cycle-touring.

Trying to do something bigger, faster, more adventurous, more exciting… more new… more “more” than before.

Seeing what you can do, and where you can go, seems to be an exercise in, bit by bit, identifying limiting factors, then one by one trying to overcome them.

Planning to do some high mileage adventuring this summer, my latest concerns have been calorific. The challenge was to try and take on-board, then usefully digest, sufficient foods, all in the right proportions, to keep me running steady, rather than slowly descending down & down until I hit empty (which I do sometimes find to be the case).

The issue appropriate “food intake” has got harder as I stubbornly stick to my self-prescribed “MS Diet” (simplistically, I avoid saturated fats (and dairy)). Having surmounted the initial hurdle of the logistics of new shopping lists, the biggest challenge for me has been taking on enough proteins to keep me fuelled. I’ve spent too much time eating bowls of delicious, fresh and nutritious salads, quorns, veg and pasta – but craving more building blocks before I go to bed.

I strongly believe that listening to your own body (as carefully as you can) is the best measure of what you’re eating too much of, or not enough of, but, in this regard, I haven’t best worked out a way to answer my own demands.

Given all the tablets that my MS condition has necessitated I’ve long eschewed any additional artificial supplements to my diet. I’ve been steadfast in the belief that I didn’t want to consume products born more from the science labs than from the countryside…. until now…..

My stubbornness was ultimately broken when I listened to an interview with long-distance cyclist extraordinaire, Mark Beaumont. In amongst countless other invaluable tip-bits, he was eulogising about the power of the smoothie. I have long turned to smoothie’s for post-ride nutrition – and, off my own back, completely unscientifically (just listening as best I can to my own body), I’ve long gone for milk (non-dairy), oats, banana, (linseeds) and cocoa. And this was a good as I could get it. But, in this interview, Mark was stressing the value of additional whey powder – for the extra protein that a tired body needs.

So, rather against my intuition, I bought myself one of those massive, industrial looking tubs of weight-lifters powder. The packaging even had a bodybuilder flexing his outrageously over-sized biceps on the front.

And I’ve started the course – 1 scoop before a ride; 1 scoop after.

And, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m now a complete convert.

That edge of hunger that I’ve had so often for my many years of cycling has had the edge taken off it.

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My cycling (hobby/habit/obsession) can roughly be described as doubling my calorie needs.

~4,500 a day compared to ~2,200.

Random google-searching suggests that I should therefore be doubling the recommendation of ~60 grams of protein, up to ~120.

The most common hard-hitters, protein-wise, in your average UK diet are red meats (10g per 100g meat). But, as my MS diet has abandoned these, I’d been turning to chicken breast (~8g) and white fish (slightly less). Quorn equivalents slightly less again.

A dinner-serving of each roughly multiplies these figures by x2.5 – i.e a helping of chicken being 20g protein), quorn more like 12-15g.

To get these levels of protein from pulses/beans/lentils you’d be having to eat roughly 1-2 (pre-cooked) cups in a sitting.

My main, and sometimes only, protein-boosts were coming at dinner – my other meals would major in carbs – grains, cereals, pasta, oats – salads and fruits. And lots of coffee.

These (extremely rough) calculations didn’t need too much finessing to see that I was suffering a considerable shortfall in proteins compared to the ~120 grams a day guess-timate I’d come up with. I was probably consuming half (if that) of that figure.

So, 2 scoops of whey protein a day now – that’s a protein-boost of 25 grams. Regards the remaining ‘shortfall’ I’ve been trying to look out for other more ‘natural’ sources to add to my diet as well.

Still trying to listen to you, body – but acknowledging that I sometimes need a nudge in a more sensible direction.

In anticipation of an amusing blog called “Whey? Wye”, I rode my bike over to the Wye Valley and tested my protein-filled legs on some hills. So far so good.

Come back in a few weeks and I wonder if my newly bulging biceps will still fit into my aero cycling tops….

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Footnote:

The cost of supplementing your diet with protein can be a bit prohibitive. I did a quick run-through of my kitchen cupboards and shopping lists – to get the cheapest gram of protein the results are maybe a bit surprising:

Food Type Protein (grams per 100g) Protein (grams) per pack Cost per packet (£) Protein (g) per £
Soya Bread 15.2 122 1.00 121.6
Skimmed Milk 3.6 82 0.99 82.6
Frozen Chicken 25 250 4.50 55.6
Fresh Chicken 31 310 5.79 53.5
Eggs 5.9 89 2.00 44.3
Quark 12 60 1.50 40.0
Baked Beans 4.7 75 2.00 37.6
“Protein” Bread Wraps 16 34 0.90 37.3
Tinned Tuna 26 166 5.00 33.3
Whey Powder 69 345 11.00 31.4
Skyr Yoghurt 9.2 41 1.40 29.6
Frozen Haddock 24 96 3.30 29.1
“Protein” Granola 13 52 2.00 26.0
Quorn Mince 14.5 44 1.79 24.3
Quorn Chicken 13.8 41 1.90 21.8
Quorn Sausages 8.9 22 2.00 11.1

 

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