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Best protein powder for Cyclists: top picks of the best protein supplements

Cyclist magazine
30 Jan 2020

Whether you’re deep in intensive training or just looking to boost recovery days, these protein powders will fuel you towards your goals

As cyclists we are always looking for anything that will give us an edge in the saddle. In order for you to achieve your best you need to be providing your body with the resources it needs to rebuild and repair after a grueling ride.

That’s where protein comes in. This substance is an essential building block that your body needs plenty of to get the best results of all your hard work - it’s not just for weight lifters as some might think.

You can increase your protein intake through diet, but when you need fuel after a ride then a protein drink is easily the most convenient way to give your body what its craving.

Knowing what to look for in a protein powder and which offer the best value for money can be tricky, after all it’s a very crowded market, so we’ve put together everything you need to know as well as a guide to the best powders available to purchase below.

How to buy the best protein powder for you

What types of protein powder are there - and what are the differences?

The two most common types of protein powder are casein and whey. Casein is absorbed by the body relatively slowly; which makes it ideal for consumption just before going to bed, as your body will repair and rebuild as you sleep and you’ll wake up ready to tackle that early morning ride.

Whey protein is, on the other hand, absorbed at a quicker pace by the body - so you’ll need to consume whey protein drinks as soon as you’re out of the saddle.

Typically, whey protein will come in three forms: isolate, concentrate and hydrolysed. You’ll find the highest protein content in isolate whey as well as lower carb and fat content than concentrate whey. Hydrolysed whey is easier to digest but is usually the most expensive type of whey powder due to its costly production process.

Will protein powder make me gain weight?

Putting on a few extra pounds is a nightmare for many cyclists who are pursuing faster speeds and personal bests, but consuming protein powder won’t necessarily result in you putting on weight.

In fact, research has indicated that adding additional protein to your diet can in fact reduce your weight as it lessens your appetite due to the feeling of fullness it creates.

Most protein powders are low in calories and carbs as well, but of course stay clear of the mass-gainer powders if you’re not wanting to bulk up.

What ingredients should I look out for?

Firstly, check the level of protein per serving. Between 20-30g is the standard, anything less and you won’t be getting the full benefits of a protein supplement.

Next up check the carbs, sugar and overall calorie count. The ideal level of these macros will depend on your personal goals, but if you’re trying to lose weight or build extra muscle to pedal harder then you won’t want a calorie-filled powder.

Some brands will proudly boast about added vitamins and nutritional bonuses but typically these powders contain such small doses that the effect is negligible, plus you should be getting these important nutrients from your diet not a protein shake.

Powders that contain creatine, which boosts performance during high-intensity exercise, L-carnitine, which helps your body burn fat during exercise, and of course plenty of protein powders will contain good old-fashioned caffeine to give you plenty of energy for pedaling up steep hills.

The best protein powders to buy

1. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein: Simply the best

If you want a protein powder that really lives up to its name then look no further than Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard protein powder. This popular supplement offers 24g of quick-absorbing protein in every 31g serving. With very little sugar (1g), fat (1g) and carbohydrate (3g) per serving, it really is the standard by which other protein powders should be measured.

2. Bulk Powders Pure Whey Protein: Top protein powder for under £15

Protein powder can be expensive, but Bulk Powders Pure Whey Protein is a reliably low cost pick. There’s a wide range of flavours - we’re partial to chocolate mint - and the powder is 82% protein, which is very high for a whey concentrate product.

The perfect choice for those wanting to try protein after a ride without breaking the bank.

3. MyProtein Pro THE Whey Plus: Best premium powder

It’s definitely not the cheapest option but THE Whey is a quality product if you have the budget. Created using only the finest ingredients, this powder offers 26g of protein per 32g serving, which is delivered to your body through 'beadlets' which slowly release muscle-building BCAAs.

It’s all very high-tech stuff, thankfully though the powder taste matches its nutritious credentials.

Buy now from MyProtein for £36

4. SiS REGO Rapid Recovery: Best protein powder for quick recovery

After a long ride if you need something to replenish your depleted glycogen reserves, as well as the electrolytes and minerals that are lost through sweating, in steps the Rapid Recovery powder from SiS REGO. Containing 20g of Protein and 22g carbs, this powder isn’t designed for those looking to slim down but for those who need to rapidly recover after a challenging session on two wheels.

5. The Protein Works Vegan Protein Extreme: Best vegan protein powder

If you follow a vegan lifestyle it can be tough to get extra protein in your diet, with protein-rich foods such as chicken and eggs out of the equation. Thankfully The Protein Works have produced this vegan-friendly powder that packs 24g of protein per serving.

The protein comes from soy, hemp and beans and is infused with 20 different vitamins and minerals.

6. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Casein: Top pick for casein-based protein

The sister product to our first pick above, this powder has all the benefits of the Gold Standard Whey but its 24g of protein per serving comes from premium micellar casein. This powder is ideally consumed just before bed as its benefits are delivered to your body slowly over time.

Buy now from Optimum Nutrition for £47

7. MyProtein Clear Whey Isolate: The perfect protein powder for a summers day

If, after a strenuous and sweaty ride in the summer heat, the last thing you want is a thick protein shake but you still want the nutritional benefits, MyProtein has the answer. Clear Whey Isolate contains 20g of protein per serving and produces a thinner drink that goes down very well.

Even though the flavours on offer are almost sickly sweet, remarkably it only contains 0.2g of sugar per serving.

Buy now from MyProtein | £21.99 for 500g

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