Ideal Carbohydrate and Protein Ratio


It seems like I’ve read about an optimal ratio of carbs and protein while training.  What is it and is it important? 

Yes, there is a recommended carb to protein ratio for training nutrition, and it’s 4:1 (grams).  With this ratio, digestion of the fluid or food is not impeded in the stomach like it is with greater amounts of protein.  So, technically, this is important for sports nutrition if you are pushing yourself with training and depending on efficient delivery of nutrients.  It can also be important as it can reduce the risk of stomach cramps and digestion issues.

Most all sports drinks and foods are designed with quick digestion in mind – in fact, most sports drinks are designed as a 5-8% carbohydrate solution because this has been found to leave the stomach and be digested quickest.

Of course, it also depends on the type of protein.  Whey protein is known as quickly digested and metabolized protein, so it is often used in sports drinks and bars.  Soy isolate is another quick protein.

A couple drinks or foods that utilize this ratio are Accelerade (sports drink) and many flavors of Clif Bars.

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to

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2 Responses to “ Ideal Carbohydrate and Protein Ratio ”

  1. Anonymous on January 8, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Great post Kelli, that is a very helpful piece of information for anyone training on their bike. 

    But how would you advise a rider who is not so much training as they are just riding for a healthy lifestyle? Many riders start off overweight and are trying to better themselves through consistent riding. How do you advise them to deal with carbohydrates?

    I have found the work done by Dr. Michael Eades, author of protein power, and Tim Ferris, author of the four hour body, as very helpful to my own personal weight loss. Having successfully lost 30 pounds once using these diets, and on my way to losing 40 pounds currently with this system. 

    I have documented what I have found at my website,, and I would love your thoughts as an expert sports nutritionist and registered dietitian. 

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike on January 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Hi Shawn, here is the reply from Kelli.  Thanks for the question.

      Hi Shawn,Thanks for the comment.  And, a big congrats on your weight loss so far!  You’re exactly right…my recommendations are for a cyclist’s whose primary goal is to improve at cycling.  However, many cyclists’ primary goal is to lose weight and improve health.  And, of course, there are many who want to do both (this is where it can become tricky).  If focusing mainly on fat loss (and being willing to slightly less power/stamina on the bike while losing fat), I advise my clients to reduce fuel on the bike from simple sugars.  Instead, they can ride for up to 90 minutes without fuel, and beyond 90 minutes with carb or sugar-free drinks such as NUUN or Camelbak Elixirs (these provide electrolytes and fluid without as many carbs).  Then, for longer rides, I work with them on foods that still promote some energy while promoting fat burn – and, as you’ve pointed out, these are usually lesser amounts of carbs.  They may still use carbs like maltodextrin, but much fewer than the full 40-60+ grams per hour (often just 15 grams per hour).  They also often use “fast” proteins such as whey, even at a ratio as low as  1:1 carb:protein – we see how it feels the them in terms of energy, any digestive issues, recovery, and we monitor continued fat loss.  These cyclists should also use a lower-glycemic index meal with less carbohydrates and more protein ~3 hours before the ride rather than a pre-training fuel snack of more carbohydrates 30-60 minutes before the ride.  They can also focus on recovery with just 15 grams of carbs, 15-30 grams of protein, and organic coconut oil (rather than higher amounts of carbs).    As weight/fat is lost, strength:weight is increased, and cycling is usually improved anyway!  For someone who wants to do both (improve at cycling and lose weight), I work with them to decrease overall carbohydrates and especially refined ones on a daily basis with the balance shifted to more healthy proteins and healthy fats.  Then, we still use training fuel from carbs, especially before, the ride, during any ride >90 minutes and in recovery.   Subsequent meals are back to the lower amounts of carbs, especially refined, and more proteins and healthy fats. It sounds like you’re doing a great job with improving your health!  Thanks again and keep it up!Kelli, RD


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Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.


Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

Sports Drink Homebrew

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to

Nutrition Tips