Cyclists need lots of energy, and both butter and ghee can quickly be used by the body for an extra burst. If you are comfortable with animal products and can tolerate dairy, both butter and ghee are high-fat sources of energy and nutrition.
What is Ghee?
Ghee is a form of clarified butter. Clarified butter is butter that has been heated until the milk solids settle out. Once it has been purified or cleansed, the fat remaining in the ghee has a higher burn point and can be safer than some oils for high heat cooking, such as frying and broiling.
Once the milk solids have been removed from ghee, it will be a rich orange color. As it cools, it will solidify. If you’ve ever opened a container of coconut oil and tried to stir it, you will notice that the fat in the jar fractures instead of smoothly stirring up. Ghee is similar; while cold butter tends to break up in chunks, ghee acts more like pure fat.
In the Hindu tradition, which considers cows to be sacred, the creation and use of ghee goes far beyond cooking. Ghee is used in Ayurvedic medicine and as a topical for skin complaints.
Both ghee and butter are high in saturated fat. Ghee also contains a bit of Vitamins A, E, and K. When cooking, butter is a bit more limiting. If you get butter too hot, the milk solids will burn. If you’ve ever made gravy with butter, you know that these milk solids can also be quite tasty, but you do need to watch it to make sure that you don’t end up with burnt butter.
Each form of fat has its own smoke point. Generally, butter and many other oils start to break down, or smoke, at 200 degrees Celsius or 392 degrees Fahrenheit. Ghee doesn’t start to break down and smoke until 250 degrees Celsius or 482 degrees Fahrenheit. Once fats start to smoke, they can generate dangerous toxins that can lead to gut inflammation.
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Once ingested, ghee helps to convert fiber into butyric acid. This chemical conversion can help your gut bacteria to function more effectively and can lower gut inflammation and improve digestion. The health of your gut bacteria can impact your ability to
- absorb nutrients
- shed toxins
- cleanse the body effectively to prevent inflammation
Systemic inflammation can limit your ability to cycle. If a hard ride has you feeling rather sore, the inflammation building up in your joints and the lactic acid in your muscles can make it harder to get out for the next ride. Your gut health and water intake can do a lot to cut down on post workout soreness.
An additional benefit of cooking with ghee is that it’s much more flavorful than butter. While butter is creamy and adds a touch of salt, ghee has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor.
If you’re working to lose body fat as you increase your cycle riding, you may be able to cut down on your dietary fat intake by using ghee as a spread or cooking oil; the extra flavor may mean that you can enjoy the taste of your favorite foods more while cutting down on your fat intake.
Finally, if you are lactose intolerant and struggle to find a high temperature cooking fat that is both flavorful and easy to use, you may be able to use ghee and not react. The milk solids in butter are not present in properly prepared ghee. You may need to buy your ghee from an Asian market to get quality product that offers this protection.
Which Is Better for Cyclists?
Cyclists need ready access to energy, and fats offer that boost quickly. However, a hard workout can lead to inflammation. Inflammation can be a serious problem for athletes of any age or intensity. The benefits of butyric acid in the gut can reduce inflammation throughout the gut, and a healthy gut is one of three keys to reducing inflammation in the body.
Boosting your water intake is ideal for supporting your kidneys. It should be noted that the third cleansing organ, the liver, can be negatively impacted by saturated fat. Once you start comparing fats and changing up your diet, consider pairing unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, for low temp cooking and use your ghee for higher temperature cooking.
Cycling may be one of the most fun ways to socially distance from the world. However, soreness is always a possibility. With a diet that helps you to avoid inflammation, you can reduce the intensity of your inflammation. While saturated fats should be used only occasionally, you may find that swapping butter for ghee improves the flavor and increases your comfort level after a hard workout.