One of the most important facets of cycling is food. In cycling there’s a tradition of meeting at a cafe for a pre-ride espresso or machiato. Careful planning of a route will include strategically timed stops for treats along the way. [E.g. Nutty Buddy, Dove Bar, Cherry Garcia on a stick – just to name a few] In the bike mags there’s lots of talk about nutrition – but let’s not confuse this with food.
Undercover triathlete evangelists have infiltrated the media to spread a gospel of 140 calorie pre-packaged performance fuel. And so we have flavored gels that we slurp or squeeze out of plastic packets. If you object to sticky wrappers becoming one with your bike jersey pockets or becoming one with the tarmac, then you can purchase 1 quart bottles, and dispense it from reusable flasks. Either way you cannot escape sticky: put your bike in the back of the car after your ride, and it emerges with lint and dog hair sticking to the bar tape.
Clif Bars [invented by a guy named Clif…I’m not kidding] has a chewy gel that offers somewhat more satisfaction than slurping. However, my dentist – an endurance athlete herself – tells me that they have a propensity toward suctioning dental work from your teeth. Cool days and corresponding increase in viscosity make them doubly dangerous.
However, all is not lost.
Behold the banana – food and wrapper all in one. The average banana is about 200 calories, a good source of dietary fiber and packs a fructose wallop. Potassium helps prevent muscle cramps, and vitamins B6 and C help support long efforts. If all that were not enough [!] there’s a wee bit of protein from the tropical oils that will keep you from burning muscle. When you’re done you can huck the peel into the brush, and people will thank you for fertilizing the roadside flora. [note: roadside hucking must be done with care. A few unsavory local cyclists have been dropping their peels on the pavement – presenting an eye sore for some and poor traction for others. If you huck – huck defensively]
One of my pre-ride favorites is a peanut butter with fresh blueberries on a whole grain bagel. The PBBB has carbs from the bagel for quick energy, protein from peanut butter [almond butter is also yummy] and a bunch of good stuff including antioxidants from the blueberries. Hammer Nutrition did a lengthy study on nutritional needs for endurance athletes and found out that the optimal carb to protein ratio is 4:1. The PBBB happens to be just that. It is a little awkward to eat while riding – so another option is peanut butter, organic honey and banana sandwiches. I cut them into fourths and eat one square at the top of the hour to keep my protein intake on target.
A final option is home-made energy bars. No slurping here. This recipe is one I’ve tried and varied with dried blueberries and peaches. You can also substitute half pancake syrup if pure maple syrup gets a little spendy for your budget. Baking 30 minutes at 250 helps all the ingredients hold together – I credit my wonderful wife for this helpful tip.
Eat well, have more fun.