Thursday, August 31, 2017

My Food For Thought Concerning Nutrition

Everyone is different and has different needs for nutrition on the bike
I've been asked a few different times post-Gravel Worlds to write up a post about nutrition. This post was requested by folks wanting some direction and advice on what to eat, where to go for more advice, and what I do specifically. So, to begin with, I have to post the following disclaimer which I feel is really quite important to understand up front:

There is no "one way" in regard to nutrition on the bike for long distance efforts. Many folks have many needs, some of which may be commonly shared, but many which will not be. You will need to experiment to find what works best for your cycling nutritional needs. Finally- I am not an expert. I am not a nutritional guru, not a degree holder in this field, or even smart enough to know what I should be doing. Take anything I write here with a huge grain of salt. No........wait! Salt in huge grains is bad. I think....... Anyway.......

So, with that out of the way here are a few sundry thoughts on what I have observed and experienced in regard to nutrition for longer distance efforts on the bike.

  • Convenience: First off, and this is something I find hugely important, you need to be able to eat whatever you choose without a ton of effort to get at it or to chew it up. This is something a lot of folks don't talk about or even consider. It is quite obvious though, and when you think about these things, they become "duh!" moments which you would think most folks would have covered. Ease of unwrapping/opening food items for consumption is one thing. I would say that anything you have on the bike that you are going to eat has to pass the "One Hand Test". If you cannot open, remove, and consume an item with one hand, it is not good for "on the bike" consumption. Secondly, if you cannot eat what you have without great effort, or without things gumming up your mouth, or without crumbs that get sucked down your windpipe, it isn't good "on the bike" food. 
  • Compact Calories: Here's another thing you might think is obvious, but food and water can take up a ton of space. Especially with the way modern day packaging is. So, and this may help with the point above, you may want to consider repackaging food for on the bike consumption and storage to make it easier to get at, eat, and maybe most importantly, store so that it doesn't take up a lot of room in your feed bag or wherever it is that you stash your food. For instance, you may want to pre-open wrapped energy bars, or even cut them up into smaller bits. I have heard of guys even going so far as to crush potato chips into "dust" so it can be carted in a smaller container. I cut up the flattened bananas pictured here into strips and put them in a sandwich bag. Use your imagination. Anything to make it easier and/or more compact is game as long as it doesn't cause things to spoil. 
  • Whatever You Do, Don't Eat_____: You'll hear a lot of advice that starts off with "Whatever you do, don't eat (fill in the blank)" Well, I am here to say that for every one of those you will find someone who lives off that for their long distance nutritional needs. For instance, I learned long ago that eating a hamburger during a long ride is the worst idea ever......for me. Conversely, I watched Ira Ryan gulp down two cheapo convenience store cheeseburgers and go on to win T.I.v3.  Casey's pizza? I know many a Trans Iowa finisher that credits the greasy convenience store offering for getting them across the line. Me? There is no way I am touching the stuff on a long ride. Pickles and pickle juice is a sworn by savior for many cramping riders, but I tried it once and it made my gut go South quicker than a Robin in Fall. 

Maybe a "King Kong" burger will make you go the distance or make you puke. Only one way to find out.
Testing: So, what I usually tell folks that are looking for advice or want to know what I do is that you need to do your own testing. There are some general rules of thumb that work for all human beings, for the most part. You'll need water. You will need to replenish electrolytes, and you will need to fuel your body with food of some sort. Again- those are very obvious things, but you would be surprised to find out how many of us ultra distance, "longer event ride" types don't remember to drink regularly, or eat regularly, all through an effort. Once you get behind on drinking and eating, it is very difficult to recover from it and make a decent finish for yourself. I actually had a regular eating and drinking regimen for the 2015 DK200 attempt which I doggedly stuck to and it made a big difference in my ride that day. When I forget and fall behind on drinking or eating it has a devastating effect on my ride.

I've tried the gels, drink mixes, bars, and little chews. Most of it makes me end up not wanting to eat or makes my gut shut down.That's me. Again, ya gotta try it for yourself. I know one very successful gravel rider that lives on Hammer Perpetuem.  Me? It makes me so gassy I feel like the Goodyear blimp.

Whatever you use, there is one piece of advice that Yuri Hauswald gave riders at the pre-race meeting at the DK200 in 2016. It is, once again, so obvious, but such a good piece of advice. He said something to the effect that the event was to be looked at as an eating and drinking contest, and as a bicycle race secondary to that. I like that because it brings focus to what you have to do to get to the end. Miss that and you won't get there. Like they say in NASCAR, "To finish first, first you must finish." Ya ain't gonna finish unless you look at the event as a game of eating and drinking at regular intervals.

Experiment, test, change things up. Make it easy to drink and eat. Always eat and fuel throughout a ride. That's my advice. Hopefully it helps get you on your way to a successful long ride someday.


Doug G said...

I have never found anything that works better for me that Peanut butter and honey sammy :-)

Unknown said...

My advice is test things at home. You never know what's going to violently explode out the back door so it's best to find out somewhere with good toilet paper.

teamdarb said...

Sound advice. The one handed test reveals a ton. I carry and reuse a slew of zip lock bags as a result.