Wednesday, March 31, 2021

B.O.G. Series: What To Eat And Drink

Whatever you chose to take, make sure it is portable and safe.
 Welcome to the Basics of Gravel Series (B.O.G.)! In this series I will attempt to bring a very foundational knowledge of gravel and back road riding to anyone reading that may be curious or a beginner in riding off-pavement, but not wanting to be mountain biking. There will be a new entry every Wednesday until the series is complete. To see the schedule, click this LINK. Thanks! 

Eating and drinking on any bicycle ride is important. Especially if your ride is over an hour's length in time. Gravel, or more specifically- open country riding- is even more taxing on your system due to exposure to the elements. Winds can suck moisture out of you much easier out there. The Sun is a concern, and of course, terrain can place demands upon your body that simpler rides around town may not demand from your body. I already touched upon the subject of nutrition in this earlier B.O.G. series article, so please double check that link to get all of my thoughts on this subject. 

I'll detail things out by separating the liquids from the solids. So, let's first tackle drinking. Water is the obvious choice here, but supplementing that with an additive is not a bad idea. Your sweating out will take along with it vital nutrients that your muscles need to function properly. So replenishing those lost nutrients is very important on longer rides. Doing so will not only make your ride successful, but it will help you avoid cramping, losing power, and getting disoriented, (what many cyclists refer to as 'bonking'). Essentially, re-hydrating with just water isn't always going to be enough. In fact, using too much water is bad, but that's a topic for another day.

Hydration tablets, like these NUUN tabs, can be added to water.

So, enhancing water with a hydration supplement, like tablets, or liquid electrolytic add-ins, can be helpful. could use Gatorade, or a similar substitute, but be careful as those typically have a lot of added sugar and that's not a wise thing to ingest while exerting yourself, typically speaking. 

Products for electrolyte replenishing are typically available in many grocery stores' natural foods aisles. Things like tablets which dilute into water are common. (Don't allow a tablet to dilute in a closed container as it will pressurize the container and when you open it? BOOM! Well, kind of!) One liquid type electrolyte enhancer is Elete, which I really like as it can be added to water and you cannot taste it. I've never cramped while using that product and I highly recommend it.

There are also ways to make sure that your levels of minerals and electrolytes are up to snuff through what you eat. Bananas are a perennial choice for cycling and are easily portable while riding. You can take in salty foods as well, which can aid in keeping cramps at bay. I've seen folks eating pickles, (or just drinking pickle juice!), olives, and such fare which can be useful if you are trying to find things in the house you already may have. Salty snacks can also be used here. Just make sure that you can ride with whatever it is you choose to eat and drink so that things don't spoil, get ruined by jostling around, or that may be affected by the heat of Summer riding.  

If you are a beginner, don't think you have to pack a meal, or even a normal 'snack' to ride with. You may only be doing shorter rides to start out with, so if you are talking an hour or two, a couple of water bottles and a small amount of food is all you will really need here. If you are taking more than a sandwich bag can hold, you are probably over-packing, as far as food goes. 

For instance, in the image above, I show a selection of food I was using on a 150 mile ride. So, I had a lot of stuff! Don't go away thinking you'd need all of that! Not for an hour or two, at any rate. But what I show there is really good nutrition that can be carried along with little to no trouble. I get a lot of what I use in the natural foods aisle, but you can do things differently. Just be very careful not to litter, please! Plan on packing out your garbage, and this may also influence your choices. I mean, who wants to cart around an aluminum soda can that is empty, right? Just don't take anything like that unless you are okay with packing it out. Littering is really dumb, so let's not do that anywhere we go. 

Now all this talk about 'packing' may have you wondering about just exactly what it is you pack things in to. Next week I'll get around to that and more. 

Next: What Accessories You Should Consider.


Hoggyp said...

I have to take issue with some of this information. It's good to hydrate, to have electrolytes, and to take in calories. Definitely! But bonking isn't caused by dehydration. It's caused by glycogen (simple sugar) depletion. When you bonk, your brain doesn't have the sugars it needs to tell your muscles to fire. Water won't help with that. Sports drinks will, as will gels or chews, but not because of water content--because they have sugars in them that are eminently easy to process. Electrolytes are a performance enhancer, but the science behind them is contested. Studies that show that they reduce cramps are almost exclusively funded by an industry that has a vested interest in the results (i.e. sports drink companies). Independent researchers such as Tim Noakes (see his book "Waterlogged") argue that cramps are caused by muscles being overexerted, not by electrolyte loss or dehydration. Noakes recommends electrolyte intake, but not to prevent cramping. And, more importantly, recommends drinking to thirst, not a prescribed amount. Drinking too much, as pointed out in this post, is really, really bad--it can cause hyponatremia, which can kill you. So if you're just getting into this, drink when your body tells you to and you'll be just fine.

Guitar Ted said...

@Hoggyp- Bo need to take issue. I’m advocating drinking AND eating. Plus, this is geared towards the beginner/new to gravel riders. I’m considering an hour to two hour ride here- max.

So, eat a little, drink a little, they’ll get along fine. The deeper dive, as you are getting at here, is for later in the game.

I’m trying to keep it super-simple and easy. Nuanced debate on nutrition need not be had here as it just ends up becoming another barrier to getting out there. Later on, if the cyclist goes down that rabbit hole? Fine. Discuss away. That is not my intention for this series.

Guitar Ted said...

“No need...”. Dang fat fingers!