|Whatever you chose to take, make sure it is portable and safe.
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. Yes....you 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.