Foodie: By Bike.

Every year in Iowa, cyclists come out in droves to participate in the "Gents Race." It's a team time trial on 60+ miles of Midwest gravel. Some years, as many as 70 teams register, each with 5 people. That's A LOT of people on bikes. Part of the fun and challenge of this type of bike event is that teammates must cross the finish line together. 

One year, about 45 miles into the ride, one of my teammates was running out of steam. It was clear she needed something to eat. One of our riders rolled up next to her, reached behind and pulled something out of her jersey pocket. Without breaking stride, she called out, “Here! Have a pancake!”

I still laugh when I think about that offer. 

It would be interesting to learn about all the different foods people stow in their pockets or bike bags when they need some quick calories to make it through any long ride or sustained exercise effort.

Experts, like Nicolle Whalen, Associate Professor of Exercise Science at Simpson College and ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist, say planning is key if you want to maximize your nutrition for peak performance. For cycling long distances, she says a combination of protein and carbohydrates is essential. Here’s her recommendation for pre, during and post-rides:

  • Eat 90 min. before your ride and then fuel during. Carbohydrates prior to getting on the bike should be more complex and slow releasing. Examples are bananas, bars, quinoa and berries.
  • During a long ride, when it’s hot, you may want to drink more liquids for your calories. When it’s cool, you can work in more solid foods. This is the time to grab more simple carbohydrates. Depending on a rider’s weight, take in around 50-60 g of carb. per hour if possible.  Example of liquid carbs include fruit juice, Powerade, Gatorade and coconut water.
  • After your ride, it’s important to replenish with some carbs and protein. Drinks are usually the easiest option. She recommends Greek yogurt, chocolate milk, a protein powder shake or smoothie.
  • What about caffeine? Whalen says you should aim for 100-300 mg of caffeine (about 1-3 cups of coffee) in the 2-3 hours prior to the ride/race. Another 25-50 mg of caffeine can be taken in hourly. (Benefits can really depend on how much caffeine the person consumes in a normal day. Her advice? Generally, avoid consuming more than 500 mg of caffeine on race day. For best results, try eliminating caffeine from the diet for 10 days prior to a competition.)

We asked some of our fellow cyclists to recommend their best “snack grab.” Here are some of the more creative:

  • Pop-top can of Campbell’s Chicken and Stars. Drink right from the can.
  • Either homemade or store bought Uncrustable PB & J.
  • Can of soda or pop 
  • Pancakes-flat or rolled up with some peanut butter or delicious spread 
  • Cheese and Crackers

We’d love to know some of your favorite foods that help you make it through a long ride. What makes you a bike foodie? 

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