I’m bad at eating. Let me rephrase that: I’m bad at eating well. I wish I were one of those people who view food as only a tool. Unfortunately, Benny’s Cantina created the “Combo T,” and fantastic chips and queso, so really, it’s not my fault. Actually, if I have a plan, I do pretty well, but it’s when the right food isn’t readily available that I go off course. Sometimes WAY off course. I know I’m not alone, so this article will specifically address nutrition tips for the days of the ride.
Do you have a pre-ride traditional dinner? Throughout my schooling when I was swimming, I always remember having team dinners consisting of spaghetti and garlic bread the night before a meet. This carb-loading meal was actually an anchor. Sports nutritionists recommend that simple carbohydrates (candy, sweets, regular pasta, white bread, etc.) be eaten only immediately, before, after, and during a long ride (Cooper, 2006). During all other times, and throughout your ongoing training, complex carbohydrates are recommended. Complex carbs can be found in whole wheat breads and pasta, nuts, fruits and vegetables, brown and wild rice, or oatmeal. So skip the plate of spaghetti the night before. Get up early, and have some extra syrup on your pre-ride pancake breakfast 2-3 hours before you start your ride, your body will love you.
When you’re riding long distances, aid stations are an oasis on the plains. At aid stations, keep your energy up by having fruit and light snacks. Water is great to rehydrate your body; however, we will be burning so many calories that adding the electrolytes from a Gatorade Endurance would be beneficial. If you want to prevent gut rot, dilute your sports drink with water. This will cut down on the sweetness. Gut rot is an upset, bloated, or irritable stomach. Dr. Allen Lim, nutritionist for Garmin and RadioShack cycling teams, reports that gut tor is one of the one of the most common things he hears professional and recreational cyclists complain about on their long rides or races (Lim). It’s important to fend off the excitement of being at aid stations. Eat only what you need, and don’t get “buffet eyes”. This is what I call it when food is taken and eaten because it’s free. This usually happens at the first couple stations on day one, and then the first stop on other days. Resist the temptation, listen to your body, and finish your ride strong.
So you’ve just crossed the finish line. In your head, the crowd has erupted with thunderous applause because you’ve beaten your own personal best. Once the cheering dies down, there’s a lot to do. You have to secure your bike, get to your camp site, and get yourself into a long awaited shower. You’ve forgotten one of the most important things: you have to eat! Just because the ride has ended, doesn’t mean that your body has recovered. It’s important that you refill your carb-tank. Consume some simple carbohydrates within 30 minutes of getting off your ride. Personally, I love Pop-Tarts. This will help the body recover. Then be sure to get a full meal with complex carbohydrates within 2 hours of finishing the ride.
Eating is a critical part of sport performance whether you’re an elite athlete, or a weekend warrior. Pedal the Plains will be 3-days of riding for all levels of people. While I have provided some tips that work for me, it’s important that you listen to your own body, and talk with your nutritionist or physician to tailor a plan that is right for you.
I am looking forward to seeing everyone on the route. Just remember, don’t get Buffet Eyes. There will be another aid station ahead!