One of my studly, Texas team mates (who shall remain nameless) has a problem. Even though her body is a highly tuned triathlon MACHEEN, she has a penchant for filling her nutritional needs with **gasp** fast food and vending machine fare.
Having no shame whatsoever, she even posts photographs of herself ordering death wrapped in paper, eating heart disease on a plate, drinking stroke in a cup.
Recently, she sank to an all-time low. She blogged about getting into a fistfight with a vending machine over snack food.
I could take it no longer. The triathlon gods spoke to me. I had a prophetic mission. Oh sweet baby Jesus of the vending machine, put a hedge between our friend (who shall remain nameless) from the satanic temptation of garbage, processed food.
So, I commented on her blog, and she replied, "Ok, greyhound... pressure's on. What is YOUR advice for fueling before & during a long bike ride? Gels & fruit aren't enough for me!"
Well, when it comes to nutrition, Bolder might be a better source of info. He is the king of all things Paleo as well as the backslider concerning all things Ben & Jerry. Many is the hawt tri-chica who has consulted Sir Abs-a-lot, all with rave reviews.
As for me, I would observe that on matters relating to nutrition, your mileage may vary. Take Perpetuem, for example.
Please, TAKE IT. FAR FAR AWAY FROM ME.
Perpetuem has carbohydrates, protein and a little bit of fat, supposedly to encourage your body to release fat for fuel. All it encouraged my body to do was store a gigantic Perpetuem burrito in my large intestine that released gaseous Perpetuem fumes during and after the race.
The point is, different strokes for different folks. That said, there are some basic principles that work well for most people engaging in a long workout or endurance event.
Before going out for a long training session, fuel up and top off your hydration. This means somewhere between 600 to 900 calories at least a couple hours before go time so that you have time to absorb the nutrients and (hopefully) do your business before you are on the road. What kind of calories? Something that burns clean--high quality carbohydrates with some protein in the mix as well. Complex carbohydrates will cause less of a glycemic reaction and will stick to your ribs better, but if you are racing, you want to avoid excess fiber.
Some things I have eaten to fuel up? Museli and soy milk or yogurt, cottage cheese, toast, waffles with peanut butter, peanut butter and jelly, or on race day, Ensure. Just before kicking off, I often will have an energy gell just to top off the tank.
What I take during exercise depends upon whether I am biking or running. On the bike, most people can only absorb about 1 g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per hour (if I am remembering my math correctly). That works out to about 280 to 350 calories per hour. For me that works out to about 300 calories per hour. Running, it is less, because of all the jostling. For me, about 200 calories per hour.
Of course, you expend much more than that if you are using any effort at all, but it does no good to consume more than you can absorb. That just leads to Delayed Gastric Emptying, cramps, stomach aches, barfing and other unpleasantness. You make up the deficit between what you expend and what you take on through muscle glycogen and fat. That's why we do all that moderate intensity training--to train the body to burn fat as fuel efficiently and to push out the threshold at which we will deplete all the muscle glycogen.
But how do you get the 300 calories per hour? Not through anything served under a heat lamp. A lot of folks I know mix up a bottle of carbo pro (or maltodextrin) and add some electrolytes like Nuun. I prefer to have my fuel and my hydration separated. Depending upon the conditions, I might need more hydration or less, more fuel or less, more electrolytes or less. So, I use Powergels for calories and electrolytes, salt tablets if it is hot and additional electrolytes are needed, and good ole plain water for hydration.
Powergels are 100 calories per packet, meaning if I take one every 20 minutes, I get 300 calories per hour and plent of electrolytes in a dose that I take often enough that I don't feel peckish in between hits like I did with my 150 calorie gels.
I know you say gels and fruit aren't enough, but two things. First, fruit sugars like sucrose tend not to mix an absorb well with other sugars and can actually make one ill. It just took one grape at IM Wisconsin and I was done with the fruit. In addition, I would hazard a guess you weren't fueling often enough, probably one gel every half our or even further apart. If you take one every 20 minutes, you can't possibly absorb any more calories.
After the ride, the general rule I have heard is to try for 1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per hour after the ride. The glycogen receptors to replace muscle glycogen are most . . . uhm . . . receptive . . . in the first 30 minutes. And, they absorb carbohydrates better and in higher quantities if they are coupled with protein in a 4:1, carbs to protein ratio.
I love the salty sour goodness of Orange Flavored Powerbar Recovery Drink.
Endurox is also pretty effective, but I don't like the taste as much.
But I also like to eat real food as soon as possible. As far as that goes, nothing has been proved a more effective recovery beverage than Chocolate Milk.
And alas, as much as I like my beer after a ride, alcohol is actually counterproductive. Your body recognizes beverage alcohol as a poison, and it turns its energy to detoxifying the poison at the expense of replacing muscle glycogen and recovering.
So, there you have it. Some general nutritional advice that will keep you well-fueled without having to use the words "Supersize me" or having to answer the question, "Do you want fries with that?"