Tuesday, October 09, 2007


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.



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?"


Nytro said...

"drinking stroke out of a cup"...


what would you think of my new coffee addiction?


Rainmaker said...

Nice, references to Supersize me! Now that's a quality movie.

I would agree, you pretty much have to dink around with a lot of different things until you find what's right. And in some cases dinking around includes more than training. I found certain things work great for training - but I end up cookie tossing in a race (seriously!). On the Hammer Nutrition site they have a 75 page PDF file you can download (for free) that includes a ton of really include information on the top 10 mistakes endurance athelets make and break it down into human-readable english. Even if you don't buy thier products, it's still a good source of more general information.

Brent Buckner said...

Great post - fun & quality info!

Andra Sue said...

I agree...fast food is gross. HOWEVER, if our friend Allez were a 300 lb Athena, I kind of doubt you would have called out her nutritional habits (or lack thereof) publicly. :D

I also have to re-iterate the different strokes for different folks concept. I can't do recovery drinks (they make me sick), but I can do chocolate milk. I can't do gels, but can stomach Sport Beans. Clif Bars make me hurl on the bike, but I can eat Nutter Butters. None of those things are particularly "healthy," but they keep me from bonking.

Also, don't forget some of our pro-athlete buddies...I think it might have been Tim DeBoom who mentioned in an article that he eats Taco Bell during long rides. (Eeeeew!)Dean Karnazes eats entire pizzas on his ultras. And they'll kick ALL our asses 7 ways till Sunday any day of the week. :)

Lance Notstrong said...

In Allez's defense, a chili dog on a few social bike rides does not make up an entire diet of fast food. About 95% of the time, she cooks and eats alot of very healthy food (way more than me)!!!

You had some good advise in there though. And that pic of Allez with the 2 bottles is priceless :-)

Jane said...

Note to self: no Perpetuem for Greyhound. Unless you buy air freshener with it.

Don't be a food nazi! A little bit of junk makes life fun (very little mind you, like less than 10%)

Did you know in the olden days (before gels and power bar etc) in Europe on long bike tours, cyclists would eat ciabatta and prosciutto with goat cheese and figs. Now that's race nutrition!

Jane said...

oh i forgot - did you sign up for the MS150? It's already almost full in the first week of registration!

Allez said...

Oh, the humiliation :-( I do consider my occasional junk food to be a treat. But really, when it comes to nutrition, I can't find anything that's worked for me yet on long bike rides other than real, solid food. I've toyed with nutrition alot more this year since I've moved up to triathlons. I know that packing a chili cheese dog for a 1/2 IM wouldn't be very practical :-)

EVERY time this year that I've cut back to JUST gels, drink mixes, clif blocks, bars, I've gotten sick to my stomach & hit the wall. All of my best/strongest rides have been days that I could stop and get "real" food.

I posted several weeks ago about being stuck on this. I'm not eating crap food because I don't care about nutrition. Its the only thing so far that has worked for me 100% of the time. I had sort of given up on trying new things (for the time being) when I hit the wall SO bad on a 50 mile ride that I was physically ill for the rest of the day. It scared me.

I've been packing on heavier miles and I couldn't keep getting sick like that week after week. Once I went back to the high caloried crap food, my problems went away. So I stuck with that through my century. So what was it that my body needed... calories, sodium, fat, carbs, protein? I don't know.

When I trained for a marathon, having gels & gatorade made me nauseous. I have Cytomax, don't care for it. I do use the Endurox stuff for after my workout. And chocolate milk!

Don't think that I eat fast food the morning before a sprint tri. I make a smoothie with bananas, oatmeal, gel & gatorade. I've tried that before a long bike ride, but I get hungry real soon into it.

Anyways, I DO try alot of things. I'm always open for suggestions, but realize that I can't find that magic combination to get me through my rides. I would rather use real, solid foods though, than just sticking with all those drink mixes. Maybe next year. Sorry, long comment :-)

Bigun said...

All that written about nutrition and no mention of Fig Newtons! I'm upset. Where's my Dunkin Donuts?

2 Fig newtons = 110 calories. Good stuff. A sleave of Fig Newtons has 15 servings, the 1 lb box. Perfect carrying case for a ride or race, then just pop them in your mouth...125mg of sodium - and 22 grams of carbs! They are the perfect bike food. 6 fig newtons an hour...childs play.

monica said...

i'm a fan of smuckers uncrustables, the pre-made pbj sandwiches for kids, for long rides. they're not the greatest nutritionally, but i'de venture to say they're better than greasy fast food. they come in individual plastic pouches, so they pack great for a ride. 210 calories, 80 from fat, so not what you want to start your day with. but a great filler for the middle of the ride. in the morning i like to start out with oatmeal with soymilk. it's perfectly dense but passes through if you know what i mean.

Taconite Boy said...

fig newton....eewwww

Good post

Taconite Boy said...

fig newton....eewwww

Good post

Liam O'Connell said...

im craving some sonic!

Sarah said...

You got it right -- I LOVE chocolate milk as a recovery drink!

pinkgurugal said...

i say eat up. paula newby fraser used to eat burger king and pizza the night before an ironman. nothing like fuel for the body and whatever works!

HOKIEX said...

Endurox, man I love that stuff, the Fruit Punch flavor!

I've heard some folks eat Oatmeal Creme Pies on the bike! I might have to give that a try.

I'll admit to my favorite post race meal - A Five Guys bacon cheeseburger burger with fries and a Sprite. The only time I ever drink soda.

HOKIEX said...

BTW...I'm a big Jamie Whitmore fan and that first picture had me do a double take. Allez looks like Jamie with those pigtails and sunglasses.

Bolder said...

i feel for allez.

i can eat anything before riding, during riding, and after riding.

i don't know her pain.