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Bicycle Touring: My Food Plan

I started putting my food plan together last week. I’ll be honest. I didn’t know how much goes into cycling and nutrition. Food can make or break your ride, slowing you down or pumping fuel through your body to get you through the day.

According to Roy P., a DailyMile buddy of mine, “professional riders in the Tour de’France ride 5-8hrs a day, for 3 weeks straight, with only 2 days off. They eat nothing but ’empty,’ easy, fast to digest carbs for an hour before the 5-8hrs, and 1-3hrs after their rides. Then, they eat their main meal in the evening, which supplies almost all of their nutrition for the day, digested while they sleep.

They also wake up and eat things like raisin bran for midnight snacks. Night, when sleeping, is the perfect time for complex meals, which are slow to digest complex carbs, fats, proteins and micro-nutrients. When I was a boy on the farm, we ate exactly the same way, to fuel hard work from before sunrise to after sunset.”

Eating complex foods, stuff hard to digest, during a tour can result in bloating and discomfort on top of the burn you feel from pedaling all day. Not a fun outcome.

Taking that to mind, the three categories to fulfill are water, electrolytes and fuel. For water, I will have three water bottles, including an Aquamire water filter bottle, plus a Dromedary 6 liter water pack. Since I’ll have Fiji, the Dromedary is necessary; I’m wondering if I should upgrade to the 10 liter.  What do you think?

For electrolytes, some wonderful people will send me the GU Brew Electrolyte tablets. I’ll mostly use these during the Summer months when the heat is draining all the water from my body. They’re light to carry, as opposed to getting Gatorade at a grocery store. In addition, they do not have added sugar. They use the sugar-substitute Stevia which is a natural sweetener. Stevia is going to be a big staple of my ride.

For fuels, I’ve put together a list. If you disagree, or think otherwise about the list I’ve compiled, please feel free to comment below and let me know. I am a beginner touring cyclist, so I welcome your advice!

I plan on eating most of these foods one to two hours before the ride and two to three hours after the ride as suggested.

1. Oatmeal

BetterOats

To cut down on weight and money, I will not be carrying a stove or buying milk. I will make this the way my grandmother used to force me to eat it as a child. Raw. It requires water, oatmeal, a little bit of stevia, and a spoon. Time to grub. Ewww…

Additional nutrition facts:

BetterOatsNut1 BetterOatsNut2

2. Multigrain Peanut Butter Cracker Sandwich

BacktoNatureMultiGrainCrackers

Spread some peanut butter on these babies and sprinkle a little Stevia–you’ve got a nice peanut butter, cracker sandwich. It’s actually good, but better with honey.

FullCirclePeanutButter

Additional nutrition information (multi-grain crackers):

BetterOatsNut2 BetterOatsNut1

3. Organic Dried Mango

KopaliDriedMango

I’ll take advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables whenever I get the chance on the road, but until then, these will be a part of my “fruit intake.”

KopaliDriedMangoNut1

4. Organic Pumpkin Seeds

EdenFoodsPumpNut1

Another thing I was forced to eat as a child, but low and behold, people do say they are so good for you.

EdenPumpnut2

5. Mediterranean Organic Sundried Tomatoes in Olive Oil

I heard another touring cyclist raving about dried tomatoes, so I thought I'd add it to my list. Not sure what they bring to the table as far as nutrition and fuel goes, but we'll see. What do you think?

I heard another touring cyclist raving about dried tomatoes, so I thought I’d add it to my list. Not sure what they bring to the table as far as nutrition and fuel goes, but we’ll see. What do you think?

6. Organic Raisins

FrannysOrganicRaisins

I can’t tell you how much I hate raisins, but I hear Franny’s are good.

7. Nishiki Rice

Whenever I come across a stove via my warmshowers network, I'll cook a bowl of this brand of rice as suggested by Roy P.

Whenever I come across a stove via my warmshowers network, I’ll cook a bowl of this brand of rice as suggested by Roy P.

8. Koyo Organic Mushroom Ramen Noodles

Once again, when I find a stove, these will be great to eat. No MSG, organic, no chemicals... It's a healthier version of the ramen you ate in college.

Once again, when I find a stove, these will be great to eat. No MSG, organic, no chemicals… It’s a healthier version of the ramen you ate in college.

9. Dark Chocolate w/ Stevia from Lily’s Sweets

A healthy option for my usual chocolate craving, and a nice snack for the touring cyclist's diet, according to some blogs.

A healthy option for my usual chocolate craving, and a nice snack for the touring cyclist’s diet, according to some blogs.

10. Nectr Core and Calm by Terra Biotech

Wonderful, healthy alternatives to energy drinks and sleeping pills. Nectr core is shock full of superfoods and herbs that naturally give you an energy boost and nutrition. Nectr Calm has natural sleep inducing or calming herbs such as chamomile. These drinks will help my body to repair and recover. I used to have cramps in my legs and feet all the time from cycling, but not since I started drinking these.

Wonderful, healthy alternatives to energy drinks and sleeping pills. Nectr core is shock full of superfoods and herbs that naturally give you an energy boost and nutrition. Nectr Calm has natural sleep inducing or calming herbs such as chamomile. These drinks will help my body to repair and recover. I used to have cramps in my legs and feet all the time from cycling, but not since I started drinking these.

11. Body by Vi Meal Replacement Shakes

ViShakesNut1

I used to drink Slimfast. These meal replacement shakes are most definitely a step up from that, and have helped me to lose 12 pounds so far. I track my calories with MyFitnessPal.com, and I drink this in the morning when I don’t feel like eating or cooking breakfast. For my ride, these will be pivotal when I can’t find my next meal. What do you think?

ViShakesNut2 ViShakesNut3

That’s it. Is this sufficient?

Oh, for Fiji, she will be on Taste of the Wild Wild Boar dog food.

Other helpful links:

http://www.johnforester.com/Articles/Cycling/Physiology.htm

http://www.bicycling.com/training-nutrition/nutrition-weight-loss/two-faced-fuels-and-cycling-nutrition

http://www.roadbikerider.com/nutrition/how-eat-endurance

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12 thoughts on “Bicycle Touring: My Food Plan

  1. Suppose I’m a little late to this party but I just found this thread. I have bicycled across the US, I’ve done the west coast, I’ve bicycled through Europe, India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, and Australia. I second Patrick: don’t stress. Eat as clean as possible and eat what you like. Carry some quick calories with you to avoid the afternoon bonk but mostly don’t worry about it. This isn’t a race. Remember, the most important part of the ride is not what you eat. It is the adventure, the fellowship of other riders, the new friends you meet along the way and the self affirmation of accomplishment. Good luck and enjoy!!

  2. Hey, I saw your post on Adventure Cycling and found your blog. Sounds like a great adventure! I’m also tentatively planning a cross-country ride this year.

    As for food, this sounds counter-intuitive, but don’t stress out about it. As much riding as you’re going to do, you will lose body fat no matter what you eat — even if you’re occasionally (maybe even often) indulging in doughnuts and McDonald’s. Cycling is the most energy-intensive sport, so eat what you crave. If you don’t, you’ll likely end up cranky and bonked (energy depleted). Overeating should be avoided not because you won’t lose weight or your body won’t put that fuel to use (it will), but because it will make you feel sluggish while riding.

    Also, whoever told you that bananas are not a good on-bike food is mistaken. They are a classic cycling food that lots of pro riders eat. I regularly eat them while on hard training rides, and they don’t upset my stomach. (Although I’m not sure I’d eat several of them in a row — never tried that.)

    In general, good foods to eat WHILE riding are high in carbohydrates and low in proteins and fats, and electrolyte replacement is key here, especially when it’s hot. Good foods to eat BEFORE riding are high in carbs with modest amounts of protein and fat; nothing too heavy to make you feel bloated. Good foods to AFTER riding can be high in protein and fats, and this is when I would eat my “heavy” foods.

    –Patrick

    • Thank you so much! I hope you get on the road this year, too. It’s bound to be a blast. 🙂 I am going to take some bananas and try get as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. I do look forward to eating the occasional pint of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. hahaha

  3. Well, maybe some have bloating with them but I never do. I think it depends on what is already happening in your gut as far as fuels. Anything sweet can cause bloating – a natural reaction when the bacteria in your gut starts gorging on the sugars and creating lots of gas (bloating for you), but if you’ve got them busy on other things before hand, you should be fine. Test it out now before you go. When I’m on one of my longer rides, I start my day with 4 eggs (I know you won’t be carrying eggs around) and about 17 miles in stop for a rest to have a banana. After that it’s just a little something now and then to keep from bonking. Fig Newtons help to keep the bonks away as do peanut butter crackers. Dried apricots, prunes – any dried fruit – very high in potassium BUT also has the sugars much more concentrated, so you want to make sure that your blood sugar isn’t doing a yo-yo. However, you definitely want to keep complex carbs in your arsenal, which it sounds like you are doing. When I said protein after a ride, powdered protein drinks get it in you the fastest. Wish I was going with you. My time is coming.

  4. Consume protein within a half hour of being done with your daily ride and your muscles will repair better. As for the grinding it out on the bike, you may experience food boredom and should just listen to what your body is asking for. Have you seen BICYCLE DREAMS or RACE ACROSS AMERICA? Those guys/gals get food boredom pretty quickly. Your sweat will put out a lot of salt, and you’ll want to avoid muscle cramps by eating high potassium foods. The most easy and portable way to get potassium is bananas – plus they are completely biodegradable. If you can get down one banana a day, it will help a lot. I’ll send you my list on high potassium foods, if you want.

    • Hey Jenny, I heard Bananas weren’t so good to eat during a ride. I guess I could eat them before. But I heard they cause bloating. I would love some other high potassium alternatives. The pumpkin seeds seem to have a good amount of Potassium. Also, the Nectr core has a lot of potassium in it. Any more?

  5. For long rides I use Hammer Nutrition for fuel such as Sustained Energy or Perpeteum. They come in powder form and you just add water. They dont upset or bloat you like Gatorade does and you can also use them as a meal replacement drink (or paste). They also have a lighter post ride called Recoverite.

    Other than that, you’re off to a good start. Variety of foods is good with some on-the-spot treats as you find them.

  6. Here’s a little more

    Coconut water
    Beets (nitric oxide) for recovery
    Fruit!
    Green veggies

    How many weeks will you be riding?

    8 hrs of riding is 3500 cals minimum and then you will need to recover and repair.

    II think you need more nutrition to help with recovery. But are off to a great start.

    Have you done anything longer than 6 or 8 hour rides yet? How did you feel? That’s a great gauge. This is so exciting!

    • I’ve done a six hour ride. I felt great! I didn’t need much, except a whole bunch of water. Of course, my body ached, but it wasn’t unbearable. It’ll be 12 to 15 weeks, give or take. I hope we can find more farmer’s markets on the way to help with added nutrition. Thank you!

    • yep good old fashioned food like fruits and veggies are loaded with antioxidant rich nutrition that will allow you to keep getting up and riding the next day. After 3 or 5 days of 5 – 10 rides you’ll need it!

      I have done dual and triple century rides (3 100 miles in a row) and was WRECKED! Mainly cause my nutrition was not enough and not balanced correctly.

      Rock and Roll.

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