Friday 6 December 2019

Need power in the saddle but can't stand the sugar?

If you'd told me as a kid that one day I'd be allowed to eat lots and lots of sweet, sugary bars and drinks without any ramifications, I would have thought that I was in clover. When, training for my first Ironman this became a reality, I quickly found that it wasn't such a treat at all.

For long multi-hour bike rides, in-the-saddle fuelling is a must, but I hate the sticky sweet sports drinks and bars in every cyclist's or triathlete's stash.

Fuelling on packaged bars, sports drinks and energy blocks (jelly squares), I would finish training rides bloated and nauseated. My Ironman race days in 2011 and 2013 were no better as I flirted with nutritional disaster.

This year its time for some real food on the bike. I recently bought the excellent 'Feed Zone Portables' cookbook for cyclists, which suggests lots of great portable recipe suggestions for carrying on the bike. The author, Allen Lim, who has cooked for professional cycling teams explains why athletes like me struggle with pre-packaged foods - simply put, real foods contain lots of water, while bars and gels are highly concentrated so that they overload the gut.

I was excited to find some savoury alternatives to pre-packaged sports nutrition for taking on long cycles, so I stocked up on sticky rice and got baking.

If you're playing around with new foods, be mindful that you're still taking in enough carbohydrates per hour to sustain your long (3hr+) ride or race (a good rule of thumb is to take in your weight in kg, and match that with grams of carbohydrate per hour - e.g. up to 60g carbs per hour for a 60kg athlete).

Sometimes it's tough to be organised enough to shop for and assemble quality food for training. But there are always simple options like bananas or even deli-counter sandwiches.

I've been ramping up the 'real food' campaign slowly as my time in the saddle builds. I fuelled the tough heat-seared ride over Mount Hamilton to Livermore a few weeks ago with Parma ham and hummus wraps - delicious.

Last weekend my ultra-marathon running friend Val came to town to visit. We'd planned a long bike ride as cross training for her next trail race, and she's also a big proponent of real food so I decided to delve into the Feed Zone cookbook to make some rice and bacon balls.

Neat, industrious looking rows of foil packages, I froze some and we stashed several into our jerseys for our long ride. Delicious savoury, umami mouthfuls of real food. Sugar never tasted like this.

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Life