This week is sort of feeling like the first week of summer. I say “sort of” because today the high was 53F. Brrr… But the temperature on Monday was fantastic for cycling– mid 70s and sunny. My friend Pata and I met up and then headed to our favorite coffee place in Lexington, MA to snack and caffeinate. We rode in the afternoon, so both got forms of ice tea with lemonade, and she ordered banana bread.
I know from our many rides that Pata loves the right baked good to keep her going during a ride. Me, I generally prefer to stick to clif shot bloks, or clif bars, or luna bars (my favorites).
Of course, these specialized energy bar/block/gel/drink products can be pricey. I try to order in bulk, and often can get them through athlete friends who have pro deals or other discounts. But, in the end, they work for me on rides, so I don’t mess with what works.
However, I was reminded of how some of us (meaning me) can be overly fussy about how we refuel during breaks in activity. Sitting on a bench across from us were this nice woman and her two kids. She was roller blading and they were biking. On a break they indulged in a bag of multicolored jelly beans, bought from the local drug store. I am sure they cost less than one of my packages of clif shot bloks.
I never got their names, but she said it was okay to use their picture. These folks were eminently practical and economical about getting some energy snacks. In fact, my former sports nutritionist Nancy Clark (who has written several books about sports nutrition for runners and cyclists, including here and here) told me that I could put jelly beans in a bag with some salt, and they would be just as good as these tasty but expensive sport beans.
Last summer I really stocked up on energy chewables, so I’ve got plenty to start off an active cycling summer. But I’m giving some thought to trying out more modest fueling fare. Do the fancy products really help more than the plain snacks, or is it just placebo effect?
This is a hard question, and I’ve done a bit of digging and not gotten a clear answer. For endurance, high-octane performance, and recovery, we need different combos of sugars, proteins, minerals and generally not much fats, as they are harder to digest. On the other hand, some studies have shown that chocolate milk is one of the best recovery drinks ever (if you can tolerate milk and the fat content).
Yes, exercise science is complicated.
I’ll keep looking into this, and when I have something to say, you can read it here first.
What I can say with some certainty for now: don’t eat this:
In the meantime, I’m curious: what are your favorite during-ride and after-ride snacks? I recall that Cate swore by cheese sandwiches during her bike ride through the Baltics. Dear readers, what gets you through a ride, hike, sail, paddle, run, walk, etc.? Do you make your own concoction? Buy something from the convenience store? Order fancy food online? I’d love to hear from you.