Fuel for the Long Haul

Six days and 446 miles on a bike means you’ll burn around 20,000 calories. But don’t fixate on volume alone to replenish that energy. Focus on quality and timing.

Jan 30, 2012
Outside Magazine
Rockies Fuel

Eat smart: it will take upwards of 20,000 calories to fuel your Rocky week.    Photo: Rachel Barrett/Gallery Stock

“Start the day with a small, easy-to-digest meal,” says Kelli Jennings, a sports dietitian at Apex Nutrition in Golden, Colorado. “You need to eat, but you probably need less food than you think.”

The rule: One to two hours before riding, eat 400 to 600 calories that are high in carbs (75 to 100 grams), moderate in protein, and low in fiber and fat.

Try this: Granola mix. Stir together 1 1/2 cups oats,  1/4 cup almonds, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 scoops vanilla undenatured whey protein, 3 tablespoons honey, and 1/2 cup water. Spread on an oiled cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees, stirring often, for 60 minutes or until crunchy. Add  1/4 cup dried fruit. Pack it in ziplocks (make three servings) and then eat it with 3/4 cup of milk.

“The most common mistake is trying to replenish everything you burn,” Jennings says. “Your body can process fewer calories while exercising than it burns.”

The rule: Every hour, down 16 to 32 ounces of sports drink with 12 to 15 grams of carbs per 8 ounces. Also eat some food with 25 grams of carbs (three Clif Shot Bloks or ten Honey Stinger chews, for example). Every three hours, eat something slightly more substantial, like half a sandwich. 

Try this: Homemade whole-food bars. In a food processor, grind 1/4 c up cashews, 1/2 c up dried cranberries or raisins, 1 scoop vanilla undenatured whey protein, 1/2 tablespoon organic coconut oil, and a pinch each of salt and cinnamon. Press resulting paste onto a parchment-covered cookie sheet, let set, and cut into quarters. Makes four 110-calorie bars. 

In the first 30 minutes following hard exercise, your body works overtime to replenish itself. Fuel now and you’ll store carbs (glycogen) in your muscles for use the next day. 

The rule: After climbing off the bike, get 45-plus grams of carbs, 10-plus grams of protein, some healthy fat, and at least 32 ounces of water. At dinner, choose lean proteins, carbohydrates such as whole grains or yams, and easy-to-digest vegetables like salad, spinach, tomatoes, avocados, and bell peppers (no broccoli or cauliflower).

Try this: Chunky recovery smoothie. Mix 1 cup yogurt, one banana, 1 cup berries, and  1/4 cup ground almonds with 8 ounces of water and slurp it down. A pint of chocolate milk is a good, easy alternative.