What to eat?

Food is pretty vital to riding. In the Alaska Ultrasport last year, I made a bit of a mess of it. As people pointed out (too late for me, unfortunately!), I had gone too far down the path of the spreadsheet. I calculated calories per gram, and stocked up with large bulks of the foods I thought best fit that criteria. Taste was a factor, but I got lazy and just bought a limited range of food.

On the trail, that sucked. I didn’t want to eat my high calorie food. I wanted someone else’s high calorie food (luckily I could trade with other racers now and then). So the lesson was learned. Variety! I spent lots of time reading the backs of packets of food that could work on the trail. I’ll take all kinds of stuff next time.

Back in the “real” world, training in normal temperatures still needs a lot of food. I had always avoided energy products: they were expensive and, somehow, just as suspect as using gears. Like I wrote before, though, things changed and I started using powders.

Initially just Maxim, since we had some from Emily’s swims. Then, Torq, since it’s tasty and well-regarded among cycling people. Suddenly, I could get a lot more energy into me during a ride and felt a lot less soreness on the long ones. I could keep pounding out miles with less deterioration on the bike and quicker recovery afterwards. So energy drinks are effective, but are they expensive?

This calls for a table!

Calories/g p/calorie normalised p/calorie %fat
Malt loaf (large BOGOF) 3.1 0.07 1.43 2
Torq Energy (1.5kg) 3.6 0.29 5.86 0
9-bar (3 pack) 5.5 0.14 2.79 40
Torq Recovery (1.5 kg) 3.48 0.59 11.8 1.1
Panda licorice comfits (132g) 3.7 0.27 5.49 0.2
Mars bar (3 pack) 4.46 0.13 2.6 17.4
Hovis Granary Bread (2 forĀ£2) 2.5 0.05 1 2.4
Nairns Oat Cakes (250g) 4.18 0.09 1.7 16.3
Beer (average) 0.43 0.88 17.58 0

So, Torq Energy is nearly 6x as expensive as bread and Torq Recovery is 12x. But while this table is interesting (hmm) it doesn’t tell anything like the whole story. The energy products are easy to get in you, and well balanced to have their positive effects. I can say quite categorically from my experience that they help. I’d just suspected that they weren’t so much more expensive than normal food. It turns out I was kind of wrong on that point (unless you drink beer as your recovery drink – that makes Torq seem cheap).

I’m going to carry on using them, for sure. But now I know I’m paying for the privileged. For the record, my last 10 hour ride took 2 bottles (750ml) of Maxim, 3 bottles of Torq, a malt loaf, a pack of oat cakes, and a 9-bar. Immediately after finishing, I swigged down a dose of Torq recovery. End result? I felt pretty good despite doing nearly 100 miles, having two punctures and one other mechanical. And I took a photo:

Not suitable for motors, definitely suitable for bikes.

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