Written by: Lea Crosetti, RD, CSSD
As a sports dietitian and endurance athlete, I am always looking for new food variations to eat out on the course. Whether it be an attempt to “go more natural”, avoid the GI issues with sugary sports nutrition products, or simply get more variety and tasty foods my body is craving while cycling, it’s the quest to find a nourishing, tolerable and tasty bite while cycling.
It can be a little frightening when looking at the back of your favorite sports product. With a long list of additives, food colorings and other ingredients that look like they’re coming out of a chem lab rather than a kitchen, you have to begin to wonder if you should be putting it into you body. Especially as athletes whose bodies have often been compared to a high performance machine, one would think only the best fuel source would be going into it?
I have become a big fan of Skratch electrolyte drink mix. It has minimal ingredients, all natural and its not overly sweet. Hammer nutrition products are also known to be more natural than many of the others ones too. Sometimes you may need to have these more concentrated forms of carbohydrates to help you get your calorie needs met during the bout of exercise.
Ever wonder why all the sports nutrition products are sweet? I don’t really have an answer for you except the number one ingredient is usually sugar because it’s a prominent source of energy in the body while we are training. I don’t know about you, but I never crave sweets when I am training. I always crave salty foods; which makes sense given that you are losing salt in your sweat.
Variety is important for long rides. Whether you are out there for 3 hours or 8 hours drinking the same overly sweet mix or gel can be brutal for your taste buds, to the point where the body start to reject it. Variety can give you something to look forward to and enjoy.
Here are some tasty treats to bring with you on the course:
• Peanut butter filled pretzels
• Almond butter and honey/jam sandwich (cut in quarters)
• Honey pretzels
• Graham crackers
• Plain pretzels or crackers
• Cereals: Cheerios, Puffins, Chex…
• Trail mixes (be creative with adding cereals, pretzels, nuts banana chips, fruits)
Notes of caution: Be careful of foods that melt. As tempting as yogurt/chocolate covered pretzels may be….don’t do it, especially in the summer heat. Bento boxes can also help prevent your foods from getting smashed. You may still need to supplement with other sports nutrition products to assure calorie needs are being met.
I found Allen Lim’s and Biju Thomas’ book Feed Zone Portables and fell in love with it. It is a perfect combination of Allen Lim’s knowledge of exercise physiology and Biju Thomas’ culinary expertise. Its a fantastic book for the athlete that likes “real food”.
Here is one the satisfying recipes from Feed Zone Portables:
1/2 tsp salt
4 chopped scallions (green part only)
1/2c boiling water
1 Tbs sesame oil
Combine the flour, salt, and scallions in a bowl. Pour in the boiling hot water. Stir quickly with a wooden spoon. Once the dough begins to hold together, work it with your hands until all the flour is incorporated. Shape the dough in a large ball and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick, similar to a tortilla. Brush a sauté pan with sesame oil and bring to medium-high heat. Fry the pancake on both sides until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Cut into 8 wedges.
2 wedges = 145kcal, 4g fat, 293mg, sodium, 24g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 3g protein.
If you are feeling creative or don’t like scallions, you could probably substitute other ingredients like garlic, red peppers, cooked sweet potato, spinach or mushrooms (I would cook these vegetables first to avoid any water seepage). You may even be able to create an Italian pancake by adding basil, a Spanish one by adding cumin, or Indian w/ curry powder. These herbs and spices are loaded with antioxidants which are always great for the body.
Always look to nourish the body, but don’t forget to allow your taste-buds to enjoy the ride as well.
Lea Crosetti, RD, CSSD
Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics