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BIKE TOURING
FOOD FOR THOUGHT


assortment of food and fruit


Touring depends on high energy output for extended periods of time. Cyclists who are touring could expend the same amount of energy as a recreational marathon runner. When you are touring, you need to have an energy source that isn't metabolized (burnt up) so rapidly.

Food replenishes the energy that has been burnt up. Every time you eat something, your body converts the food's carbohydrates (which are natural compounds that are derived from starches and sugars) and stores them as muscle fuel (glycogen). When you glycogen level is at it's lowest, less fuel reaches your brain and muscles so you start to feel dizzy and tired. Cyclist call this "bonking". To avoid bonking, you need to have something to eat on the bicycle if you go out for ninety minutes or longer.

Many cycle tourist make the mistake of eating lots of sweets as a way of getting their energy. Sweets might be helpful in providing energy for sprints because the simple sugar in them is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and is quickly usable. For endurance cycling, this is inappropriate. Large sugar loads in the bloodstream causes the pancreas to produce a large amount of insulin to deal with the sugar. This insulin causes the body to store up the excess sugar rapidly instead of using it. The combination of rapid use of sugar and rapid storage will leave a person with a temporarily low blood sugar level. Fatigue, headache, and nausea could be signs of this low blood sugar level.

When you are off the bicycle, your diet should consist of at least between sixty and seventy percent carbohydrates, between twenty and thirty percent fats, and between ten and fifteen percent protein. Hi-carbohydrate foods include fruit, pasta, potatoes, rice, whole-grain breads, and vegetables.

When you are touring, you need eat a well-balanced diet with a wide variety of whole foods to satisfy your energy needs. Between sixty-five and seventy percent of your total calories should be from carbohydrate sources. Most of these calories should be from complex carbohydrates that can be found in legumes (such as beans or peas), potatoes, vegetables, or whole grains. Complex carbohydrates take longer to break down into useful forms of fuel than do simple carbohydrates that can be found in candy, fruit, juices, and pastry. Also, complex carbohydrates have a slower metabolism rate.

Fat should be limited to twenty percent or less of your total calorie intake each day. Experiment to see what is the best percentage for you. This fat should be gotten from low-fat dairy products such as cheese or yogurt made from low-fat milk. Use vegetable oils such as safflower and sunflower oils that are high in essential fatty acids for salads and in baking goods. Things like "power bars" can provide you with a 40/30/30 percent ratio of carbohydrates/fat/ protein.

Protein should be also limited to twenty percent or less of your total calories. You can go as low as nine percent and this is enough protein to help repair the muscle tissue that breaks down during riding.

If it is possible, a good breakfast should be eaten between an hour and a half and two hours (this allows the stomach to empty) before starting out for the day. Keeping your stomach fairly empty during the ride will make you comfortable while riding. To do so so, it is best for you to eat a small amount of food several times during the day instead of several big meals. Avoid eating large meals in the middle of the day. Your body will have a hard time providing ample blood supplies for digestive purposes when much of your circulation is being used to move your legs.

For these small meals, try carrying and eating raw vegetables such as bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, or celery. An apple or other fruit is fine once or twice a day. Watch out for the high sugar loads coming from the fructose found in fruits. Granola is a good snack food but some brands can be high in fats. A loaf of whole grain bread is light to carry and a good source of energy. Peanut butter is good but go very light with it on your sandwiches.

The best popular "on-bike" food is the banana. It is easy to eat (but be careful with what you do with the peal), and provides one hundred five calories of carbohydrates and replaces lost potassium. You lose potassium through sweating. Other fresh fruits that are great cycling food are apples (eighty-one calories), and pears (ninety-eight calories). Both of them provide needed carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and water.

Some cyclists who go long-distances and ride at a steady pace swear by a self-made mixture of favorite munchies, granola, M and M's, nuts, and raisins. This mixture is affectionately called "Gorp" (Good old raisins and peanuts). Gorp is easy to carry and nibble. Nibbling delivers a steady flow of food energy.

Things like caffeine found in chocolate, coffee, cola, and tea) can give you a temporary mental and physical boost. They can help you metabolize fat. A negative factor is that there can also be a loss of fluids from the stimulation of urinating more often.

The evening meal should be the most substantial of the others. This would be the best time to store up the carbohydrates needed for the next day's ride. A good choice of food if you carry a stove is whole grain pasta. Do not worry about consuming a little higher percentage of fat during your evening meal. Touring cyclists might need as much as double the normal person's calorie intake to maintain their weight. You might need to consume between thirty-five hundred and five thousand calories a day.




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