I am starting to ride with a bunch of cyclists doing on average 40 to 50k. My personal average is around mid 30s to 45k/hr. Aside from proper training, exercise and leg muscles, what food do you recommend to give you a quick energy boost to be able to keep up with the bunch? I was told Mars Bars are quick energy sources, but high in the bad stuff. Any other more natural recommendations? Thanks
Some personal thoughts/opinions:
- If you're not riding much longer than an hour or so, you might not need much. Perhaps a sports/electrolyte drink that contains sugars will suffice and be convenient.
- I use mainly cheap gel bars for a sugar hit, but they get quite boring and eat away at your teeth. Flapjack, oats, etc are good for a bit of variety but perhaps more appropriate for longer rides as they release energy slower.
- Cereal bars can be quite dry and difficult to get down especially if you're a bit dehydrated.
- Something with caffeine may be of benefit (caffeine on its own doesn't have energy, but it can give you a boost). I'd drink some strong coffee before the ride. Caffeine has a half-life of approximately 5 to 6 hours.
- Trial and error is key!
I am not sure you are after "The quickest Boost food" - seems the problem you have is likely to be over an extended period. If your problem is say "they leave me behind up big hills" then maybe a "boost" is what you are after, but if its just keeping up over the duration of the ride, quick boost food is not good.
The problem with the likes of Jelly beans, honey etc is the quick boost is followed by an energy crash - often of disproportionate proportions to the boost you got. These sources have a place - but generally should only be used when the finish line is in site and only when you know how the affect you.
Bananas, energy bars and gels are usually better as they have more complex carbs that release the energy over a longer time and reduce the effects of the low sugar crash. These should be used before you feel the need for them, so the energy is there when its needed, and ideally consumed regularly in small amounts - if needed set a repeating timer and eat when it beeps - every 10-20 minutes.
As everyone is different, the best advise is to try different foods and choose one you like, and different frequencies and amounts - most people do better on small and often. Do this before you need it - some gels make me want to vomit when working hard, others work really well for me. If you have one that disagrees with you, best its not when you are not trying to keep up with a bunch.
Mars Bars are not that great for cycling. Yes, they have quite a lot of calories, so will give you some energy. But most of that is simple sugars, so it may be a quick energy boost, but soon followed by an energy crash. Also Mars Bars have quite a lot of fat (about 17g per 100g), so this can not be easily digested while cycling hard - it could just make you sick.
Mars Bars are not very practical either. On a warm day, a bar in your back pocket will probably melt, so become rather messy and difficult to eat.
What are the other cyclists in your group eating? I go out for similarly long rides, and most people don't eat anything on the ride. I would say to make sure you are well fed (but not overly full) before the ride starts, and you probably won't feel the need to eat something for the ride. 50 KM at an average speed of 35 km/h will mean that the ride is over in an hour and a half. Bring a bottle with Gatorade or similar to keep your electrolytes up, and possibly another bottle of just water for those times when you feel like just having water.
Also, if you are going to eat something, eat small amounts on a regular basis, and don't wait until you feel like you need more energy. By that time it's already too late. The same goes for water. Drink before you start to feel thirsty. Get to know your own body and how much water/food you're going to need for a particular length and difficulty of ride so that your body doesn't end up with a deficit during the ride.
Skratchlabs has made a series of youtube videos for lots of types of food for different types of energy. You may want to thumb through them in order to find something which works for you (your stomach may not agree with everything).
One thing I particularly like about the Skratchlabs videos is that they have a nice way of packaging real foods in foil so you can eat while riding.
Cliff makes Cliff Shot Bloks and companies make similar energy gel type products which you may want to try as well.
I typically eat Powerbars or gels like GU if I need more intake on the bike. Additionally, I have a electrolyte mix like Cytomax in my water bottles which keeps me ingesting salts and calories. Bananas are also great, though I eat so many post-ride that I typically don't eat them on the bike unless it's a really long ride.
If you're slowly eating throughout the ride, I see no reason to need a "quick boost".
It's about keeping your energy up NOT about somehow generating 5kmph more from food. You'll go faster through training but it won't help if you bonk half way through a ride. I tend to "fuel" up before a ride then eat as I go along; usually rice cakes or cereal bars. For a bit of emergency energy if I'm flagging I'll go with a gel (some give me cramps tho) or something like shot bloks. However I can say with confidence that if I'd eaten properly as I rode, I'd never have needed them.
As an aside, if your AVERAGE speed on a solo ride is 35-45kmph, I'd start racing pretty; that is pretty quick.
I have a preference for squares of chocolate on a hard race. Trick is to break them up into squares, leave them in the freezer overnight, remember to take them in the morning. You can mash them against the ceiling of your mouth and still breathe perfectly well. Plain chocolate or goo-filled works nicely.
I also find hard boiled lollies work as a sugar source. They can be crammed into a cheek like a squirrel, when an effort is needed.
Either of those, eaten 5-10 minutes before an effort definitely help.
One surprising boostery-type food is Mint Cake. It has a mild peppermint/menthol-like way of clearing the breathing passages, so like a car with a blower/supercharger, you suddenly get more clear air in the lungs, which is helpful in recovery and oxygenating yourself.
Gels have their place, but they're not filling so you do need something to sit in the stomach and provide some base. Bliss balls are okay - something you can eat in one or two bites maximum. Some people like rice cakes for this
Do remember your water too - being hydrated is more important than being fed. You might choose two bottles, with one of chilled water and the other of water+electrolyte mix. Personally I just take water, sometimes with ice in it for the first hour. Staying hydrated will help with your overall condition throughout the ride.
Avoid chocolate with nuts in it, they can cause an airway obstruction as you inhale while chewing (Momma says "shut your mouth while chewing" but table manners don't matter on the bike)
Avoid things with complex wrapping - Personally I dislike bananas on the bike because you need to open them. Same goes for individually-wrapped items, I'd rather have a pottle of items, perhaps in a top-tube bag.
Lastly you can work on your technique. Feel free to skip a turn on the front, and hang at the back for a cycle to recover. Everyone has a bad day, and there's nothing wrong with taking a 2 minute breather at the back if you have to. Even taking a 10 second pull instead of a 30 second pull can help you keep up and not be shattered.
For more ideas, look around your group-mates. See what they're eating, and also when they eat. Being ready for the next climb in sufficient time is important too.
Side point, don't litter while riding. Noone likes a rider who intentionally drops their stuff for any reason.