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  1. #1
    Senior Member m00n's Avatar
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    When/what to eat

    Since I'm still fairly new to commuting, I run into "issues" now and then. I'd like some feedback on the latest. My ride home after work has been quite rough the past two times. It's about 11 miles, mostly uphill. About 7-8 miles into the ride my energy level drops to zero. I've had to stop and get something to eat from my backpack. Even then it takes a while to build my energy back up.

    My guess is that I'm just not preparing by body correctly for the ride. Maybe I need to eat something specific at a specific time? I'm wondering what others are doing... Protein? Carbs?

    If I leave the office at 5:00, what time before that should I eat, and what should I eat? Would carrying Gatorade or some other sports drink with me, instead of water, help the situation? I'm sure that my body is just more worn out in the afternoon from being at work, and that hasn't helped the situation. However, this seems to be a new problem just in the last couple of rides.

    Your thoughts and help are appreciated.

  2. #2
    tsl
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    My PM commute is shorter, gently but relentlessly uphill and right into the prevailing westerlies. The buildings on either side funnel the wind right at me. And after eight hours on my feet, sometimes even the granny ring and big cog is hard to push.

    I can't experiment with the timing of my afternoon break--it's fixed at 90 minutes before closing. The best fueling combo I've found (among the things I like to eat), are an apple, an orange and a granola bar, with a 24oz bottle of water to wash it down.

    YMMV.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  3. #3
    Senior Member m00n's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info. I think I just need to be more aware of what I'm doing 1-2 hours before I leave for home. I also seem to get a headwind on the way home, so I need to make sure I get the fuel I need.

    I appreciate the suggestions.

  4. #4
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    Are you "hitting the wall", i.e., completely depleting your energy source? In my experience, it's taken quite a lot of distance and effort to get to that point. In college, I once did an "experiment" where I woke up, ate only a slice of bread with peanut butter, and hopped on my bike. I got surprisingly far before bonking.

    I don't know about you, but when I hit the wall, everything stops. I can't even stay balanced on the bike coasting. I can't stand up. I'm pretty much like a car with an empty gas tank.

    Perhaps you're getting dehydrated rather than spent. The weather in my area has gotten very warm very quickly, and I think lots of people are forgetting to drink copious amounts of water during their ride.

    Anyway, to hedge my bets, I'm constantly snacking throughout the day on trail mix. I go through bags of that stuff like it was candy.

  5. #5
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    Last year I was trying to loose weight by reducing my calories, not watching the quality of food I was eating, and by riding more.
    I was completely miserable. Currently, while I could loose a few lbs, I am not focused on loosing weight. This will come naturally through appropriate diet and exercise. In fact, after reading several books and chatting with my doctor and a nutritionist I am of the opinion that weight loss should be primarily accomplished through diet rather than just exercise. IMHO. Meaning weight loss is more weighted towards diet with exercise helping out. That and exercise should be fun... plain and simple.
    Plus, I have read a few interviews with professional bike riders that basically stated that dieting while riding a bike is a horrible idea. Of course, these people are already stick figures.

    Anyhow, I digress (obviously). I have the luxury of storing food at work and eating whenever I want when I want. With a commute of 28 miles each way I eat many small meals and snacks consisting of high carbohydrates and low fat.
    Example:
    4:00 am: bowl of multi grain cereal with 1% milk
    5:00 am: commute starts
    6:30 am: I eat several non fat fig newtons. Fig newtons are wonderful. 45 calories a pop and very portable. Energy bars drive me to boredom
    7:00 am: arrive at work. Eat a bowl of oatmeal with raisins
    9-10 am: dried fruit of some kind
    11 am: banana or carrot.
    12 pm: small portion of chicken and a big salad
    2 pm: either dried fruit, banana, carrot, or whatever else I have lying around
    3 pm: start return commute
    4:30 pm: fig newton or PBJ sandwich
    6 pm: sensible dinner of whatever I choose. Spaghetti is a favorite of mine.
    7 pm: small bowl of cereal or a dessert.

    It is my belief that when properly fueled I will not be horribly hungry when I get home. As my fitness level has been increasing I am finding less and less of a need for my mid ride snack but it is enjoyable.
    Tuesday and Thursday are recovery days. I do restrict my caloric intake a bit but not much. One does need to refuel the liver and muscle glycogen.

    Look for this book at your local library:
    http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Clarks-S.../dp/0873227301
    Good resource. Plus, the folks at BF can give you more ideas on what to eat for variety.

    Personally, I have found that while exercising a ton can give you an excuse to eat crappy foods it is not always the best course of action. I have more energy when I eat high energy healthy foods composed of complex carbs rather than high fat fast food. That and my body tends to crave these foods after being introduced to them. I have these ferocious cravings for brown rice almost every night.

    As a side note, I have coworkers that are amazed that I exercise quite a bit and eat healthy. They just don't get it. I eat healthy so I can exercise.

  6. #6
    Do I use too many commas?
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    There are many factors at work in each individual. Are you on a very low carb diet? Such diets can give you low glycogen (a type of sugar) stores which are depleted quickly.

    Drink lots of water. Most people don't realize they are not getting enough. Coffee, tea, and caffienated soda are diuretics. If you drink these things, switch to water in the 3 hours before setting out. Drink a couple glasses during this period.

    For a trip of the duration you describe an apple or banana prior to setting out should give you an adequate blood sugar level.

  7. #7
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    A chorizo in a bagette never hurt anyone.

  8. #8
    Senior Member m00n's Avatar
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    Thanks for all of the good suggestions. I'm not on a specific diet, no low-carb, etc. I think I just need to make sure I'm fueling up properly before heading out, getting enough water, etc. I've never been a fan of sodas, which is great. It's possible that I just don't have enough water in my system. During yesterday's ride home it was quite cold, so I may have been focusing more on the chill than drinking the water. The time before the weather was great, so I'm not sure what's going on.

    I can keep any type of food at work and eat whenever I want. I'll try some various things and see how it goes.

  9. #9
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    Ooops. I forgot hydration.
    It can be quite irritating to determine how much water is enough since there are quite a few different opinions on the matter. I use a method in the book I recommended by Nancy Clark. Basically, if your urine is a pale yellow or clear you are getting enough water. That method has worked fine for me.

  10. #10
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by DataJunkie
    Basically, if your urine is a pale yellow or clear you are getting enough water.
    Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding... And we have the first mention of pee color for the year! Good job, DJ.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  11. #11
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    Always glad to be of service.

  12. #12
    The wrong side of normal jmeier's Avatar
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    yeah, My wife is always ragging on me about my tea-color-pee... I know I should drimk more, I just get distracted and forget about it....
    I wonder if I would loose more weight if I drank enough water???

  13. #13
    Mmmmm potatoes idcruiserman's Avatar
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    You will lose more weight if you're substituting water for food or sugar drinks.
    Idaho

  14. #14
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    It has been my expereince that the body will tell you the kinds of food it needs. For example I had a freind who often finished a century in about four hours or less. He ate a lot of fast food, whoppers and such. Unfortunately, he was often wiped out at the end of the ride. He took a nap immediately after the ride and when he went home he slept for the end of the day. I could not afford to do that because I had kids that i promised to take them to the park, movies, etc. They did not care that I just finished a century. By eating whole foods, fruits etc. I didn't need naps. What you eat plays a major difference.

    Gas, the price of a can of beans

  15. #15
    Senior Member Cadfael's Avatar
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    You need an energy rush! As a hiker... I have just the thing...

    http://www.kendalcorner.co.uk/

    It is basically sugar and oil of peppermint.. and it was the original energy bar. You can sllip it into a pocket and it will not melt except under very high temps. It delivers the energy right away,there and then as you need it, it is also as cheap as cips...... and here is the best bit...

    It taste bloody wonderful!

  16. #16
    Senior Member Zero_Enigma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cadfael
    You need an energy rush! As a hiker... I have just the thing...

    http://www.kendalcorner.co.uk/

    It is basically sugar and oil of peppermint.. and it was the original energy bar. You can sllip it into a pocket and it will not melt except under very high temps. It delivers the energy right away,there and then as you need it, it is also as cheap as cips...... and here is the best bit...

    It taste bloody wonderful!
    I eat a lot of carbs before riding. First hour I use water or diluted gatorade. After 1 hour of riding you should switch to an electrolyte drink to power you up. I eat an energy bar at the one hour mark and wash down with water before switching to the gatorade. That is when I'm riding in the field so to way.
    Zero_Enigma

  17. #17
    Dirty old man in training
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    I have the alarm on my watch set to go off at 3pm every day->SNACK TIME.

    I eat 2 Nature Valley chewy fruit & nut trail mix bars (140 calories each) an hour before I ride home. They sell that brand at BJ's wharehouse for something like $9 for 25 or 30 bars.

  18. #18
    Commuter First newbojeff's Avatar
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    1+ on 3PM coffee time. Co-workers tease me seeing me go for my 3PM caffeine and sugar or fruit. My ride is only 8 miles with one big climb and I do tend to hammer home. I don't carry food or water with me.

    Worst thing, performance-wise, is to get on the bike really hungry. I sometimes get candy from a co-worker if I haven't eaten enough prior to the ride home. I also usually drink a glass of water.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Fuzzydave's Avatar
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    I don't eat anything before I ride to work, 9.5 miles not too hilly with a pack of oatmeal an hour or two after I get to work. I eat lunch around 1, then ride home at 5, anywhere from 7 to 13 miles. I'm usually fairly hungry when I get home but can wait an hour or so. I do drink water throughout the day. I haven't tried a smaller lunch with a granola bar or fruit in the mid-afternoon....maybe I should?
    I have some sips of water throughout the ride.
    I do keep a Power Bar in my bag at all times, just in case.

  20. #20
    GATC
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    Quote Originally Posted by DataJunkie
    In fact, after reading several books and chatting with my doctor and a nutritionist I am of the opinion that weight loss should be primarily accomplished through diet rather than just exercise. IMHO.
    When I first read this my reaction was that my thoughts/experience are kind of the opposite, that most programmed diets are designed for people who don't get much/any exercise, and that exercise burns calories that would allow you to eat a more forgiving diet you are actually likely to stick to, but I gather from reading onward in your post that you are saying more like eating good food is the important first step and other things flow from that. So your point is less that diet, calories restriction, comes first, but rather that menu planning comes first (don't throw your newfound calories from exercise to refined carbs and saturated fat and expect much change). Does that sound about right, or did I miss your point?

  21. #21
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    That sounds about right. I wrote that response in the midst of a horrendous allergy attack. It is amazing that you could understand it at all.

    Diet is a misnomer. A lifestyle change is more appropriate term (and hopefully longer lasting than a fad diet) since I still eat bad foods... just quite a bit less. However, if I am not exercising my junk food percentage rises drastically. So, exercising actually feeds my desire to eat healthy.
    The whole thing is a giant circle. Eat to exercise. Exercise breeds a desire to eat healthy. Healthy food breeds a desire to workout more. Etc....
    Maybe what I posted is not a 100% true. It is just my approach at the moment and that tends to change yearly. I did loose quite a bit of weight last year while eating worthless food, keeping my caloric intake low, and exercising quite a bit. The end result was severe burnout. Now I exercise for fun and fuel myself appropriately. When I want to loose weight I plan on lowering my caloric intake. I am not exactly sure what I will do with my exercising when this happens. Maybe lay off a tad? *shrugs*

    I hope that makes a bit more sense. It is more of a thought in process than anything.

  22. #22
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DataJunkie
    Ooops. I forgot hydration.
    It can be quite irritating to determine how much water is enough since there are quite a few different opinions on the matter. I use a method in the book I recommended by Nancy Clark. Basically, if your urine is a pale yellow or clear you are getting enough water. That method has worked fine for me.
    By that method it's easy to take in too much water, though. The standard which I've always seen used for anyone involved in prolonged or intense exercise is 1 ounce of water daily per kilo of body mass.

    Weight (in pounds) / 2.2 = ounces of water to drink per day
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
    - Mandi M.

  23. #23
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    I have a bladder the size of a pea. That limits the amount of water on the upper end for me. Consequently, I am more concerned about the lower end than over doing it.
    However, I do see your point.

  24. #24
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    To the Op. A snack around Mile Marker 5 and some water would probably help. I have this problem also esp w/our "hills". The snack should be 4:1 Carbs to protien.

    After several years of commuting, I can now go about 45min-1hr before needing a snack. Never feel hungry...just run out of gas like you described...not bonk...just worn out.

    Try the suggestions and post back how what worked best.

  25. #25
    Senior Member m00n's Avatar
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    Thanks again everyone. I'm fairly certain that I need 1) more water (before and during) and 2) something to eat before the ride home.

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