I have a big, white ceramic bowl, whimsically asymmetrical in design, that sits on the shelf just above the potato chips, and that bowl holds a cornucopia of exertion-oriented nutritional products. I hoist it down onto the kitchen counter pre-ride, to shop for the day’s fuel. There are tubes of electrolyte tabs that go into water bottles. There are energy bars. Chewables. Gu-ables. Some with caffeine. Some with “all natural” ingredients. I sometimes feel like a little kid standing in front of a hard-won Halloween stash.

But I’m conventional in my tastes and strategies. I know folks who make their own energy food. This seems to me like a level of effort and wizardry beyond my own capacity for slapdash preparation, but I admire them their DIYness, their attention to sticky detail.

On occasion I’ve even been gifted a few of these home made calorie bombs. The best ones, without doubt, were magicked up by my friend Greg, and consisted of rice, bacon, maple syrup and seaweed. I think he gave me one, because, upon describing them, I made a face that called into question his sanity. Out in the wild, that goddamned energy nugget tasted like the distilled essence of haute cuisine and calorific salvation.

Come to think of it, much of my life follows this pattern of expressing doubt and then being shown the error of my judgment, but that’s a topic for my therapist.

More often than not, the homemade energy bar is testament to the old saw, “why don’t you leave this to the professionals,” the Skratches and Clifs and Kinds?

To my mind, there are two types of ride food, the quick hit and the slow burn. GUs and gels for quick hits, like when you’re flying along and just trying to maintain momentum. Bars and other sundry for when you have a moment to stop and invest in an ostensibly brighter future.

Here’s what’s true. Aside of Ginger Ale flavored Clif Bloks, I don’t much look forward to eating any of it. It’s fuel in lieu of flavor. Chewing is an extravagance. Swallowing is a chore. Choking is a likelihood. But maybe that’s an argument for just going on shorter, easier rides, and then sitting down to coffee and pastry, like a normal human person.

This week’s TCIF asks, what do you eat? Are you one of those who leaves a sticky mess on the kitchen counter because you have the time, energy, and belief that you can do it better? Or do you have a formula of well worn classics that go in your piehole on long efforts?

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Join the conversation
  1. Jeff vdD says

    My go-to is Gu Roctane backed up by either CarboRocket or Maurten’s in my bottles/hydration pack. In endurance events, I’m shooting for 250 calories an hour. I’ve done 11+ hour rides with this setup with no issues. Granted, I typically augment with some “realer” foods, but I’m prepared to get it done on this combo, and I don’t get tired of it.

    This year, I plan to get the Alan Lim book and start rolling my own, for both variety and cost reasons. And, since most of my rides aren’t racing, I don’t need the efficiency of the Gu/hydration route.

  2. johnrom719 says

    Most of the packaged sugar gives me regrets. I have found a couple of bars I can tolerate but no gels make me happy. The longer the ride the more “real” I want the food to be. On a 5 hour ride I’ll have a turkey pinwheel (Lunchmeat on a tortilla, add cheese and a little mustard and lettuce. Roll, then slice into bite sized discs.). Sliced apples are a good pick, as well as cashews. Figs! I know it sounds weird, but give it a shot!

  3. scottg says

    Kate Real Food bars, low sugar, no melty coatings. Ingredients all recognizable as food.
    That said, Saturday Breakfast Ride, I buy the official Plain Folk Cafe home made brownie,
    good and good for you. Pro tip, cut into bit size pieces, before leaving cafe, you handle bar
    bag will have yummy crumbs at the end of the ride.

  4. pbelknap says

    While not as good as the real thing, Margarita clif blocks are pretty damn tasty.

  5. DaveinME says

    Bananas, Gatorade, Clif Bars and Hammer Gel work well for me. On 5+ hour rides, I’ll stop to get some real food.

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