Training for a big cycling event is no small feat; but fueling correctly with the right foods and portion control can be just as important as the gear you wear or the bike you ride. To prepare, I don't completely change my diet, but I am more careful about avoiding unnecessary sugars and fats. It's not a time to focus on losing weight (though all that riding does make one fitter). Rather, focus on eating well, as that and getting fit cuts down on your time and exhaustion. While it might sound intimidating, you don't have to give up an ounce of flavor to eat right and power through your ride.
Don't sacrifice flavorI start to think about fuel three months before my endurance ride of choice, the Pan-Mass Challenge, a 192-mile, 6,000-person bike-a-thon across Massachusetts that has raised $455 million for cancer research. When it comes to fuel, flavor isn't something worth compromising. A cyclist should drink lots of water and eat delicious, natural foods, focusing on whole grains, legumes, greens and fish. Be sure to include great flavor-packed condiments, like nut-rich pesto, romesco sauces, garlic yogurt, preserved lemons, olives and lots of herbs.
Fuel smart and to scale
The day before the PMC, I drink an energy drink and round out my dinner with a celebratory beer and a yummy dessert. A good night's sleep and staying away from red wine is key for a great first day. While you might not be particularly hungry at 5 a.m. before the event, you should still eat a savory breakfast sandwich. These two meals are all about fuel, but they shouldn't be huge – it's better to eat lots of small meals than a few large ones that slow you down.
Keep it consistent
During training rides and the PMC itself, I consume the equivalent of an energy bar and a bottle of water or an energy drink every hour. It's important that mid-ride food tastes good and isn't processed. You can munch on PB&Js, energy shots and bars the volunteers offer because they're quick, but you might consider supplementing these with cheese and salami sandwiches, ginger and soy-seasoned spring rolls and breakfast rice cakes with eggs and bacon. I do indulge in one fluffernutter sandwich (marshmallow fluff and peanut butter) and a popsicle every year, too.
End your feat with food
I love chocolate milk with a banana or an ice cream cone immediately after a training ride; it's the perfect ending and provides carbohydrates and protein, all while making me feel like a kid, which is what cycling is all about. It's important, too, to follow your treat with a more substantial healthy meal within an hour or so.
After 192 miles in two days, I usually splurge with an all-American burger, fries and a beer.
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