Sports Energy Foods: Is It Important To Pre-Pack Your Own Or Can You Just Fill Up At A Cafe?

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If you're training hard or heading out for a long ride it's almost certain you have something solid to eat in your jersey pocket.
But what is it? There's a vast array of reasons why I always pack something denser than energy gels and sports drink.
But what are the benefits? Why do I prefer to pack food rather than buy it out on a ride? Gels and drink just don't fill me up, but this is only really relevant on rides longer than an hour but shorter than three.
If I don't consume food on a ride of this length I always find myself hungry.
Not that I'm not filling up enough, but gels and drink are absorbed quickly in the gut and having a balance of fast and slow digesting carbohydrates is beneficial for ride fuelling.
For a three or more hour ride, and in addition to the sports drink in my bidon, my feeding will look something like this; no food in the first hour then a popular bar made of a mix of glucose and fructose.
Half an hour after this I consume an energy gel.
When I stop for coffee I eat half the cereal or energy bar and some sports sweets I packed before.
I then follow this up with energy gels every half hour until finish, consuming the other half of the cereal or energy bar if needed.
Another reason I prefer to pack my food before my ride is cost.
If you shop around you can pick up a box of energy or cereal bars for less than a pound per unit, the same goes for sports sweets, and you can usually get away with children's favourites at a cheap price also.
Some of the guys I go out with on our Sunday ride spend nearly a tenner on food at our café stop, whereas the food packed in my jersey, based on the amounts above, come in at no more than a fiver.
Add this up over a year and you save at least £250.
00.
Calories play a massive part in my reasoning too.
As a cyclist I am very careful about what I consume so I don't put on unnecessary weight.
I religiously plan my days feeding so I don't over eat but while ensuring I provide my body with enough energy to perform.
I have an app on my phone which I use in order to do this.
Almost everything you buy from a shop or online store that you eat has its calories written on it, but more than this it has what those calories are made up of.
For example, your body is capable of digesting a maximum of around 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour during exercise.
So any more than this will be stored as fat until your body is ready to use it.
So if my sports drink, an energy gel, and then some solid food total more than this I know I'm unnecessarily over feeding.
You can also factor in the slower digestion of the solid food - that will mean not all of it will be digested in an hour, meaning that potentially you are eating more than 60 grams of carbs per hour, but some of it will still be in the gut after that hour.
It's easier to plan a whole rides feeding then dividing it by the hours cycling.
Another problem with the human body is its apparent (and alleged) inability to break down fat in the gut fast enough for it to be considered a decent fuel while exercising.
The body is very good at breaking down small amounts of fat stored around the body for fuel, but if you eat it while exercising your body will look elsewhere for fuel.
So that fatty cake or fry-up you tuck into mid ride is money wasted in terms of fuel, tastes good though...
I have a potentially fatal allergy to nuts.
This is the final reason I prefer to pack rather than buy mid ride.
Almost every food product you buy will have a disclaimer on the back stating they cannot guarantee their product is entirely nut free, however I purely look to the ingredients to decide whether I eat it or not.
If it's not in the actual ingredients I feel I'm safe.
The first problem with buying in a café is the ingredients or the lack of a list that the product contains.
The second problem is the cooking process; do they use the same bowl to cook each different product? The final problem is the serving process; did they just use that knife to cut that carrot cake as well as my choice? Maybe you eat what you do at the café because it's the only chance you get to indulge during the week, much like the can of soft drink I almost obsessively stop to get on the way home after a long ride.
But like the quality of petrol you use in your car, your body will respond better to higher quality foods, and the only way to guarantee that's what you get is to pre-pack your own.
Score one for sports energy bars...
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