Can’t eat in the heat?

These three real food calorie options go down easy when temps go up.

By Jeffrey Stern

Fueling long adventures in any conditions can be tough, but when the temperature starts to rise often times your appetite goes out the window. We’re in the heart of the summer, so heat and humidity are plaguing cyclists across the country. From mountain to road cyclists and everywhere in between, more daylight means longer time exploring new places. The longer you spend outside sweating, burning calories and working hard means the more calories you need to intake.

We covered hydration tips recently, but what about fuel to keep your muscles moving and vital systems of your body functioning properly. Hydration is key, but you can’t just drink electrolyte water and expect to make it home after five or six hours in the saddle. Most often the first thing to go when it’s hot is the ability to eat. Quenching your thirst becomes paramount and the thought (or even remembering) to eat in the heat becomes nearly impossible.

Proper hydration and nutrition is a two-pronged approach that is necessary to keep you going, but what tastes good when it’s 100 degrees out and you’re replacing fluids every 15 minutes? The short answer is that it’s very personal. What you crave when it’s cold during winter maybe be completely different than what sounds good in the middle of summer. Trying different foods is the best way to find what works for you, but we have a few ideas to get you started down the right path of keeping your nutrition dialed so you can avoid bonking and keep pedaling.

We’re bananas, about, well bananas. Produced by large, herbaceous flowering plants, bananas are good sources of manganese, vitamin C, potassium (electrolytes) and fiber, They also have a low (51) glycemic index which means they release their energy into the bloodstream slowly; optimal for fueling long rides. What we like best about them is their consistency; they’re never to dry and can be eaten as slow or as fast as necessary. What else, they can be found in just about any truck stop, market or convenience store on any random road even in the middle of nowhere.

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Sweet potatoes also pack an impressive, nutritional punch in an easily digestible and almost baby food-like texture. They have tons of fiber and potassium and although requiring a bit more planning than your simple banana fuel, what we love most are loaded sweet potatoes. Find small ones or cut larger ones in half. Bake them the night before your big ride and cut them down the middle, filling them with peanut butter, nuts, chocolate chips, a dash of salt, cinnamon or whatever your heart and taste buds desire. Wrap them in foil or put them in plastic bags and you’ll have an awesome fuel source for your ride adventure. Best of all, you can make each a one a little different to mix up the flavors and keep your nutrition varied, a vital aspect of sustaining an appetite even in the worst heat.

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Our third go-to are simple and varied (in variety and flavor profile) dates. First and foremost, they’re easily digested, allowing your body to make full use of their goodness; dates are a great source of carbs, sugar and fiber. Although unattractive, dates are candy-like chewy, making them easy to savoir as well as incredibly flavorful. Essential minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium (more electrolytes), and zinc are also found in dates. Vitamins such as A, K, folate, niacin, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin complete this powerful package. Pack a baggie full, but just remember to buy pitted or de-pit them before jamming a handful in your mouth!

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These three real food options are a great way to fuel your rides in a healthy and natural way, but there are many more choices out there. Rice cakes, mini sandwiches and homemade oat bars are great options as well. Remember that in general, fruits, vegetables and unprocessed foods contain tons more water than dehydrated, shelf-life driven products, and can offer the added benefit of slow release hydration.

Try to choose alternatives to pre-packaged foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce – your body will thank you if you eat more real food and keep the nutritious calories fueling your adventures even in the harshest of conditions.

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How to: Stay hydrated in the heat

By Jeffrey Stern

Everyone knows once you’re thirsty, it’s too late – dehydration is difficult, if not nearly an impossible of a hole to dig yourself out of if you prepare properly. We’ve got some easy steps to ensure you’re hydrated and ready for a long, summer adventures during the hotter months ahead.

Make it part of your daily routine

Beginning each morning with a glass of water ensures your day starts off on the right foot. Water not only gets your metabolism going, but it also helps your body flush out unwanted toxins, provides brain fuel and decreases the urge to overeat in the morning. Sixteen ounces directly out of bed will also serve as a reminder to keep drinking throughout the day. Once this becomes part of your routine, a morning wakeup without water will feel odd. If you place a water bottle or glass next to your bed before going to sleep, it will be easy to reach for once you’re up. You might even be surprised how refreshed and alert you are with just one simple glass of water.

Plan ahead

It’s time to start focusing on hydration at least 48 hours before a big day of riding. You want to head into that long adventure feeling like your energy and hydration stores are maxed out. That being said, you don’t want to be drinking so much liquid that you have to use the bathroom every 15 minutes because then you’re actually doing more harm than good. It’s key to find the balance and that will take some practice as every individual is different. A handy trick is to carry a water bottle around with you throughout your day, taking little sips every 15-20 minutes. Again, after doing this for a while, it will become second nature and coming hydrated into your ride will be a breeze.

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Electrolytes are vital

Whether it’s hot out or not, you will be sweating while riding your bike. It’s important to find an electrolyte mix that you like the taste of and doesn’t upset your stomach. The only way to do this is to experiment with different brands until you land on one that’s satisfactory. Many companies these days are moving towards the all-natural drink mixes with no artificial ingredients, flavored with real fruit and sugars. These are often lighter than some calorie heavy drinks that aim to hydrate and fuel, but that can be difficult to digest causing gastrointestinal problems. Sticking with a mix you know your body can handle with be a great benefit towards getting through a long day in the saddle.

Drink early and often

Don’t wait until you are thirsty to start hydrating. At that point, it’s too late in the game and you’re already dehydrated. Just like a normal day, take small sips every 15-20 minutes, even if you’re not thirsty. This will insure a constant flow of electrolytes into your system. You may even be surprised that by taking small, regular sips of your bottles you go through them slower than by waiting and taking huge gulps when you’re really thirsty.

Hydration doesn’t stop when the ride does 

You made it through your ride with no cramping, stomach issues or dehydration, great! But don’t stop there. If you’re touring or planning a big ride the next day, keep drinking once off the bike. Stopping at the local brewery for a celebration beer? Take your bottle with you or grab a glass of water from the bartender. It’s important to keep the hydration train rolling so you can ride day after day this summer.

Salt wings. Photo by David Silverander.

Salt wings. Photo by David Silverander.

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