A common question that we receive is what cycling food should I use. Well it depends on what type of cycling you are planning on doing. The nutritional needs of someone doing the Tour de France have absolutely no relation to the average cyclists needs. Those stats about calories burned in France by professional cyclists are for entertainment purposes.
So lets review all the different questions relating to real cyclists.
The banana pictured above is truly the perfect food for most cyclists no matter the distance. Every ride should include one banana. The problem of discarding the skin is totally different topic of discussion. Apparently it take over 4 weeks for a banana skin to decompose so keep that in mind. The average banana has about 100 calories and almost no fat.
Unfortunately for cyclists mother nature did not design the banana skin with cycling in mind. Bananas almost always end up getting bruised when stuffed into a cycling jersey back pocket. On a hot day a banana quickly turns into an unpleasant mushy snack.
If you are looking for a natural unpackaged solution to replace that banana a simple snack are nuts, dates and raisins. Combining some almonds, dates and raisins into a small zip lock bag makes a quick snack but one small problem. Its pretty hard to actually eat that while you are riding. You would need to stop to avoid spilling.
Cycling food while riding
The whole industry of energy bars and sports food really was created by our desire to have an easy solution to avoid those mushy bananas. Almost all the companies were started by people who were involved in outdoor activities and saw the need. Canadian Brian Maxwell who founded Powerbar is a good example. Same with Clif Bar which was started from an experience on 175 mile bike ride.
So energy bars are the most common cycling food. The market is now swamped with different varieties. For someone who is simply riding and touring I would say the two most important factors are taste and cost. To help you with the cost issue you can obvious check the deal section of this website.
The taste issue is more about your personal preference. Some energy bars are very sweet because the companies know that people love the taste of chocolate bars. Many energy bars have almost the same taste as the most popular chocolate bars. So before you buy you can check the ingredients and look to avoid anything that lists glucose as its first ingredient. Several products including Larabars only use natural products and do not add any extra sugars. Most of those products are heavy on the dates so you better enjoy dates.
You can sample all the different bars and once you find one that you enjoy its best to stick to it. There is nothing worse than trying a new energy bar and suffering with stomach issues on your ride. That’s an even bigger issue before any bigger events like a race or charity ride. Never, ever, never “test” a new product during an important ride. Sometimes you’ll be provided with a free sample at a event and you might be tempted to test it out. Just take it home and save it for another ride.
With all energy bars you should try them out in different weather conditions to see how they react. Some bars turn into hockey pucks in cold weather and they are almost impossible to eat. One trick for cold weather riding is to cut the end of your chosen energy bar so its easier to open when you actually riding your bike.
Calories and cycling food
The above cycling mussette bag shows you what a professional cyclist might receive during a race. The calories burned by a professional cyclist is well above what most recreational cyclists will burn during a ride. The speed and distance covered by professional races means more calories are burned. Note that the riders also receive a small snack in tin foil but the fact that they have not carried that around in a hot back pocket for two hours makes it possible.
For recreational cyclists you should be eating enough food to avoid the dreaded bonk which can hit almost everyone. A good breakfast or meal before a ride is an important factor in avoiding the bonk.
If you are trying to figure out exactly how many calories you have burned while riding there are several different cycling products that can help you determine wattage, calories etc. If your budget does not allow you buy that gear there is a good online tool over at the mapmyride.com website. It allows you to enter what type of riding you are doing along with the usual info about distance, time, weight etc. Two hours on a solo mountain bike vs two hours of road group riding are two totally different things. You can find that info from this link.
So if you can not avoid the smashed banana problem we would recommend using one of the commercial energy bars but make sure test them out before a big event. We are assuming you do not have enough time to create your own perfect homemade energy bar!