As a distance cyclist I burn over 1,000 calories an hour while riding and some of my rides last up to seven or eight hours. I normally try to consume 300 calories an hour while riding, so on some rides I consume around 2,500 calories. Most carbohydrate gels provide 80 to 100 calories per package and there is no way I want to carry 20 or more gel packs in my jersey pockets—even if I used a top-tube bag to store some of the packages. In addition, I normally drink 16 to 20 ounces of a hydration mix per hour and carrying seven bottles with me would definitely slow me down! Therefore, I try to plan some of my routes so I can pass by a convenience store or two along the way so I don’t have to carry everything with me (but this is not always possible). So, considering the limited choice of foods available at most convenience stores, what products make the most sense for cyclists?
Bananas. My first choice of food at a convenience store is a simple banana! An average sized banana has 105 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrates, and 422 mg of potassium. In addition, bananas are very easy to digest. Unfortunately, very few of the convenience stores in my area sell bananas!
Fig Newton Bars. A single 2-ounce package of Nabisco Fig Newton Bars has 200 calories with 40 grams of carbohydrates. They also provide 220 mg of sodium, 115 mg of sodium and 2 grams of protein. Under normal circumstances I would never eat a Nabisco Fig Newton Bar since they also have white flour and high fructose corn syrup. However, when it comes to convenience store cuisine they are probably the best thing you can find in the store!
Raisins. A handful of raisins is packed with vitamins, electrolytes, anti-oxidants, and minerals—and they are a great source of energy! A one-ounce box of raisins has 84 calories and 22 grams of carbohydrates. They also will give you 210 mg of potassium.
Beef Jerky. Anna, a young lady ride with during the summer, convinced me to start eating beef jerky a couple of years ago on a really long, hot ride. I was hesitant at first, mainly because I thought beef jerky wouldn’t digest as easily as the food I normally eat on a ride. However, a one-ounce package of Jack Link’s Peppered Beef Steak Jerky has 130 calories, along with 26 grams of protein and 1470 mg of sodium. Since there are only 1.5 grams of fat in a package of beef jerky it does not negatively impact digestion while cycling. By the way, I normally try to start consuming a bit of protein about two hours into any bike ride anyway.
Gatorade. When I leave home for a bike ride my water bottles are filled with Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix, a drink mix developed by Allen Lim, PhD, a sport scientist and former coach for a professional cycling team. I try to take enough packages of the Skratch powder with me so I can fill all the water bottles I need on a ride—all I need is a couple of bottles of plain water at the store. However, if you don’t use Skratch then you might want to try Gatorade. A 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade has 130 calories and 34 grams of carbohydrates. Each bottle also has 270 mg of sodium and 80 mg of potassium.
Natural String Cheese. Here is another product that Anna convinced me try during a long bike ride. Personally, I really didn’t like it, but for those of you on a high-protein diet it might be a good choice. A one-ounce stick of Kraft Natural Mozzarella String Cheese has 80 calories and 7 grams of protein.
Whatever convenience store cuisine you decide to buy you need to look at the label first and see if the product is in agreement with your overall health plan. Some of the “healthy looking” bars are simply garbage—they are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and more chemicals than you’ll find in a high school chemistry class!
What’s your favorite package of convenience store cuisine?