Convenience Store Cuisine For Cyclists

16 Aug

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?

My friend Randy with two popular products for cyclists!

My friend Randy with two popular products 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.

A shelf full of high fructose corn syrup and chemicals

A shelf full of high fructose corn syrup and chemicals

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?


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43 responses to “Convenience Store Cuisine For Cyclists

  1. emilyoftheprairie

    August 16, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    I don’t think I’ve ever made it past the cheetos… 🙂 Good post!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 16, 2013 at 5:01 PM

      Cheetos … I’m afraid a bag of Cheetos would end up discoloring my handlebar tape! 🙂

  2. taplatt

    August 16, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    Helpful post — thanks! I often take along chewy granola/energy bars to give me a boost or two on my rides. The ones with chocolate are especially nice.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 16, 2013 at 5:02 PM

      The granola/energy bars at the stores in my area of the world are all filled with high fructose corn syrup — I wish they would sell a few more healthy items around here!

      • taplatt

        August 17, 2013 at 7:52 AM

        That’s true, unfortunately. Healthier would be good! There are some bars available in supermarkets that are all-natural, just fruit and nuts, which are great but expensive.

  3. TdF

    August 16, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    clif! clif! clif! clif for ever! and the jelly belly sport beans…buonissimi!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 16, 2013 at 5:04 PM

      I often take Clif Bars with me on rides, but most of my longer rides are in the state of Wisconsin — which means the convenience stores are well stocked if you need beer, cheese or sausage or lottery tickets — but not much else.

      • TdF

        August 17, 2013 at 3:57 AM


  4. elisariva

    August 16, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    It is just pain scary how similar our dietary preferences are!

  5. Kat @

    August 16, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts do it for me.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 16, 2013 at 4:59 PM

      Not a bad choice at all! I don’t think I’ve seen small packages of Planters at the stores I visit, but I will have to look for them.

  6. heila2013

    August 16, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    SO TRUE: “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!”

  7. Gina

    August 16, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    Bananas, Clif Bars, hard-boiled eggs if it’s protein time. The occasional rice pudding!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 16, 2013 at 5:00 PM

      I’ve never seen a hard-boiled egg at the convenience stores, but I might be looking in the wrong section.

      • Gina

        August 17, 2013 at 4:37 PM

        Not every store has them, but when they do they’re usually near string cheese and stuff like that, in the refrigerated section.

  8. Laura

    August 16, 2013 at 7:34 PM

    On my 150 mile epic journey, the best convenience store foods I selected were trail mix, a 20oz Coke Classic (sipped throughout the rest of the ride, not guzzled), and a shorty turkey hoagie on whole-wheat bread.

    I supplemented on-bike with SportBeans, Honey Stinger 10g Protien bar, and a few ClifBars, ClifBloks, and ClifShots.

    (Lunch was sit-down so that doesn’t count)

    I also endorse bananas though – those suckers will give you energy and don’t upset your tummy. 🙂

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 16, 2013 at 9:09 PM

      A turkey hoagie on whole-wheat bread? Wow! The convenience stores in my area don’t have ANYTHING like that available! I am so jealous!

      • Laura

        August 17, 2013 at 12:35 PM

        It was made to order too … I am a Wawa convert!

  9. mcccxxv

    August 16, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    Great post. V8: sodium, potassium, water, vitamins. I find it in most gas stations and convenience stores. It saved me on a double century ride Austin–Houston through rural TX.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 16, 2013 at 9:10 PM

      Great tip! I never thought of looking for V8 in one of those stores, even though I have a shot of it every afternoon at my office.

  10. tanoshinde

    August 16, 2013 at 8:17 PM

    I’m with everyone who backs bananas … they are definitely great ride-chow and come conveniently wrapped in biodegradable single-serve “containers” 😀 I’m also a huge fan of beef jerky, which is usually easy to find, and Fig Newtons.

    Bizarrely, even though they’re far from “health food,” I’ve found that the “cheese pretzel”-flavored Combos work well for me on long rides (I suspect part of the reason they work for me is that I waste salt like crazy in my sweat, but find most electrolyte drinks unpalatable — I keep meaning to try Skratch Labs’ offerings and see if they work for me). They’ve seen me through tours, populaires, and gravel races without letting me down. I also like Builder bars and bring home-made portable things — either cheese rolls (home-made dough filled with cheese and tomatoes) or something from the Feed Zone cookbook (which is now my go-to cookbook for everything).

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 16, 2013 at 9:12 PM

      You’ve got to try the Skratch Labs mix — not only does it taste good (a very MILD flavor), but I don’t get sick of it on Century rides like I do all of the other drinks I’ve tried. By the way, I’ll be reviewing the Feed Zone book fairly soon — great recipes and great nutritional information.

      • tanoshinde

        August 16, 2013 at 9:15 PM

        Good to know the Skratch labs stuff is mild! I think that’s the problem I run into with some of the others — flavors are too strong/sweet.

        The Feed Zone has become my go-to cookbook both for “bike fuel” and for day-to-day recipes. I love it!

  11. d2

    August 17, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    I like Luna Protein Bars–chocolate and peanut butter. Tried bananas but they give me stomach cramps something fierce which I thought was totally weird.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 18, 2013 at 12:01 AM

      Luna Protein Bars taste very good — but I’ve never seen them in the C-stores I use. I am beginning to think that everyone else has a LOT better access to good food at these stores than I do!

  12. Sandra

    August 17, 2013 at 7:14 PM

    Bananas give me cramps too. Which i do not understand either. Poweraide and clif bars, my coach said he uses pretzels (not the fresh ones).

    Looking forward to your review of the cookbook!

    I know what you mean about Wisconsin’s choices, by the way!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 18, 2013 at 12:03 AM

      I like bananas because they are so easy on my stomach — I guess we all different in what we can tolerate. Now I have to get the cookbook back from the young woman I loaned it to so I can write the review!

      • Sandra

        August 18, 2013 at 7:30 AM

        I am a weirdo. 😉

  13. Bill Bailey

    August 17, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    On very long rides I eat anything. C-store pizza, pork skins, ice cream, Payday bars. Sketch lab is good, no bloating like I get from most sports drinks. Bonk breaker is my emergency fuel.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 18, 2013 at 12:04 AM

      Pizza, pork skins, ice cream? I don’t think my stomach could handle that! however, a few years ago I “lived” on that stuff!

  14. Jason Pearlman

    August 17, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    Great post, thanks for putting this together – definitely gonna bookmark this!

  15. Dra Martha Castro Médico WMA

    August 18, 2013 at 8:58 AM

  16. deanco

    August 22, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    Great post and blog! I raced very seriously in my early years in NZ and i suffered alot with breathing issues and chronic hayfever – the doctors treated me as if it was Asthma. At 39 i found out i was allergic to Wheat when i started breaking out. I no longer get anything like i had when racing and all my chronic hayfever is gone from avoiding grains. If only i knew then how important my nutrition was i could have been so much more competitive. BTW – Emma & Tom’s bars are the only bar i can find in supermarkets that are good enough for sports people, if you don’t know about them already. Thanks for dropping into my blog also. D

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 22, 2013 at 9:23 PM

      I had never heard of Emma & Tom’s Life Bars before so I looked them up online — but it looks like they don’t ship outside of Oz (too bad, they look great).

      • deanco

        August 22, 2013 at 9:29 PM

        Oh yes how silly of me. Pity. Seems you have found some good sources though looking through your blog posts. Nice area you live in, spent alot of time in Evanston, loved it.

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          August 22, 2013 at 9:30 PM

          Evanston is just about 30 miles south of me. Small world.

        • deanco

          August 22, 2013 at 9:33 PM

          Yes that it is. Had some happy days up your way back then. Taste of Chicago too, never forgot it.

  17. jadenotes

    August 24, 2013 at 12:19 AM

    I love beef jerky on long rides.


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