My next meal. What will it consist of? Where is it going to come from?
Images of creamy avocados, colourful simmering beans, chewy rye bread, sweet yellow honey, fresh crunchy greens….are all frantically whirling around in my head!
Thoughts of food are a constant companion during the never-ending miles of distance cycling. I’m sure most cyclists out on long rides, think along similar lines. Any type of exercise is going to increase the appetite but cycling seems to make one ravenous!
Which is great. Especially for people like me who love to scoff delicious snacks, whether cycling or not.
Food is one of our basic survival needs. To put it bluntly, without it we are eventually going to die. Travelling self-sufficiently on a bike brings food, shelter and water to the forefront. If my food panniers are getting dangerously low and I don’t know where the next shop is, my world becomes a fragile one.
All of which brings me to the topic of what I eat during these journeys, particularly considering I’ve been a vegan for many years. This has brought some difficult challenges when in foreign countries, partly due to being on a low-budget. Depending on the country, the vast majority of shops and eateries, offer protein foods from animals, heavy bags of dried beans/lentils or processed alternatives to meat.
Up until recently, I’ve managed to scrape through by carrying heavy provisions. A lot of cyclists wouldn’t dream of considering the extra weight! Last year whilst cycling through remote northern Norway. Due to cost, weight and supply problems I gave up the fight and for the rest of the journey temporarily, became a flexi-vegan.
Curious sorts often ask…’What do you actually eat?’
So I decided a blog post related to food and cycling, may be of interest…
One ‘food’ I don’t eat or consume, are energy gels and highly processed protein snack bars, or any of the other sugary products that profess to boost your energy. Which of course they do temporarily, but then a low blood sugar hit starts, so another sugary chemical product must be taken for an energy boost. All of which becomes a roller coaster of blood glucose lows and highs, which long-term is not good for the body.
For snacks; I prefer oat cakes, bananas, blueberries, unsalted nuts, dried dates/apricots/sunflower seeds or nut/fruit energy bars and very dark chocolate. Which gives a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates.
The adventurer Sean Conway whilst cycling around the world, set up a system of two plastic containers on his handlebars, full of nuts and fruit. As he cycled along he would cram large handfuls into his mouth, giving a constant slow energy release!
You’ve probably got the idea by now, that when on a cycling journey I eat fresh and real foods. Most people long distance cycling don’t self cater much. I very rarely eat out because of prohibitive cost, cycling in remoter places and some minor food intolerance.
Here’s a sample menu from a typical day of long distance pedalling.
Breakfast…..tends to be a huge and I mean huge, saucepan of jumbo oats or sugar-free muesli, hemp powder, flax seeds, honey and plant milk,. Along with a much savoured mug or two of green tea.
Lunch….heavy duty local rye bread/crackers, tempeh or tofu or almond nut butter, avocado, tomato, red onion, pepper or similar fresh salad. Boiled eggs were included in Norway/Finland, where tofu/tempeh/nut butter availability was sometimes an issue. Fruit and if lucky, a dairy-free yogurt!!
Dinner…usually consists of brown rice or pasta or quinoa, sweet potatoes, green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, olives. Coconut oil. Nori seaweed flakes. Baked beans or another tinned pulse. (The pulses though have to be available in small tins).
Extra protein boost…. came from hemp powder.
Other supplements… which I took with me from the UK …. Dr Schulze Superfood, plus a good multi vitamin/mineral product.
I need around one gram of complete protein per kilogram of body weight, while cycling long distances. Which is about 45 grammes in total, it’s not a huge amount and easily achievable from snacks and plant products. Though I did have a ‘protein panic attack’…. when for a few days, nut butter, tofu, tempeh and soya milk weren’t available, hence resorting to eggs!
One of the advantages of eating a high plant unprocessed diet whilst cycling, is a tendency to good quick recovery and a low inflammatory effect. This discovery came about through research. Eating vegan for such a long time, means I don’t actually have a pre-vegan comparison memory. It does seem though that my injury log is minuscule compared to many around my age. I can put that down to eating plant foods, or lounging on the sofa for too long, therefore avoiding any forms of pain!
Hopefully this post will have been of some interest/helpful to one or two of you, who are long distance cyclists/walkers, and before you ask, no I’m not eccentric.
Just older and need to eat well!