Oh, the so hard to figure out topic of bike nutrition… I’ve been at this almost 2 years now, and I think I’ve finally whittled down the countless products available out there to ones that work for me
In my Camelbak, when I use one (usually on training rides, normal rides, and select races), I just use plain water. I’m the world’s worst person when it comes to cleaning my bladders, so the last thing I want to add to the bladder is hydration mix when I already usually have a questionable microbiologic mess on my hands. For my bottles I either run plain water (on the trainer, short rides outdoors, or if on my road bike, which has two bottle cages, one bottle as backup) or a bottle with Osmo Nutrtion Active Hydration mix.
Osmo is one of those brands that is making its rounds getting hyped up so I was nervous to try it (because my experiences with Hammer Heed were awful and I don’t like Skratch Labs’ taste at all), but did the smart thing and got some sample packets before throwing down the money on a whole container. Because I couldn’t buy the women’s flavors locally, I settled for the “men’s” (or is it really unisex?) blackberry to try on a few long gravel grinder rides. I found the taste to be very natural, not sugary or overly fake. In a way, it almost had to grow on me. I did go buy a container of it, and I think it took finding the right amount to add to the water, which for me is two scoops in my 24oz bottles. During my last two road races I drank that stuff like it was going out of style, and it agreed with my digestive system under the stress of a race and let my mouth feeling refreshed (whereas sometimes with plain water all I can taste is plastic from the water being in the sun for a few hours in the bottle). Now I can guzzle the stuff down, and I feel it works for me.
I still have not tried the women’s mix. I really like the blackberry flavor and since I still have half a tub left, I am in no rush to jump on the women’s mix. Yes, I know, I’m “not a small man,” but I like the men’s mix. I also ride a boy bike sometimes, oh no!
There’s nothing more awesome than having an excuse to eat gummy candy like things! What I really love about chews is that they are not messy like gels. Even when I lick them and stick them on my top tubes the mess is a fraction of what I would have if I tried to eat a gel.
Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews are my go-to chew product. Pink Lemonade is my favorite flavor, but also found the Lime-Aid and Fruit Smoothie flavors to be good as well. I just tend to buy mine in bulk so I end up with tons of Pink Lemonade. I use to use Clif Shot Bloks exclusively, but I find the Honey Stinger Chews to be not as chewy and easier to chew up and get down in my belly. I think this is important in a race situation where I don’t necessarily have the energy to gnaw on a tough chewy chew and breathe and pedal at the same time.
I’m not sure how much energy I necessarily get from these, but they are mostly sugar from multiple sources, so they give me some oomph to keep on going. They settle well on my stomach, and are convenient and easy to eat, like I mentioned, I stick them to my top tube during road races.
This is the one area I kind of stray from Honey Stinger. My gels of choice are Clif Shot Energy Gels in strawberry. And solely in strawberry. I have tried a lot of gels, and personally I find them all to be rather disgusting and hard to choke down, but I find these Clif Shot gels easier to choke down than others. The strawberry flavor has 25mg of caffeine. I’m not a huge caffeine drinker – I rarely drink coffee and do not like caffeinated sodas. Ice tea is my only source of caffeine regularly, so I feel like that at least gives these gels a fighting chance at doing something for me. How I tend to use them is one right before I race for some last minute nutrition and boost. I’m pretty much hopeless when it comes to eating them while actually riding a bike, as more ends up in my hair, on my face, and all over the bike instead of in my mouth. I still always try to tuck one in my jersey pocket or under the band of my bibs during longer races, however. Eventually I’ll learn how to eat one like an adult instead of a messy toddler.
Not much really falls into the other stuff category. I have an anaphylactic-level allergy to all nuts except peanuts, so I really struggle when it comes to energy bars and other fitness products because they all seem to have some sort of nut ingredient in them. I have a pantry shelf full of stuff I’ve either won at races or received in swag bags that I cannot eat for this reason! So chews and gels is what I have stuck to, until recently when I discovered Honey Stinger Organic Waffles. What tasty little treats these are, and fairly easy to eat on the bike as well! I mean, who doesn’t like waffles?! Stinger Waffles are two super thin waffles with honey sandwiched in the middle, and come in 5 flavors. The downfall is the packaging probably isn’t quite as easy to open while on the bike, but that’s why we have teeth! The second downfall is I have to hide them from myself so I just don’t sit around home eating them, because they’re tasty like that! I have a 30 mile XC race coming up, and I’m looking forward to testing out the waffles in a longer race setting.
Other than that, nothing can be as delicious as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! The century ride I did last summer had boxes full of PB&J’s at the aid stations, and I couldn’t get enough of them! Sometimes it’s absolute bliss knowing I have a sandwich waiting for me in my Camelbak when it’s time for a snack! Another item I have started to like is dried mango. I did a group ride a few weeks back on the mountain bike, and one of the guys brought a bunch of dried mango. Sweet, chewy, and gave some calories to keep on pedaling. I’m not sure I’d chow down on dried mango during a race, but I can see having a baggy of these in my jersey for some of my longer non-race adventures I have planned for this year!
I am really just now getting into good habits while on the bike. I guess that’s because it took me almost this long to finally be able to pedal, grab my bottle, drink, and put it back safely, hahahaha. But seriously, it’s something I’m not good at. The CSU Circuit Race was the first time I’ve really tried eating during a race, and I accomplished that by lining up chews on my top tube. Every lap I would have one. I find it is a lot easier to drink and eat on the road, for obvious reasons. Mountain biking is inherently more bumpy and rough and you need to have two hands on the bars usually. I don’t like racing with a Camelbak on, so that usually translates into me not drinking anything even though I’ll carry a bottle. I also fail miserable at bottle hand ups! So I have a lot of work cut out for me but I think I am slowly figuring everything out!